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Saturday, April 18, 2009


The baptismal questions of Easter night mention the glamour of evil but as I read in a post at Experimental Theology, The Banality of Evil, Torture, and Mindlessness (which referenced Andrew Sullivan's post, The Banality Of Evil), evil is more often disturbingly banal. Here's a bit of Experimental Theology's post ....

Some thoughts on the banality of evil and American torture prompted by this post by Andrew Sullivan.

The phrase "the banality of evil" comes from Hannah Arendt's book Eichmann in Jerusalem, a book about her covering of the Adolf Eichmann trial.

Eichmann is often called “The Architect of the Holocaust” because he was the SS Officer charged with handling the logistics of the mass deportation of the Jewish population to the ghettos and, eventually, to the extermination camps. Eichmann was, in essence, the Bureaucrat of the Holocaust. The Organizer and Paper-Pusher of Death.

After the war Eichmann escaped to Argentina and lived under a false identity. He was eventually captured by Israeli operatives on May 11, 1960. Eichmann was secretly taken to Israel to eventually stand trial for crimes against humanity and the Jewish people.

Unable to cover the Nuremberg Trials, Hannah Arendt was keen the cover the Eichmann trial which took place from April 11 to August 14, 1961. At the end of the very public trial Eichmann was found guilty on all counts and was sentenced to death. Eichmann was executed on May 31, 1962.

Arendt, being a Jew, wanted to cover the Eichmann trial to have her own personal confrontation with Evil. She wanted to stare the Devil in the eye. She came looking for the Monster.

But what she found was something quite different. Eichmann was bland, nice and, oddly, intellectually shallow ....

And here's a bit from Andrew Sullivan's post .....

This is what Hannah Arendt wrote of when she talked of the banality of evil .... Human beings were contorted into classic stress positions used by the Gestapo; they had towels tied around their necks in order to smash their bodies against walls; they were denied of all sleep for up to eleven days and nights at a time; they were stuck in tiny suffocating boxes; they were waterboarded just as the victims of the Khmer Rouge were waterboarded. And through all this, Bush and Cheney had lawyers prepared to write elaborate memos saying that all of this was legal, constitutional, moral and not severe pain and suffering ....

This ordinary reality of evil is more chilling than anything wrought from glamour.


Blogger Jack said...

Thanks for posting again on this situation. Few seem to be interested. Jack

3:55 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Not a pleasant subject, I guess.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True evil seldom looks monstrous or we would not tolerate it. It has long been my opinion that porn magazines like Playboy were not dangerous to our morals because they were easily recognized. The real danger was in TV programs like Love Boat, where everything was beautiful and wasn't it wonderful how every problem was pretty much solved by the people going to bed and getting laid. The moral? Sex solves all.

I believe Jesus said it well when he talked about "whitened seplucars" (I know my spelling is wrong) all white and pretty on the outside but rotten and dead on the inside.

It takes a lot of work to see through the whit wash. I am afraid that too many of us are more interested in what songs are being sung in Church, what vestments are being used, and will totally aghast when the door is smashed in and it is their turn to face the torturer.

Thank you, Crystal, to looking, for thinking, for finding.


Mike L

8:38 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

How can you not like The Love Boat!?? :)

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, didn't say I didn't like it, just said that I think it was a subtle form of influencing people's thoughts without them noticing it :).

Mike L

7:20 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Just watched some Sunday talk shows. No one seems to think the torture thing is important. Real issue, according to 'experts' is should the memos be made public.
Not one person I saw said anything about torture being bad or a "sin." I'll leave myself open and say sometimes I think I'm losing IT. Jack

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Yep its evil alright. My mouth is agape. I don't really know where to go with it Jack. I wish I did.

1:20 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

I think there's more and more momentum to do something about this. Luckily, we don't have to be dependent on the politicians and pundits for something to happen. There were a lot of brave people in the military, the FBI and even within fairly high levels of the Bush administration who spoke out against these things when they found out about them. Now that the administration has changed, their concerns will be heard. The highest ranking uniformed lawyers in all four branches of the armed forces wrote memos of dissent at one point. I don't think they're going to just let this go by now.

But it also takes us to make our voices heard. Writing the President and our senators and representatives. Emailing media outlets who are trying to brush this off. And Glen Greenwald from Salon, who's been writing some excellent articles on all of this, had a link to a petition:

Greenwald's blog:

4:30 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for the links, William. That blog looks good.

7:12 PM  

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