2016 — November 3, 2016 at 10:36 am

The clearest example of how Donald Trump could inspire ‘radical evil’


In the shitfan of this election, one maddening thing Donald Trump has been doing almost daily for 15 months is finally getting a little attention after he singled out NBC reporter Katy Tur for harassment of his enraged fans again on Wednesday.

He knows the pool camera can’t move yet he inspires rage at the media for not moving it.

The cynicism and disrespect for his biggest fans in this scam are astounding, but Trump is doing something here than that’s even worse than the casual evil implicit in his effortless bullying and misogyny.

It’s amazing melodrama.

The pure showmanship of this thrilling act reveals how he’s been able to exploit decades of conservatives ginning up anger at the mainstream media and turn it into his custom blend of pro wrestling fascism.

Bloomberg’s Francis Wilkinson — in a great new post “The Moral Foundations of Trumpism” — describes how effective Trump has been able at eroding the norms that work to maintain morality in a civilized society.

Morality is easily perverted. That’s why norms are so important. They help us distinguish between the loyalty of mobsters who commit murder together and the loyalty of parents who raise children together. Norms police behavior; they keep us coloring inside the lines. Once those lines are crossed, norms become more difficult to safeguard and maintain, and society risks losing important moral contours.

Trump’s contempt for norms is not new, or exclusively political. He engaged in flagrantly unfair business practices, refusing to pay small contractors for their work because he was rich enough, and bully enough, to cheat them. For decades he trampled both liberal and conservative notions of sanctity. (Is there any corner of the culture war where it’s OK to call your daughter “a piece“?)

Trump’s pitch is that he must break eggs — dispense with “political correctness” — to impose order on a political culture spinning out of control. He’ll reassert traditional sexual and racial hierarchies while imposing a gruff authoritarian discipline on national politics and restoring the lost economy of the mid-20th century.

But his camera stunt suggests there’s a greater danger to what Trump is doing — the sort of dehumanization that makes ordinary people commit extraordinary acts of inhumanity.

For philosopher Hanna Arendt, “radical evil involves making human beings as human beings superfluous.”

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy goes on:

This is accomplished when human beings are made into living corpses who lack any spontaneity or freedom. According to Arendt a distinctive feature of radical evil is that it isn’t done for humanly understandable motives such as self-interest, but merely to reinforce totalitarian control and the idea that everything is possible (Arendt 1951, 437–459; Bernstein 2002, 203–224).

Arendt’s developed her thinking to explain how “‘desk murderers’ such as [Adolph] Eichmann were not motivated by demonic or monstrous motives.”

Vast amounts of work have to go into making the monstrous into something banal.

It starts with destroying the norms that make us civil and it’s weaponized when destroying those norms just becomes part of the show.