banalities of evil

by Art Chantry ( )

this is such a boring photo. when maire ( mosco) handed me this image (she took the snap), i just looked at it blankly and wondered what the hell it was. it’s absolutely nothing – a sidewalk next to a brick building. a car. nothing.

in reality, it’s one of the most famous locations in america of the last 30 years. it’s one of those places were the ‘banality of evil’ met face to face with the problems of ‘fantasy vs. reality’. this is where our american dreams met up with our fragile mortality. this is the very spot where john hinkley attempted to assassinate president ronald reagan. it’s so BORING.

AC (On Ted Bundy ):he was such a poor sport that we could simply beat him by having a "good streak". he'd get pissed off and slam his cue onto the floor and walk out of the place. we could ALWAYS win the table from him. that was about the time he started killing (early 70's). so, maybe we should have let him win a few?

think about the collision that happened on that spot. a lone goombah idiot crazy loser twerp with a cheap fantasy about wooing the child movie star, jodie foster, takes it upon himself to move up in rank and win her L-U-V, to be as big a star celebrity as jodie herself (maybe even bigger!) by shooting down the movie actor president (star of stage and screen, big and small) elected to play act the president of the united states. so, where does he choose to do so? high noon in DC, right behind the post office. sort of says it all, don’t it?

i mean, if you were hinkley and you were going to pull off the biggest box office crime of the last quarter century, wouldn’t you go for more cameras? wouldn’t you try to make yourself look larger than life, maybe on live TV in prime time? nah, he goes for easy opportunity. what a gump. lock him up, throw away the key. please.

in an earlier essay in this series, i mention that genesis p. orridge did a series of innocuous and seemingly innocent cheapo record covers (b&w quick print) for the initial 45rpm releases of throbbing gristle. the covers depicted banal, boring locations that could be “anywhere, UK”. there may have been a hint of familiarity to them, perhaps, but no more than you have ‘familiarity’ with any generic dull neighborhood location.

Read More: ---Lewis Powell was part of the conspiracy to cut off the head of the United States government by assassinating its key leaders. Powell’s job was to go to Seward’s home and murder him while he slept. This, along with the failed assassination attempt on Vice-President Andrew Johnson, meant that if Powell were to succeed then at least the conspirators would successfully carry out two out of three assassinations. ---

upon reflection you may realize (but not necessarily) that these images are the locations of famous sensational crimes – murders, rapes, decapitations. the whole ‘gore-gore show’ routine. those images he utilized are so common and uninteresting to be utterly banal. and THAT is the reality of evil.

we bring the fantasy to the reality. that evil exists in our fevered imaginations alone. it’s what separates us from the animal world. like woody allen’s old line about psychotics (“neurotics build dream houses, psychoti

ove in”), it’s our ability to give ‘reality’ to our fantasies that creates all that we are – both good and bad. and when we start fantasizing about BAD, i mean BAAAAD.

so, this little ‘banality of evil’ image i post today is seemingly dull, yet extremely, powerfully revealing. we stare at it and try to imagine.

Read More:


AC:the place was originally called “the creekwater dispensary” on south tacoma way (next to the old UPS law scghool campus, where ted attended classes.) he used to be a regular there at the creekwater.

in fact, there was a ‘cartoonist’ who hung there who did those street market caricatures style drawings. he would do a sketch for a beer, you know the routine. anyway, he wrangled a deal to paint a mural on the back wall with caricatures of all the regulars – in exchange for free beer for a year or something like that.) i was in there, so was my buddy, bill. and ted was there, too. i was in a mural with ted bundy. go figger.

i went in there a few years back (now a bad korean restaurant with a name in korean so i can’t tell you what it’s called) and found that mural was long painted over. damn!
Edward S. Herman: The concept of the banality of evil came into prominence following the publication of Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which was based on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt’s thesis was that people who carry out unspeakable crimes, like Eichmann, a top administrator in the machinery of the Nazi death camps, may not be crazy fanatics at all, but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premises of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats.

Normalizing the Unthinkable

Doing terrible things in an organized and systematic way rests on “normalization.” This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as “the way things are done.” There is usually a division of labor in doing and rationalizing the unthinkable, with the direct brutalizing and killing done by one set of individuals; others keeping the machinery of death (sanitation, food supply) in order; still others producing the implements of killing, or working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of defense intellectuals and other experts, and the mainstream media, to normalize the unthinkable for the general public. The late Herman Kahn spent a lifetime making nuclear war palatable (On Thermonuclear War, Thinking About the Unthinkable), and this strangelovian phoney got very good press. ~…

Read More: ---from the opening moments of the new movie—“presented by the American Film Company,” with its logo of a flapping Stars and Stripes—the air is thick with noble intentions. Close your eyes, listen to the music that accompanies the gravely wounded President from the theatre to the house opposite, and you would swear that you were attending not a movie screening but an act of worship. Is it just because we are in the vicinity of Lincoln that “The Conspirator” acquires its visionary glaze? There is one superb detail, glimpsed in passing, that shows hucksters selling Lincoln memorabilia outside the jail where Surratt is being held, but that flash of the mercenary (and the modern) is never repeated. Most of mid-nineteenth-century Washington looks impossibly neat and clean, unroughened by any sense of war-weariness. It is less in the décor, however, than in the wielding of light that Redford, aided by his director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel, strives to convince us that the past was not so much a definable place—complete with dirt and sweat, and closely related to our own age—as a distant, glowing planet to be approached with awe.

…In an excellent article entitled “Normalizing the unthinkable,” in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists of March 1984, Lisa Peattie described how in the Nazi death camps work was “normalized” for the long-term prisoners as well as regular personnel: “[P]rison plumbers laid the water pipe in the crematorium and prison electricians wired the fences. The camp managers maintained standards and orderly process. The cobblestones which paved the crematorium yard at Auschwitz had to be perfectly scrubbed.” Peattie focused on the parallel between routinization in the death camps and the preparations for nuclear war, where the “unthinkable” is organized and prepared for in a division of labor participated in by people at many levels. Distance from execution helps render responsibility hazy. “Adolph Eichmann was a thoroughly responsible person, according to his understanding of responsibility. For him, it was clear that the heads of state set policy. His role was to implement, and fortunately, he felt, it was never part of his job actually to have to kill anyone.” Read More:

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