By Elouise Bell

The problem with Nice isn’t that it’s sometimes wimpy; the problem is that Nice can be dangerous. More crimes have been committed behind the mask of niceness than behind, all the ski masks worn to all the convenience store stickups ever perpetrated.

I don’t actually intend to talk about literal crimes here, but as long as the subject came up, it’s worth mentioning that until the roof caved in, everybody said Utah corporate conman Grant Affleck was a really nice guy. (Nice cuts both ways in giving Utah its title as Fraud Capital of the nation: we produce con men so nice they can’t be doubted, and victims so nice they “can’t say no.”) Documents forger and bomb killer Mark Hoffman, they said, was nice. Likewise convicted child sex abuser Alan Hadfield—so nice that an entire community rose up to vilify the victims and slander the messenger rather than accept the verdict on their nice-guy neighbor. And, apparently, Ted Bundy was as nice as they come.

I first identified niceness as a culprit with the help of a colleague, Karen Lynn. I told Karen that some of today’s college students seem pleasant enough, but somehow unpleasantly resistant at the same time, in a way that was unclear but very real.

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