What the Monster Said + Making Friends with Evil

Arthur Silber

Our Monstrous Culture, and the Monsters Who Rule You (I): What the Monster Said

I remember seeing about half an hour of the original Night of the Living Dead several decades ago. For most of the 1970s, I lived in the middle of Manhattan. I had been flicking through television channels late at night, and I stumbled across the film, which had been released theatrically in 1968. The film caused some controversy because of the nature and level of violence it portrayed. Since I'd now come across it, I was curious to see what the furor was about.

So I watched for a little while. I could barely believe what I was seeing. Limbs torn from bodies, zombies munching on human legs and arms, blood everywhere. I kept watching -- for a little while -- because I found that I was unable to make real to myself the kind of mind that would create this kind of mayhem. It wasn't simply that the images -- and, as I recall, the sounds, oh God, the sounds -- were horrifying. Of equal and probably greater significance to me was the fact that (in part, remembering some of what I'd read about George Romero, the director of the film) the creation of a movie about people who were terrorized and then eaten, all of which was presented in loving, careful detail, was clearly intended to be entertainment. This was fun! It appeared that a sizable audience agreed with this assessment.

After about 30 minutes, I couldn't bear it any longer -- and I realized that I would never understand what kind of psychological damage would cause a person to seek out "entertainment" of this kind and then proceed to enjoy it. I'm not interested here in pursuing a lengthy inquiry into the "legitimacy" or its lack with regard to this kind of "art"; to begin with, such terms are not ones I would employ with regard to judging art of any kind. But I am prepared to say that, generally speaking (always allowing for exceptions, for example, an actor who is so desperate for work that he'll do almost anything, and even then I'd have certain questions, although I doubt I would communicate them to someone I knew only casually who appeared in such movies), those who create such works and those who regularly watch them are engaged in pursuits which are distinctly unhealthy.

Since I'm briefly on this tangent, I'll add this thought. I view one explanation (or "defense," if you will) of this kind of movie as entirely invalid: that those who create or watch such films are seeking some sort of "release," and that they would never do this kind of thing in real life. A release -- from what exactly? That's where the problem lies. Moreover, every creation of this kind -- indeed, every moment of each of our lives, regardless of what activity might engage us, whether it's making or watching a movie, reading a book, or writing a blog post (or writing a comment about a blog post) -- contributes to an overall cultural atmosphere. And we live in a culture in which violence and cruelty in a huge variety of manifestations and in widely varying levels of intensity have become the overwhelmingly common thread.

The result is one I've described in a number of essays: for example, in "A Depraved, Violent and Indifferent Culture." The news story that served as the starting point for that article concerned "the two hour gang-rape of a 15-year-old girl outside her homecoming dance while onlookers watched, jeered and took pictures with cellphones..." Those onlookers -- who "watched, jeered and took pictures with cellphones" while a 15-year-old girl was gang-raped -- might have been watching a movie. You see the problem, and the connection.

I explored the roots of this kind of violence, as well as the celebratory air that often greets it, in that article. I also noted that this particular incident reminded me in crucial ways of the tasering of Andrew Meyer, as John Kerry witnessed the tasering -- that is, what might have been a murder -- occur directly in front of him and did precisely nothing to stop it. But Kerry was hardly alone: except for one or two brave and still recognizably human souls who protested, no one did anything to stop it.

In my discussion of the gang-rape story and the Meyer tasering, I went on to make these observations -- and this speaks to the comments that opened this essay (television and movies are interchangeable in this context):

The Huffington Post article [about the gang-rape] mentions the possibility that the prevalence of violence against women on television has desensitized people to such an extent that they fail to act when similar violence occurs directly before them in real life. I think the problem is worse than that. I've sometimes noted that our systematic denial has moved us so far from reality that what happens on television seems more real to many people than events in their own lives. I now think that isn't quite exact. I would rephrase the point this way, to make it more accurate: unless something happens on television, it isn't fully real. Period, full stop. It isn't that such people are clinically insane, in the sense that all their connections to reality are severed. Clearly, that isn't the case. But there is a sense in which many people connect much more, certainly in emotional terms, to events on television than they do in response to what happens to them, and to the events in which they take part.

At the same time, they think that what they see on television isn't fully "real" either, even when news events are reported. So reality -- and the actual events that happen to actual, breathing (and often dying) human beings -- are banished in large part across the board. Thus, the United States government unleashes a genocide -- and for the most part, people do nothing. The deaths of innocents in Afghanistan and Pakistan increase -- and people do nothing. Here at home, the most basic protections of individual liberty are systematically eroded and even obliterated, under Obama as under Bush -- and people do nothing.

