Trump and the Banality of Evil

Consider this blog by Peter Dreier from August, 2016, “Donald Trump And The ‘Banality Of Evil’”.  He is writing in reference to Trump’s comments about “Second Amendment” people and what they might do if Clinton were elected and pushed strong gun laws.

hannah-arendt

Hannah Arendt

Dreier writes, “Sociopathic” might describe Trump’s condition, but it doesn’t describe our condition as we routinely hear such Trump statements on the campaign trail.  The only thing that comes close is philosopher Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil.” She coined this phrase in her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, about the trial of Adolph Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, in an Israeli courtroom. If someone carries out unspeakable crimes often enough, he or she comes to accept them as “normal.” That was Arendt’s view of Eichmann.  But the “banality of evil” also applies to an entire society. We can get used to outrageous things — slavery, Jim Crow segregation laws, massive homelessness, widespread malnutrition, the frequent killing of Black men by police — until we are provoked to view them as unjust.”

In that light, here are a few other quotes.

“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such,”

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.”

Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

“If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”― Eldridge Cleaver

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

– Benjamin Franklin

“The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.”

– Adolf Hitler

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

Adolf Hitler

“Humanitarianism is the expression of stupidity and cowardice.”

Adolf Hitler

 

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