Monday, December 24, 2007

Evil for Dummies

Last night, as I prepared to slip off to Slumberland with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, I suggested to my girlfriend "why don't we watch a pleasant Christmas show to fall asleep to?" Purposefully aiming the remote, she responded: "How about MOST EVIL?"
MOST EVIL is a gratuitous program on the Discovery Channel wherein Dr. Michael Stone fetishises serial killers by placing them on a scale which he has the audacity refer to as a "scientific tool," his MOST EVIL scale.

The only scientific tool anywhere near this scale is the guy who invented it. Calling a scale of evil a scientific tool is like calling One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi a scientific time measurement. There is no conceivable diagnostic value in deciding that Charles Manson is a 15 and the Reverend Jim Jones is a 22. Stone offers no suggestions for treatment of those on the scale, and it's clear that the designations are fairly arbitrary and mostly speak to how strong the ego is of the subject (if you got other people to kill for you, you score high. If you killed for someone else, you score lower).

Will Smith, Basically a Good Person

In an atrocious example of yellow journalism, attempted to stir up some trouble last week by printing that Will Smith thought that Hitler was a good person. This is of course not what he said. He essentially said that no one with any modicum of sanity wakes up in the morning planning to do evil, or thinking they are evil. This wild, politically incorrect idea was first suggested by well-known close-minded bigot Socrates. So Will, why don't you go hang out with your own kind at any Philosophy department in the country if you love Hitler so much?
That last bit was sarcasm. The fact is, people all think what they are doing is right and good. That's why we have those terms. Does it seem more likely that Saddam Hussein woke up in the morning thinking that he was evil and George Bush was good, that he wanted the dark forces to win like he was some kind of desert Sith Lord? Or did he probably think that a white infidel was evil for threatening his and his people's way of life? If he didn't think he was evil, did this make him a good person? Obviously not.

Labeling others as evil is just a way for us to feel superior. Feeling superior is not a good starting point if you are trying to understand others who behave in a way you don't care for. This does not mean that people cannot commit horrible acts and be deserving of punishment for it. It's even okay to hate them. But calling them evil is just howling at the moon, and I think that was Will's point, and it's a good one. Take note, Dr. Stone.

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