None of it is fully real, none of it matters to a degree that causes people to resist in meaningful ways. Moreover, any signs of decency, of compassion and empathy, of being willing to say, No, and to mean it, any signs of healthy, vital life are ignored or, still worse, sneered at and made the target of mockery.

In the decades since Romero's original Night of the Living Dead first appeared, widespread, ungraspable violence and cruelty have become more and more common. The concept "depravity" has been rendered close to meaningless. When so much of what happens every day, here and abroad, is so unfathomably depraved, what does it signify to state that another 40 murders of innocent human beings represent still one more monstrous act, or that the torture of another dozen or three dozen or a hundred innocent human beings is unforgivably evil, or that the rape of another 10 or 30 or 50 girls and women constitutes a crime so immense in its magnitude that it makes all commentary completely beside the point, and even itself obscene?

None of it is fully real. Most of it is never even noticed. None of it appears to matter, not in ways which cause a critical number of people to resist in ways which might momentarily slow down the machinery of cruelty and death. If some people should notice, they'll watch, jeer and take pictures.

We've been treated to a remake of Night of the Living Dead, this time in full, bloody color, to enhance our enjoyment and pleasure. And we've descended still lower, if that is even possible. Basing my judgment on a few articles I read when it was released five years ago (I would never watch such a film today, for any reason at all), it appears we have movies (and at least one sequel) that celebrate torture, in exquisite, excruciating, drawn-out detail.

Since movies and television approach closest to reality for us today, let's imagine a scene from one of these celebrations of violence, cruelty, torture and death. Our scene is in color, perhaps even in 3-D (we want to be fully up-to-date and as completely real as we can, provided the contemplation of reality itself remains forbidden, thus allowing us the inestimable luxury of non-action). The monster of our imagination is feasting on human bodies. Young children, women, men, none of them distinguishable, only a mass of torn flesh, limbs ripped from sockets, muscles and guts strewn across the room, blood drenching the scene.

The monster's hands are dipped in the steaming abdomen of his meal of the moment. He rips out a kidney, or maybe the liver, perhaps the heart. He eats it, grunting and slurping, barely chewing, swallowing large chunks of bleeding flesh. He plunges his hands into the body again, pulls out huge parts of what had been a living human being just moments before, turns his head up, and drops the bloody hunks onto his face. He grunts again -- and then he laughs.

The monster sees us watching. His eyes open wider as he registers our presence. He looks directly at us, and smiles. Blood and pieces of flesh fall out of his mouth. He chuckles quietly. Then, suddenly, he looks at us with an expression suffused with sincerity. He's about to say something, and he wants us to know that what he's about to say is important. He wants to be sure we understand this.

"I take extraordinary measures to avoid killing these people," the monster solemnly says. "I have an interest in reducing these killings, and I'm doing everything I can to prevent them. But sometimes I can't avoid them altogether. When that happens, it's their fault. They leave me no choice."

The monster looks very sad. We hear him sigh deeply, regretfully. A few pieces of bloody, torn flesh fall out of his mouth to the ground. He looks directly at us once more. The monster wants to add another thought, one of special significance.

"And when I have to kill them -- but only because they leave me no choice -- I'm sorry. I'm truly very, very sorry."

The monster sits very still for a few moments. He sighs again. Then he plunges his hands deep into the guts of the body in front of him once more. He leans over and begins shoveling bits of flesh and entrails into his mouth.

You needn't be concerned about the following. It's not real. It's not as if it's a movie. So I mention this only as a point of momentary, exceedingly minor interest:

The Obama administration has gone to great lengths this week to smooth over relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, or at least to present an image of a partnership that has improved after weeks of heightened tensions.


Reducing civilian casualties were also the agenda for the meetings and today Obama said the U.S. has "taken extraordinary measures" to avoid [them].

The president was blunt: "We have an interest in reducing civilian casualties because I don't want civilians killed. And we are going to do everything we can to prevent that."

Karzai said Tuesday he was "thankful" for the efforts that the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has made for "the protection of the Afghan civilians."

"It's the first time that when incidents like that occur, that he calls," Karzai said. "If it has occurred, apologizes for it, for which we are grateful."

This is remarkably touching. The sight of the reluctant, apologetic monster is deeply moving.

