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The banality of evil, college football edition.
On a related note, this is an excellent profile of Noam Chomsky.
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You state in your article that “Such a level of conscious sociopathic indifference to suffering is fairly rare.”. That is wrong. It happens every day when Republicans in Congress and various state governments cut SNAP ( food stamps), and other child welfare programs. It happens when Republicans want to deny health coverage. All of these actions lead to suffering and Republicans are indifferent. They are sociopathic. It is conscious.
What Campos said was that it is rare that such people state what they are doing in plain language. More often, such people seek to cover up what they are doing by using alternative terms (for example, “breaking the cycle of dependency”) and by avoiding confrontation with the simple truth of the matter (for example, by watching Fox News and listening to right-wing talk radio to the exclusion of all other sources of information). It’s not that they are not conscious about what they are doing on some level, they just prefer not to think about it in those terms.
You may be correct, but I am unable to know what they prefer to think. I just know that much data and evaluation exists about the specific implications of their sociopathic actions and they choose to ignore it. This is of no comfort to some child with cystic fibrosis and no insurance.
The result is the same, suffering. And whether you choose to more overtly place Penn State’s football program (or University reputation) ahead of the suffering or less overty choose to place “breaking the cycle of dependency” ahead of the suffering, they both belong in the same level of hell.
Not making waves to protect power and in general is a broad human trait that pops up in any number of situations. We should be a bit humble when scornfully denouncing it as much as those people throwing stones at that woman.
Not at all. Instead, we need to decry it more often, not less. It is one thing if we are talking purely personal matters, but when these adversely affect the broader public or cause harm to the innocent who are unable to protect themselves, we have an absolute obligation to speak out.
I agree that this kind of rationalization causing massive ethical failure is not as rare as people want to believe, itself a rationalization of the human capacity for evil through apathy.
The War in Iraq, torture, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo are all perfect examples of just recent failures of Americans in these regards. But those are not even nearly the scale of ethical indifference by the majority that led to Stalinism and Nazism.
In some ways you have to wonder what edge Sandusky had on Paterno/Penn State, psychological or otherwise, that led to them tolerating Sandusky even though he was fired in 1999 and they could not have been completely oblivious to the risk he represented. There must be some more details that explain their behavior. The quote on the ‘humane thing to do’ is especially vexing. I don’t think we’ve heard the whole story yet.
Thanks for the heads-up on the Chomsky article. Very moving.
The commenters that wanted to point out that ‘PennState’ wasn’t really about being a criminal-friendly place ignored the rallies supporting JoePa and his gang of ignorami. Money & Power, the one-two punch that knocks out all rationality and objectivity. As was noted above, the rest of the trials should be very enlightening, unless they get treated as afterthoughts, and ‘the Fix’ is in, for the guys that ‘weren’t really the bad guy’, after all, they lost the positions, they suffered enough, yada yada, yeah right. Money & Power.
Thanks for the Chomsky article. Have to admit I decided not to read the Penn State article.
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Paul Campos, Above the Law 2011 Lawyer of the Year
Erik Loomis, HNN Cliopatria 2011 Best Series of Posts
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