evil is still banal

black and white chicago wallpaper

black and white chicago wallpaper


Conservative guns-in-schools plan runs afoul of the insurance industry. There used to be a guy on a Faux News discussion program named Jim and his answer to every problem was let the market decide. It looks like the market has decided that turning our schools into real life video shooting zones is not a great idea.

The Lamp by Mary Cassat

The Lamp, c1891. Color drypoint, aquatint, and soft-ground etching.  Mary Cassatt.

32 companies avoided enough in 2012 taxes to pay the entire 2013 federal education budget. With the money they made, these CEOs are sending their kids to elite colleges so they’re grow-up learning how to scam the American people just as well as good old mom and dad did.



A couple of weeks ago I thought about doing part of a post on Hannah Arendt (  “the banality of evil”). The book that contains that famous quote is  Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). She gets complicated as a subject because her thesis was that Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was an example of an ordinary person who kind of back slides into evil out of a sense of loyalty to Germany, because he simply wanted to conform to a growing wave of political thought. Others, citing Eichmann’s history have claimed that he joined willingly and enthusiastically, not only happy to carry out The Final Solution, but even disobeying Himmler’s clear orders to back off the persecution of Jews. Roger Berkowitz, in this new column for the NYT, says and cites examples, that Arendt has been misread. I don’t know that this one column will settle the controversy forever, but it is worth a read,  Misreading ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’.

The widespread misperception that Arendt saw Eichmann as merely following orders emerged largely from a conflation of her conclusions with those of Stanley Milgram, the Yale psychologist who conducted a series of controversial experiments in the early 1960s. Milgram was inspired by the Eichmann trial to ask test subjects to assist researchers in training students by administering what they thought were potentially lethal shocks to students who answered incorrectly. The test subjects largely did as they were instructed. Milgram invoked Arendt when he concluded that his experiments showed most people would follow orders to do things they thought wrong. But Arendt rejected the “naïve belief that temptation and coercion are really the same thing,” and with it Milgram’s claim that obedience carried with it no responsibility. Instead, Arendt insisted, “obedience and support are the same.” That is why she argued that Eichmann should be put to death.