The glamor of evil 4

With his usual perception and wit, Mark Steyn writes:

The Islamic State [IS] released a 22-minute video showing Flight Lieutenant Muath al-Kasasbeh of the Royal Jordanian Air Force being doused in petrol and burned to death. It is an horrific way to die, and Flt Lt al-Kasasbeh showed uncommon bravery, standing stiff and dignified as the flames consumed him. And then he toppled, and the ISIS cameras rolled on, until what was left was charred and shapeless and unrecognizable as human. …

Even by the standards of his usual rote cookie-cutter shoulder-to-shoulder shtick that follows every ISIS beheading of western captives, the President could barely conceal his boredom at having to discuss the immolation of Flt Lt al-Kasasbeh:

Aaand it, I think, will redouble [pause] the vigilance aaand determination on the part of our global coalition to, uh, make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated. Ummmm. [Adopting a whimsical look] It also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they’re operating off of, it’s bankrupt. [Suppressing a smirk, pivoting to a much more important subject.] We’re here to talk about how to make people healthier and make their lives better.

The lack of passion – the bloodlessness – of Obama’s reaction to atrocity is always striking. He can’t even be bothered pretending that he means it. …

Given the general halfheartedness of Obama’s “coalition”, King Abdullah [of Jordan] could have been forgiven for also deciding to head for the exit.

Yet he understood the necessity of action. Obama, by contrast … does nothing. His war against ISIS was supposed to be one in which the US would not put “boots on the ground”, but instead leave that to our allies. The allies have the boots, but they could use some weapons, too. Obama has failed to supply the Kurds or anybody else with what they need to defeat our enemies. It’s becoming what they call a pattern of behavior. …

Obama cannot react to atrocities committed by jihadis because he is emotionally (we cannot say intellectually, because unlike his Democratic fans we do not think he has much of an intellect), on their side; which means that, whether he realizes it or not, he is on the side of evil.

Mark Steyn clearly sees that IS is evil. He goes on to consider why it is that tens of thousands of volunteers go eagerly to join its army and help it carry out its atrocities.

You’ll recall Hannah Arendt’s tired and misleading coinage “the banality of evil”, derived from her observation of Adolf Eichmann at his trial in Jerusalem.

We explain when and why she said it, and why it is misleading, in our post The cultivation of evil, the sickness of  Europe, July 20, 2010.

Mark Steyn quotes an earlier article of his:

Hitler felt obliged to be somewhat coy about just how final the final solution was. As Eichmann testified at his trial, when typing up the minutes of the Wannsee conference, “How shall I put it? Certain over-plain talk and jargon expressions had to be rendered into office language by me.” Even the Nazis were reluctant to spell it out.

The Germans didn’t have social media, but they had newsreels, and Hitler knew enough not to make genocide available to Pathé or “The March of Time”. He had considerations both domestic and foreign. Pre-Wannsee, in Poland and elsewhere, German troops had been ordered to shoot Jewish prisoners in cold blood, and their commanders reported back to Berlin that too many soldiers had found it sickening and demoralizing. So the purpose of “the final solution” was to make mass murder painless, at least for the perpetrators – more bureaucratic, removed, bloodless.

As for foreign considerations, Germany expected to be treated as a civilized power by its enemies, and that would not have been possible had they been boasting about genocide.

Seventy years on, the Islamic State has slipped free of even these minimal constraints. They advertize their barbarism to the world, because what’s the downside? Let’s say the guys who burned Flt Lt al-Kasasbeh are one day captured by Americans. They can look forward to a decade or two of a soft, pampering sojourn in the US justice system, represented by an A-list dream-team that’ll string things along until the administration figures it’ll cut its losses and ship them to Qatar in exchange for some worthless deserter.

As for the upside, “the banality of evil” may have its appeal for lower-middle-class Teuton bureaucrats, but the glamor of evil is a far more potent and universal brand. The Islamic State has come up with the ultimate social-media campaign: evil goes viral! At some level German conscripts needed to believe they were honorable soldiers in an honorable cause, no different from the British or Americans. But ISIS volunteers are signing up explicitly for the war crimes. The Islamic State burned Flt Lt al-Kasasbeh alive not only to kill him but to inspire the thousands of ISIS fanbois around the globe. 

For many of its beneficiaries, modern western life is bland, undemanding and vaguely unsatisfying. Some seek a greater cause, and turn to climate change or LGBTQWERTY rights. But others want something with a little more red meat to it. Jihad is primal in a way that the stodgy multiculti relativist mush peddled by Obama isn’t. And what the Islamic State is offering is Jihad 2.0, cranking up the blood-lust and rape and sex slavery and head-chopping and depravity in ways that make Osama-era al-Qaeda look like a bunch of pantywaists.

Success breeds success. The success of evil breeds darker evil. And the glamorization of evil breeds ever more of those “recent Muslim converts” and “lone wolves” and “self-radicalized extremists” in the news. That’s a Big Idea – a bigger idea, indeed, than Communism or Nazism.

Islam, as we know, means “submission”. But Xtreme-Sports Hyper-Islam, blood-soaked and baying, is also wonderfully liberating, offering the chance for dull-witted, repressed young men to slip free of even the most basic societal restraints. And, when the charms of the open road in Headchoppistan wear thin, your British and Canadian and Australian and European welfare checks will still be waiting for you on the doormat back home. …

As the world burns, Obama, uh, redoubles his, uh, vigilance, uh uh uh… Whatever.

Mark Steyn reminds us that “civilization is a fragile and unnatural state of affairs”. Its would-be destroyers now, in the early twenty-first century, are: the environmentalists; the world-government advocates and all the rest of the collectivists, whatever they call themselves –  progressives or socialists or communists; and, above all, most dangerous, already destroying as much as they can of the heritage of civilization, and winning battle after battle, encountering no effective opposition – Islam.