And we must always be grateful -- if not for the monstrousness, then certainly for the reluctance, and the regret. If we aren't, why, then we're monstrous ourselves. Isn't that the way it works, the way it's designed to work?

♦ ♦ ♦

(II) A Story for the Children: Making Friends with Evil

The mother tries to calm her two young children. They've been in their beds for almost an hour and are still very upset. At school earlier in the day, they heard another rumor about some teenagers who had gone missing in a town several miles away.

"Now, now, we didn't even know them. And you can't believe everything you hear. You know the Council has forbidden talk about such things. You shouldn't listen when other children try to tell you such tales. Besides, even if something did happen to them -- and I'm sure it didn't -- they probably had done something very, very bad. That's why it's so important for you always to be good children."

She prides herself on being a good mother, and she tells herself that what she sees in her children's eyes isn't terror. "Now, the Council has distributed a news story for you to hear before you go to sleep. Just close your eyes, and I'll start reading it. We can talk about it at breakfast in the morning."

She notices the desperate look the children exchange before they close their eyes. She remembers that until a few years before, the children had sought comfort from her. They don't do that now; they seek reassurance only from each other, and they've begun to shrink from her touch. But the Council Subcommittee on Education tells her this is another proof of how well she's raising her children. They are learning to rely on themselves, and they're learning how to be hard and unfeeling. In a world where weakness of any kind is the worst sin of all, being tough is the primary virtue.

The mother begins reading. Her tones are soft and expressionless, as gentle as the rain falling outside as darkness gathers. Over several years, she has conscientiously eliminated any trace of emotion from her voice whenever she speaks to the children. She hasn't noticed that she never expresses any emotion to anyone now, young or old. And there is no one to tell her of the change, for everyone else is doing the same. There is only one exception to the requirement that no one show any intense emotion: they are all encouraged to express anger and rage, but only at those the Council has designated as enemies. Then, anger and rage are not just encouraged: they are required. The greatest anger and rage is reserved for those enemies who had appeared to be friends.

"The Good Ogre administration's decision," the milky smooth voice begins, "to authorize the killing by the Secret Signal Agency of a child suspect who is a citizen of Ogre City has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of mystery weapon strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against child terrorism."

The mother pauses and looks out the window. She sees the stars beginning to appear as the clouds disperse. She hears the breeze in the trees. It's all the same, she thinks. Nothing's changed. The world appears just as it always did. For a brief moment, she remembers similar stories from a few years before, when they concerned adults. As it turned out, there were very few adult terrorists. Those who had thought of protesting against what they considered to be the monstrousness of the new policies -- although they weren't actually new at all, they were only practiced openly now -- learned the lesson quickly enough. If they did protest, they would immediately disappear. Besides, almost no one objected, and almost no one wanted anyone else to object. It was easier just to go along. Finally, that's what everyone did, if they were adults.

For reasons no one understood, some children continued to resist. A few people talked about the indomitability and the resilience of "the human spirit," but they didn't talk about it for long. Besides, that kind of pseudo-poetic garbage was a sure sign that someone was a terrorist or at least a terrorist sympathizer. The Good Ogre and his designated agents might talk about "the human spirit" once in a while, but only insofar as that spirit was devoted to eliminating the Ogre's enemies.

To the extent the mother allows herself to be aware of the terror in her children's eyes, she knows that it reveals their failure to accept fully the Good Ogre regime. This is a sign of great danger. She wants her children to be safe and to remain alive. Isn't that what every parent wants? When the children's eyes are as expressionless as hers, they will be safe. We make ourselves dead, so that we may remain alive. An infinitesimal flicker at the corner of her mouth indicates the beginning of a bitter smile. Once, the mother thinks, I would have appreciated the horrifying irony of that idea. She stops the thought, and the flicker disappears. She continues reading.

"The notion that the Ogre council can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy."

The use of "in effect" is a nice touch, the mother muses. As if the Ogre isn't actually ordering the death of one of his own citizens, not really. Except that he is. And if he can order the death of one of them, without any judicial process or evidence, he can order the death of any of them, even of a vast number of them. Stop it, she orders herself.

The mother has read the supplement to this story distributed by the Ogre Council. Tomorrow morning, she will point out to the children how this story demonstrates the openness and freedom of the new regime. "Some legal authorities" are "deeply uneasy." You see, children? she will say to them. A few people -- a few very bad people -- say that you cannot challenge the Ogre. But that's obviously not true. People do challenge him, and their objections are even printed in the official Ogre paper.

