This is a review of a new film on Hannah Arendt characterisation of the Holocaust written by Alan Dershowitz: New Eichmann Film Puts the Lie to Hannah Arendt’s “Banality of Evil” I think his argument is weak but at least it is not a sell-out as so many discussions of Arendt seem to be. This is from the review:
Deliberately distorting the history of the Holocaust — whether by denial, minimization, unfair comparisons or false characterizations of the perpetrators — is a moral and literary sin. Arendt is a sinner who placed her ideological agenda, to promote a view of evil as mundane, above the truth. To be sure, there are untruths as well in Operation Finale, but they are different in kind rather than degree. Some of the drama and chase scenes are contrived, but what else can be expected of Hollywood? What is important is that Eichmann is presented in his multifaceted complexity, in the manner in which Shakespeare presented Iago, Lady Macbeth and many of his other villains — not as banal but as brilliantly evil.
“Brilliantly evil” is just stupid. Eichmann was the essence of evil; in what way could any of it be described as “brilliant”. He was a mass murderer who knew what he was doing. He never thought for a moment to defend what he had done when his life was at stake in that courtroom in Jerusalem. He was not a careerist. He did not do what he did because his name was drawn out by lot. There is nothing in his life that would make one believe that he ended up with the job he had by a series of random accidents. His mission in life was to kill as many Jews as possible. There may be others who think that is a worthy aim in life, but they are just as evil as Eichmann. That Arendt helped let him off the moral hook is a disgrace and indefensible.
Here then is Steve Sailer looking at the same film, where he discusses Eichmann.
In any case, Eichmann’s ample personal guilt is clear, despite his being only the administrative equivalent of a lieutenant colonel. While bureaucrats in several of Germany’s allies slow-walked Berlin’s ghastly initiative for as long as they could, Eichmann worked tirelessly to speed the process.
And in relation to Hannah Arendt, he writes:
Arendt, who doesn’t appear in this movie, was a Germanophile snob. Her ex-boyfriend, philosopher Martin Heidegger, might have been a Nazi for a while, but to Arendt at least he was an extremely cultured German Nazi. Arendt wrote to Karl Jaspers about Israel:
My first impression: On top, the judges, the best of German Jewry. Below them, the prosecuting attorneys, Galicians, but still Europeans. Everything is organized by a police force that gives me the creeps, speaks only Hebrew, and looks Arabic. Some downright brutal types among them. They would obey any order. And outside the doors, the Oriental mob, as if one were in Istanbul or some other half-Asiatic country. In addition, and very visible in Jerusalem, the peies (sidelocks) and caftan Jews, who make life impossible for all reasonable people here.
And then there’s this: Had Enough Therapy? which discusses Dershowitz’s review. He concludes:
In effect, the academic world has been mired in the same discussion for decades now. Was Heidegger’s philosophy consistent with Nazi thought? Was it an accident that he got duped into joining the Nazi Party– affiliation that he never renounced– or did the “inner truth and greatness of the National Socialist Movement,” as he put it, resonate with his theories?
We can understand that graduate students and their lame-brained professors might miss the connection. We have difficulty understand that a great thinker like Hannah Arendt could not see something that was staring her in the face, so to speak.
Love may be blind, but philosophers, especially Arendt, may be morally blind as well.