People Who Pretend To Be Your Friend: Collaborators And Traitors – OpEd


Some people have accused Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden of being traitors. But this obscures a deeper and more important question.

If the government of the United States is engaged in endless acts of lawless violence, as the documentary evidence clearly demonstrates (See Fred Branfman, “World’s Most Evil and Lawless Institution? The Executive Branch of the U.S. Government”), then it is not Manning and Snowden who are the traitors for providing evidence of this violence and the surveillance necessary to carry it out. The real traitors are all of those other employees of intelligence agencies who say nothing while they collaborate with the endless and often secret perpetration of violence by the U.S. government and its allied governments in our name.

Why does this matter? It matters because it tells us that thousands of individuals are willing to collaborate, without the intervention of analytical thought, compassionate feeling, or conscience, with the use of violence. And that bodes ill for our society.

Collaborators and traitors take many forms: they are prevalent in warfare but common in “ordinary” society as well, and labels such as “scab laborer” are used to describe them. Most frequently, they are those relatives and friends who “stab you in the back.” Why do so many people collaborate with perpetrators of violence? (See “Why Violence?”) An understanding of their psychological
profile will tell us this.

First, collaborators are terrified and they are particularly terrified of those individuals (usually one or both parents or other significant adults) who perpetrated violence against them when they were a child although this terror and, remarkably, the identity of their perpetrator(s) remain unconscious to them. Second, because they are terrified, they are unable to defend themselves against the original perpetrator(s) but also, as a result, they are unable to defend themselves against other perpetrators who attack them later in life.

This lack of capacity to defend themself leads to a third feeling – a deep sense of powerlessness. Thus, terrified, defenseless and powerless, some victims will try to placate the perpetrator. Victims who resort to placation, the fourth attribute of collaborators, will invariably fear those individuals who resist the perpetrator’s violence, will usually perceive resistance to violence as “morally wrong” and perhaps even perceive any resistance to violence (including explicitly nonviolent resistance) as “violent,” because their own fear of resisting perpetrators is now so deeply embedded in their unconscious that any form of resistance is considered futile and likely to provoke further perpetrator violence. And this “violates” their powerless “strategy” of placation.

The strategy of placation is also attractive to collaborators because they have a warped sense of empathy and sympathy, the fifth attribute. They will have empathy and sympathy for the perpetrators of violence, rather than the perpetrator’s victims, as an outcome of how they were emotionally damaged as a child.

Having unconsciously “chosen” collaboration and betrayal as a means of “defending” themselves against personal victimization, the collaborator will now acquire a deep sense of self-hatred (precisely because they cannot defend themselves and now betray others), which, in turn, will negate any remaining sense of personal self-worth.

However, it is too terrifying and painful for the collaborator/traitor to be conscious of any of these feelings, so they will usually exhibit an eighth attribute if challenged: self-righteous justification for their collaboration/betrayal often expressed in either ideological/religious terms or as sympathy for the perpetrator.

One version of this occurs when collaborators justify their collaboration with perpetrators of violence in terms of a supposed “obligation to obey,” although they might not use this precise language: many collaborators will characterize their obedience as “loyalty,” “support,” or “helpfulness” in
order to mask from themselves the fear that drives their submissive behavior. For collaborators, the importance of obedience also far outweighs any sense of personal moral choice, if the idea of personal moral choice makes any sense to them at all. If you are scared to resist violence, then you must make a virtue out of submission and obedience.

Penultimately, collaborators/traitors invariably exhibit a ninth attribute: they unconsciously project their fear and self-hatred, as outcomes of their own victimhood, as fear of and hatred for the
perpetrator’s victims.

Finally, as a result of all of the above, the collaborator will exhibit a tenth attribute: the delusion that they are “in control”; that is, they are no longer (and never were) the victim of violence themselves.
Tragically, of course, this delusion is a trap: an individual is never safe in the role of collaborator. The perpetrator might turn on them at any time.

Collaborators and traitors learn their “craft” during childhood. Most usually it will originate when a parent terrorizes the child (by threatening and/or inflicting violence) into collaborating with this
parent against the other parent and/or the child’s siblings. Sometimes it originates when a teacher terrorizes the child into collaborating with the teacher against the child’s fellow students, perhaps to find out who was responsible for some minor “wrongdoing.”

Once the child has betrayed its siblings or classmates, it will usually need the “protection” of the violent parent or teacher as a “defense” against any retaliation by its siblings or classmates. Hence, it will become “locked” into the role of collaborator/traitor out of fear of the perpetrator’s violence against it as well as fear of the violent retaliation of siblings or classmates. This, of course, suits the

The collaborator will perform this role throughout their life as they now unconsciously recognize and identify with those who are most violent, including state authorities that inflict “legitimized” violence on those individuals perceived as “enemies” or “criminals.”

If you wish to publicly identify yourself as someone who will not collaborate with violence, you are welcome to sign online The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ . His email address is [email protected] and his website is at

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