America’s version of banal evil lurks in the bloodless abstractions of mid-level lawyers, rather than in the gray efficiency of faceless bureaucrats.
The reference, of course, is to a term coined fully 45 years ago, in the trial reportage compiled into the book
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
As described in this
‘s account of that early effort by a nation-state, Israel, to prosecute an individual in its national courts for internationally condemned crimes. In describing actions “so obscene in their nature and consequences” as “’banal,’” it’s explained
meant to contest the prevalent depictions of the Nazi’s inexplicable atrocities as having emanated from a malevolent will to do evil, a delight in murder. As far as Arendt could discern, Eichmann came to his willing involvement with the program of genocide through a failure or absence of the faculties of sound thinking and judgement. …
Eradicating abusive policies and, at least as importantly, the institutional structures within which they found root, indeed must be a priority item on the next president’s to-do list.