Archive for the ‘Hannah Arendt’ Category
In Britain, the attitude towards “grossly offensive public electronic communication” seems to be getting more and more draconian. On the other side of the Channel, however, things seem to be going the other way.
Twitter in France has seen a “concerning” new trend for anti-Semitic remarks, posted under the hashtag #unbonjuif, or “a good Jew”.According to the Jewish Chronicle, in recent days the hashtag has been attached to comments such as “a good Jew is a dead Jew” and “a good Jew can pump up your tyre with his nose”, as well as photographs of concentration camp victims. Worryingly – and astoundingly – the hashtag has become the third most popular on Twitter in France.
The Paris-based group SOS Racisme said it was appalled by “the wave of feverish hatred” and insisted that freedom of expression could not be upheld when it comes to comments “endangering life or personal integrity.” Le Monde called it “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes”; Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF), the umbrella group representing French Jewish communities, is threatening legal action. But are the authorities doing anything about it? #Aretheyhell.
Ordinarily, I would argue that the internet, while offering a voice to people who are often ignored, also allows trolls to have a disproportionate level of public exposure. As a blogger, I am keenly aware of this; I have received so many insulting “electronic communications” in response to my posts that I’ve become effectively immunised. In general, the notion that this stuff actually means anything, or that it represents the views of anything but a reprehensible – and probably mentally ill – minority is, it seems to me, something of an over-reaction.
In this case, however, it’s far more serious. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
If Hannah Arendt—the great political theorist, critic of totalitarianism, and sometime lover of Martin Heidegger—had not died from a heart attack on 4th December 1975, today would have been her 105th birthday.
Arendt would doubtless have had mixed feelings about 2011. This year marked a half-century since the trial of Adolph Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution. Reporting on the trial from Jerusalem, she developed the ideas for her most influential book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality Of Evil. And 2011 is, of course, both the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and the year in which Bin Laden met his end at the hands of American commandos.
To point out that the phrase “the banality of evil” is often overused is itself somewhat banal. Whenever a high-profile tyrant is brought to justice, headlines groan with the phrase. The New York Times used it in connection with Saddam; TIME magazine used it about Bin Laden; and when Gaddafi gets his comeuppance, it will almost certainly be used about him, too.
Or rather, misused. As Elisabeth Young-Bruehl points out in her excellent Why Arendt Matters (Yale University Press, 2006), the phrase is “predictably and reverently invoked—and completely misunderstood.” It doesn’t simply refer to an evildoer’s lack of charisma. It neither absolves criminal responsibility, nor suggests that we would all do the same under the circumstances. Rather, it expresses a complex reading of how murderous ideologies can take root. Continue on the Prospect website