You get the so called "do-gooders". Some of them are misled by incorrect information so they have a false sense of doing good. Here is an example: Someone that recycles paper thinks that they are saving trees. In fact they reduce demand for trees resulting in forestry companies planting less trees so the opposite actually happens in practice. They have false "Greenpeace" images in their mind of age old natural forests that are destroyed to make paper. Some people will listen to reason and change their opinion. Others however will insist that they are right since you are destroying their "feel good" emotion. I suspect that they actually have a psychological problem. I am looking for a word that describes such a person.

  • 2
    Self-righteous? Have you considered any words so far?
    – NVZ
    Mar 22, 2016 at 10:17
  • Self-righteous (attitude of thinking you right all the time) is too general description. The word I'm looking for is specifically related to someone trying to do good regarding some controversial issue. In my example the issue is protecting trees against industrialisation. I think it is important to note that the person is actually achieving the opposite of what the aim is while still insisting he is doing good. I have no suggestions of a suitable word yet. Mar 22, 2016 at 11:04
  • 1
    Yeah, "self-righteous", though it applies to both sides of the argument.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 22, 2016 at 12:55

3 Answers 3


In the UK, we refer to people who mistakenly think they are being helpful as:

well meaning or well-meaning(adj.):

  • wanting to have a good effect, but not always producing one

'I know he's well meaning, but I wish he'd leave us alone.'

Source: CDO

  • having or indicating good or benevolent intentions, usually with unfortunate results

'He is a well-meaning but ineffectual leader.'

Source: Collins

'Well-meaning' people are usually full of enthusiasm for their pet project(s) and feel sure they are doing good, even when the evidence indicates otherwise. They do not necessarily lack intelligence; it's as if they wear blinkers and are unable to sense the shock and disappointment in others who have been on the receiving end of their 'assistance'.

I suspect a mild form of this tendency lurks within us all, as changing deeply held convictions is hard, but more extreme behaviours may indicate a psychological problem, perhaps stemming from low self-esteem.

In the UK, when you hear someone say, 'S/he meant well...', and just go silent, you know exactly what it means!

  • 1
    Thank you Julie I think it's the best answer so far. To the sound of it well-meaning has a lot of innocence an naiveness to it. I'm looking for a word that would more describe a "liberal fool". This word would be very applicable to modern on-line media like Facebook where you have all these people fighting for various "causes" of which they have no real knowledge. Maybe another example will help? Mar 22, 2016 at 11:57
  • 1
    Let's take the example of people that are anti-hunting while the hunting industry is biggest contributor to wild-life conservation in e.g. Southern Africa. The whole issue of Cecil-the-lion has resulted in such a reduction of hunting activity that the very game farm that Cecil the lion was from is in such financial trouble that the owners cannot afford to feed the lions any more which will end up in culling. None of the critics are hunters and often believe that animals freely roam Africa and are "murdered" by hunters. These people get very emotional! Mar 22, 2016 at 12:02
  • Yvw @LevettPrins and thanks for adding another example. I think I understand more what you are looking for. I can't think of a term at the moment, but I will give it some thought and let you know if I can add to my answer. You might say that people are led by the media publicity surrounding an emotive issue, and want to do something straight away, eg donate cash, without really understanding the background? Mar 22, 2016 at 12:10

I don't agree with most of your examples and comments about "liberal fools", but I'll focus on you saying this:

This word would be very applicable to modern on-line media like Facebook where you have all these people fighting for various "causes" of which they have no real knowledge.

You might consider the term slacktivist:

Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism or slackervism) is a portmanteau of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes "feel-good" measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little physical or practical effect, other than to make the person doing it feel satisfied that they have contributed. Slacktivism can be defined as the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist. The underlying assumption being promoted by the term is that these low-cost efforts substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplementing them, although this assumption has been criticized.

Many websites and news platforms have integrated social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter into their interface, allowing people to easily "like", "share" or "tweet" about something interesting they saw on the Internet. People can now express concern about social or political issues with nothing more than the click of a mouse, raising the question of what is actually being accomplished by these "likes" when very little thought or effort is required.

Slacktivist activities include signing Internet petitions, joining a community organization without contributing to the organization's efforts, copying and pasting of social network statuses or messages or altering one's personal data or avatar on social network services. Research is beginning to explore the connection between the concept and modern activism/advocacy, as groups are increasingly using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS describes the term "slacktivist", saying it "posits that people who support a cause by performing simple measures are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change"


Delusional? It's not strictly a false sense of "doing good", but it accurately describes "Others however will insist that they are right since you are destroying their "feel good" emotion. I suspect that they actually have a psychological problem."

  • Can you add a dictionary reference?
    – NVZ
    Mar 22, 2016 at 10:20
  • I have deleted my previous comment after I changed my mind. YES the person is delusional. Definition: "A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.". But still not descriptive enough since it is not specific to the the act of "doing good" Mar 22, 2016 at 11:14

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