Certainly you’ve heard Hanlon’s razor in one way or another (“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”) and if you tried to apply it the question of how to detect evil arises. To this I heard an interesting distinction in a video titled “The End Of The World – As We Know It! | Owen Benjamin and Stefan Molyneux“, which I quote below.
The segment starts at 18:15 min in the video:
Owen Benjamin: “[…]How do you react to people who project these things? How do you tell who is dumb and who is evil?”
Stefan Molyneux: “(laughs) Well that’s a simple question for you. So the way that I do it is: dumb people don’t use moral concepts to get their way. They just sort of use brute force, bullying, you know they’ll call names. But the smart people are the people, who use moral concepts in the service of evil.
So the moment they start saying, you know the left does this all the time, political correctness, like: “It’s racist to X, you collective aggregation of white privilege!” Is like, ok so white privilege is a way that you pretend you’re not being racist, when you are. I get it, I get it.
So they are using the concept of racism, which is a collective judgement about a group, and they’re [making] using it to make collective judgements about a racial group.
So, if they are using moral language, then they are the worst kind of evil to me. Because they are manipulating moral concepts. They are trying to do their evil doing for them.
Like the guy who comes up to you in the alley, sticks a gun in your ribs and says: “Give me your wallet!”, he doesn’t say: “Redistribute your income to the needy!” Right? He’s just like: “Give me your money!” – I got a gun, you know, I have an excess of violence and you have an excess of money: “Let’s trade!” You know, buy your way out this.
It’s evil for sure, but he is not giving you a moral argument. But the people who all say: “Well, if you don’t want the government to take your money to buy votes and auction off the unborn, then you hate the poor and wish them to die.” Like, if they’re using all this moral concepts, that’s when I know they are very familiar with morality. But they studied morality like a statist studies the human body, to find out the weak spots and turn it against itself.
Owen Benjamin: “[…]I never made other people feeling like they are bad people. I think that’s a good point.[…]”
(Emphasise mine, obviously.)