Obama won’t name it, not even by using the polite form of its name that most politicians and commentators use, “Islamism”.

But be assured that against something or other, he is redoubling his vigilance.

  • Don L

    It isn’t just Obama. And, it isn’t just about islamic terrorism (implementation of islamic religious doctrine) It is the entire ruling class that lacks caring!!!

    The French phililospher and economist Frederic Bastiat, 1850, described the principle of ‘That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen’ (More on this after the following article). Bastiat’s principle and its related Parable of the Broken Window is best presented in Henry Hazlitt’s “economics In One Lesson” (Free here: http://mises.org/library/economics-one-lesson )

    As you read the following article, consider the millions of lives lost and wasted because duplicitous career politicians want power at any cost. Only the most ignorant among us can’t understand that if you increase the price of something that less of it is sold. Wages are a price. Raise the price and unemployment goes up. Only the most cruel and dangerously ignorant of our ‘leaders would recommend minimum wage. And, yet…

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    The Hidden Costs of a Minimum Wage

    Mises Daily: Thursday, July 23, 2009 by Art Carden

    People in the market can compete on many different margins. They can compete by offering higher productivity, or they can compete by offering better products. Perhaps most importantly, people can compete by offering lower prices. In the case of laborers, this often means offering their services at a lower wage.

    Anyone who has taken an introductory economics course is familiar with the idea that a minimum wage leads to a reduction in the demand for labor and an increase in the supply of labor in the relevant market — usually, the market for low-skill workers. The minimum wage removes the ability of some workers to compete by accepting lower wages and shuts them out of the labor force. As a result, it reduces job opportunities for these workers. A minimum wage breaks the hinges on the door of opportunity.

    However, there are additional, hidden costs of these interventions, which are more difficult to detect but perhaps more insidious. For example, one effect of a minimum wage is to reduce the availability of on-the-job training, since more resources are required simply to hire and retain a workforce. And further interventions in the labor market (for example, safety regulations and payroll taxes) make it still more costly to employ labor. These burdens together reduce a firm’s willingness to hire laborers and — in the long run — must reduce the number of opportunities for those laborers to acquire valuable job skills. Far from increasing opportunities for the working poor, a minimum wage actually restricts their mobility.

    In an attempt to compensate for the lack of skills and opportunities among the low-skilled, governments have created a lot of job training programs. However, whatever their intentions, these training programs circumvent the market processes that match skills with jobs. Every person has a unique set of skills, competencies, strengths, and weaknesses that will only be revealed through their activity in the market. Job training and skills assessments may be able to match people with suitable employment to some degree, but the search mechanism inherent in the labor market is a low-cost way of accomplishing the same result more efficiently.

    Firms faced with minimum wage laws often substitute skilled for unskilled labor. In a report for the Show-Me Institute, labor economist David Neumark offers an illustrative example: Suppose that a job can be done by either three unskilled workers or two skilled workers. If the unskilled wage is $5 per hour and the skilled wage is $8 per hour, the firm will use unskilled labor and produce the output at a cost of $15. However, if we impose a minimum wage to $6 per hour, the firm will instead use two skilled workers and produce for $16 as opposed to the $18 cost of using unskilled workers. In the “official data” this shows up as a small job loss — in this case, only one job — but we see an increase in average wages to eight dollars per hour in spite of the fact that the least skilled workers are now unemployed.

    There is also a hidden social cost in minimum wage policies. Debates over a minimum wage erode social fabric by placing workers and their employers in opposition to one another. While there have been many legitimate reasons for some tension to exist between firms and workers, minimum wage policies set them in unnecessary opposition to one another over employment contracts, which are by nature cooperative and mutually beneficial. Encouraging the view that employment is a raw deal has created needless acrimony. At the margin, this intimidates people and discourages some from becoming employers themselves.

    The prohibition of certain kinds of labor contracts also discriminates against — paradoxically — the law-abiding. Just as legal prohibitions on the use and sale of drugs have lured the lawless into the drug trade, prohibitions on certain forms of labor ensure that only those lacking in scruples will be left on the demand side of the market for, say, child labor and the like.

    If restrictions, regulations, and price floors create massive deadweight losses, they also create incentives for firms and individuals to evade those restrictions, regulations, and price floors. Those with a comparative advantage in evading (or violating) the law will be most successful; thus, labor market regulation gives implicit encouragement and support to the unscrupulous. Restriction and regulation reduces the relative price of dishonesty, which means we can expect greater levels of it in the marketplace.

    Advocates of higher minimum wages are often motivated by the purest of concerns for the poor. However, the minimum wage has been described as a “maximum folly” by many economists for many years because it hurts precisely the people who most desperately need help. Self-styled friends of the poor are unrelenting in their advocacy of a higher minimum wage, but with friends like these, the poor do not need enemies.

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    By keeping a populace in the dark about economic thinking and rewriting history, only that which is seen is foisted by the ruling class. And, only the ruling class’s self-serving solutions are offered. In the attached photo and story. The last line represents Austrian Economics: getting you to actively LOOK FOR that which isn’t seen.

    • liz

      We’re all being forced along off that cliff whether we like it or not, by Obama, the ruling class, the media, college professors, useful idiots…they aren’t going to listen.

  • Don L

    Domestic Enemy: Shoot a Duck. I have no idea what that means.

  • liz

    It’s depressing that there are any, much less tens of thousands, of people who would be attracted to murder and genocide as if it were “glamorous”. It does prove how fragile civilization is, if it can produce even a small fraction of such sociopaths.
    Obviously Obama really can’t be bothered to pretend he cares. I guess that’s to be expected from a narcissist. Too bad the rest of the world is forced to suffer the consequences of his indifference.