And look at how much space is given to those objections:

"Ms. Divoll, the former Secret Signals Agency lawyer, said some judicial process should be required before the Council kills an Ogre citizen away from a traditional battlefield. In addition, she offered a practical argument for a review outside the executive branch: avoiding mistakes.

"She noted media reports that Secret Signals Agency officers in 2004 seized a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, and held him in Afghanistan for months before acknowledging that they had grabbed the wrong man. 'What if we had put him on the kill list?' she asked."

The mother knows that her children will think that objection makes a lot of sense, especially the older one, the girl. So she'll have to emphasize the response of the Ogre's agent:

"Another former Secret Signals Agency lawyer, John Radsan, said prior judicial review of additions to the target list might be unconstitutional. 'That sort of review goes to the core of Ogre power,' he said.


"Ogre officials say an arrest may not be possible. 'If we need to stop dangerous terrorists who hide in remote parts of the world, inaccessible to U.S. troops, law enforcement, or any central government,' said the counterterrorism official, 'what do you do — cover your ears and wait for a truly devastating explosion in Ogre Square?'"

The Good Ogre only wants to keep you safe, the mother will say several times. And he has information we don't have. We have to trust him, children. She knows the children will agree with her in time.

The rain has stopped. The world outside the window looks so wonderfully peaceful. If only those few people, now just those few children, would stop causing trouble. No one wants to think about certain questions any longer. She remembers how angry a friend of hers was the week before. One of the friend's children had come home from school repeating a question a classmate had asked. The child had wanted to know why, if it was true that the Ogre was as successful in eliminating terrorists as he and his agents repeatedly claimed, all the rules about what everyone could say and do kept getting more restrictive, instead of less. If the threat was being reduced and if they were safer, couldn't the rules be relaxed? But the rules kept getting stricter, and the punishments kept getting worse. The child said that didn't make sense to him.

The mother's friend went to the school administrator and furiously demanded that the troublesome child be silenced, even removed from the school entirely. No one has seen the child since.

The mother hears a voice in her head, as if from a great distance. You didn't always live this way, the voice says. Don't you see how insane this is? For one brief moment, the mother feels blindingly intense rage. It only lasts for a second, but the heat of it causes her to gasp. She's so unused to spontaneous, intense emotions that she can't tell what triggered it. A thought begins to form in her mind: perhaps she's enraged at a regime that would order children killed simply because the Ogre said so, enraged that she and her children, that all of them, have to live this way.

No, she tells herself. No! Ah, the mother thinks. I know what it is. I'm furious at myself for having such doubts, even for a moment. Yes, yes, that's it. The Ogre has said rage at oneself for thoughts of that kind is good, for it shows what a good Ogre citizen you are. That's why I'm so angry, the mother tells herself. I'm a good citizen, and my children will grow up to be good citizens, too.

The mother grows calm again. The children have fallen asleep. The boy's hands are knotted into tight little fists, and his eyelids flutter uneasily. The girl's body twists in on itself, as if she is trying to protect herself from an indescribable terror in the night. But, mercifully, they sleep. They look fine, the mother thinks. They're sleeping, and they're relaxed after a hard day. They're fine, she repeats to herself.

Besides, the mother tells herself, those other stories aren't true. They're an awful lie, the worst lie of all.

We've always lived this way.


The actual story is here. As you will see, I've changed very little, and nothing of substance. Read Chris Floyd on the nature and meaning of this assassination program.

I offer the story above, and I presented the previous article in the way I did, in an effort to try to break through the massive denial and resistance that suffocates our culture. I well understand that this is almost entirely a futile endeavor. Still, for some of us, the effort must be made.

I've been writing about this denial and resistance for a very long time. As just one example out of many, consider the opening of "We Are Not Freaks," written in February 2007:

I fear that many, if not most, of you who read this, will not fully understand what I'm about to discuss. Very tragically, this is unavoidable, for we live in a culture that suffers from severe emotional repression. Those issues that matter the most, that are genuinely sacred in the most profound sense of that word, are kept at a distance. To the extent we contemplate them at all, we forbid them to achieve their full reality.

