Related: In the Media, Living, Social Issues

The Banality of Evil


The best way to destroy a terrorist is to show us his living room.  Who knows, maybe we wouldn’t have had to kill Osama bin Laden if we had first seen this photo of his Man Cave — instead of sending in the Seals, we could have sent in some folks from the Big Screen Store, that company that keeps running those maddening radio ads that have some guy exclaiming, “And I don’t want to see any messy wires!”

The Evil Doer seems to have had the same kind of trouble with power strips that I have — where the heck do you put those guys so that we don’t trip over them?  And what’s with that table holding up the TV — Osama, were you shopping at the K-Mart sidewalk sale?  Really, an Ikea team could have helped with this mess.

News reports said that Osama was living in a $1 million mansion — property values must be really inflated in that part of Pakistan.  I guess he spent all his money on the wall surrounding the property; looks like he didn’t have much left over for mansion-like furnishings.   And did he pay his utility bills, or was the heat cut off?

The political philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “The Banality of Evil” in discussing the Nazi Adolph Eichmann’s role in the Holocaust.  Her thesis was that some people might actually participate in horrific acts because those acts appear, somehow, to be “normal,” especially in cases where the state appears to legitimize the acts as happened in Nazi Germany.

Osama bin Laden’s murderous plots and horrific acts were certainly the antithesis of banal.  But the tales of his more recent life expose him for what he really was:  a prisoner of his own fears, the most hunted man in the world trapped behind the walls he raised up high to keep out the wrath of the civilized world.

The life he created behind those walls was a truly banal form of existence.  The photograph above does a great service in stripping away the artifice of his power:  like Dorothy pulling back the curtain on Oz, or the child crying out, “the emperor has no clothes!,” the world can now see the real man behind the myth:  an old man, graybeard, huddled in a blanket, watching endless reruns of his glory days.

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