I've discussed this in many essays with regard to our murderous foreign policy. Even the phrase "foreign policy" becomes a means of preventing ourselves from acknowledging the immense horror that flows from our actions. We murder hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings -- people who never wished us harm and who never threatened us -- and we speak of statistics, and whether and to what extent they are "accurate." That hundreds of thousands of innocent people are dead is not in dispute, just as we know that many hundreds of thousands more are terribly injured and have had their lives altered forever. But the horrors are not to be understood, not completely. This is only a "strategic blunder," perhaps a monumental one, but still just a "blunder." Our murders have been executed "incompetently." Most of those who unthinkingly parrot this line refuse to face what it would mean if we as a nation were competent murderers. In their descent into the amoral abyss, they appear to believe that would be an "improvement."

Our culture is suffused with ironic detachment, overintellectualization, and endless and ultimately futile policy debates -- while the murder goes on every day, as it will go on for at least several more years. Congress could stop these monstrous criminal acts within months, but they will not. Of course, they will continue to debate "foreign policy."

This severe repression is one of the hallmarks of our culture, and it can be found in most individuals. It begins in childhood, as all such mechanisms do (see the final part of my series, On Torture, and all of my Alice Miller essays for much more on this topic).

"We Are Not Freaks" analyzes these issues in more detail, and a number of more recent Alice Miller essays on related themes are listed and described here.

If you wish to see how widespread this repression and desensitization are, even among writers who protest monstrous policies, you can consult an article by Jeremy Scahill that I read only yesterday: "Who Runs the Secret 'Black Jail' at Bagram?" I would say that Scahill's article reads like a weather report, except that I've read and heard weather reports that contain more passion and commitment. Here's a representative sample:

President Obama, upon taking office, issued an executive order requiring the CIA and military to adhere to the Army Field Manual's guidelines for interrogations. "However, under secret authorization, the [Defense Intelligence Agency] interrogators use methods detailed in an appendix to the Field Manual, Appendix M, which spells out "restricted" interrogation techniques," reports Ambinder...

I don't know if Scahill himself has made this claim, but Obama and many of his liberal-progressive fans categorically stated, upon Obama's pronouncement about adherence to the Army Field Manual's guidelines, that Obama had "ended torture."

In fact, I clearly remember an ACLU ad shortly after Obama's inauguration. The ad appeared on many liberal-progressive blogs, and I was so incensed that I made a note of it at the time. This was the text of the brief ad, from the notes I made on January 25, 2009:

You ended torture & will close Gitmo.

We are restoring America together!

Let's thank Obama for these bold first steps! Send him thanks!

The ACLU does much valuable work. But these were shameful, detestable lies. I was enraged because I knew this was a lie then. Every person who was honest could and should have known that these were damnable lies. But you see how enthusiastically so many people believe the Good Ogre's lies. For more on the lie about "ending torture," see "A Deadly Liar and Manipulator," and this article and this one. As I stated in the earlier piece: "there are more than a few additional articles elsewhere making the same and related points."

The fact that Obama's claims on this issue are damnable, monstrous lies has been painfully, horrifically obvious since the time he first offered them. With very few exceptions, no liberal-progressive writers have told you that. More than a few writers -- and Obama himself -- continue to offer these same monstrous lies as truth even today.

Consider again the nature of the subjects under discussion: the immense evil of torture ("Lies in the Service of Evil" might help make the nature of that evil clearer to you), and Obama's claim that he has the "right" to assassinate anyone without judicial process or evidence of any kind whatsoever, simply because he says so. Reread the little story offered above. And then be brave enough finally to state the truth, at least in what should be the sacred space of your own mind:

This is insane.

This is monstrous.

This is deeply, unforgivably, irredeemably evil.

Here is a note for those who write and talk about these issues. If you write on these subjects and if you talk about them regularly on radio and television, and if you do not state -- repeatedly, with all the conviction and passion that you can command -- that actions of this kind are insane, monstrous and deeply evil, you are not opposing the monstrousnessness. You are accommodating it, seeking excuses for it, trying to minimize it -- or, to use the phrase I often employ in my own notes -- you are "making friends with evil."

If you do this, you are not fighting against the monstrousness. You are part of it.



Via: http://www.chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/1969-qmaking-friends-with-evilq-a-fable-for-our-times.html

http://wonkette.com/390092/barack-obama-will-haunt-your-dreams/ (Getty Photo)


Health topic page on womens health Womens health our team of physicians Womens health breast cancer lumps heart disease Womens health information covers breast Cancer heart pregnancy womens cosmetic concerns Sexual health and mature women related conditions Facts on womens health female anatomy Womens general health and wellness The female reproductive system female hormones Diseases more common in women The mature woman post menopause Womens health dedicated to the best healthcare
buy viagra online