The banality of evil. The concept is generally conceded to have come from Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book about the Jerusalem trial of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. Arendt’s insight was that Eichmann, like a great many Germans that committed virtually unspeakable atrocities, was not a drooling, monstrous fanatic, but a common bureaucrat that fully accepted the premises of the ruling elite he served. This was all that was necessary for innumerable bureaucrats to devote their energies to any number of horrific crimes, including the efficient murder of millions.
The totalitarian impulse is strong, but its burdens are great. In any political system, there will always be people that will fully support those in power, not only because they are true believers, but because unquestioned loyalty and obedience has its rewards, particularly in a chaotic society. As a society sinks ever more deeply into despotism, however, the attendant problems increase. There will always be, in every federal agency, a core of amoral thugs willing to brutalize their fellow countrymen. For such sociopaths, an order is an order and morality is irrelevant
There always comes a time when that core of the eager and willing is not enough. When cities, entire populations must be suppressed, when the whole people must be watched, controlled, and punished, far more manpower is required. From where will they come? How can they be trusted?
In the old Soviet Union, military conscripts were routinely brutalized. Terror kept everyone in line. No one knew who was an informer, and children were encouraged to inform on their parents. Family ties often meant nothing when the young were given the proper indoctrination. When citizens in one corner of the vast Soviet empire needed to be taught a lesson, troops were brought in from far-flung provinces, troops that didn’t speak the local language or understand the local customs. Trained and immersed in routine, banal, daily brutality and inhuman outrages, they were, for decades, willing to beat, rape, mutilate, even murder their countrymen. The process of becoming unresisting bureaucratic tools began with gradual desensitization.
We have seen that process being implemented before us for some time.
Consider the IRS, an agency with an ethic of non-partisanship, but with fearsome, destructive and unrestrained powers. Historically, all that has kept the IRS from becoming a political enforcement and punishment tool is the ethics of those that work there and of the sitting president and his administration. Virtually every day we learn afresh that any trust placed in the IRS, President Obama and his most transparent administration ever, has been grossly misplaced. The IRS has become an intelligence and harassment arm of the Democrat Party, and Congress is reduced to holding hearings about abuses that in the past would have quickly resulted in the impeachment of any president–certainly a Republican–and felony charges for his minions.
The National Security Agency has been coopted to a degree unimaginable only a few years ago. The excesses of that Agency alone–at least those about which we know–greatly exceed the worst fears expressed–mostly by Democrats–during the Bush years.
The same is true of a multitude of federal agencies, such as the BATFE, the Department of Justice, the EPA, the Department of Energy, and the National Labor Relations Board. The list is ever-expanding. And the newest addition to a rogue’s gallery of power-abusing bureaucrats is one most Americans would least suspect: the National Park Service.
At least some gray-shirted members of that organization still retain a modicum of conscience. They’ve confirmed they’ve been ordered to make life as difficult as possible for their fellow Americans and appear genuinely dismayed, but many seem to have carried out these disgustingly political and immoral orders with great bureaucratic efficiency, even delight.
It would seem that one of the few things the federal bureaucracy gets right is the corrupt abuse of the citizenry. So it has always been in Chicago, for example, so it should hardly be surprising that a man steeped in the Chicago way would employ the same tactics.
The process of desensitization is gradual and insidious, even for the ethical. Government employees, particularly law enforcement officers, are always subject to an us-against-them mentality. They are sometimes treated insensitively by a public that does not trust them and often looks on them as the not-particularly-bright-but-willing minions of deceptive and ill-intentioned masters. Wiser, more experienced officers understand the natural feelings of citizens, and do not imagine that everyone is out to get them, but the temptation toward less generous feelings is always present, and frequently reinforced.
Imagine what happens when even people of good will, people who believe themselves to be servants of the public, are forced to do things they know are un-American, immoral and abusive. Imagine the destructive cycle when the abused public makes plain their resentment.
Do NPS employees arrest the 90 year-old WWII veteran hoping for his first–and last–visit to his memorial? Do they give the bum’s rush to Vietnam veterans and their families for the crime of visiting the open-air Vietnam Memorial? Do they evict elderly people from their homes and shut down private businesses receiving no federal support? Do they follow orders to prevent foreign visitors from so much as looking at the most iconic symbol of America and democracy: Mt. Rushmore? Or do they try to resist such destructive and cruel demands, risking their careers and the welfare of their families?
In a perverse way, who knows better than federal employees the true nature of the bureaucrats intent on ignoring and damaging the Constitution and oppressing the public they see as their servants? They, more than anyone, knows the nature of our current elite rulers. They know that people that would order them to so harass and harm their fellow citizens care nothing for the law and would delight in harming them. So they go along, and with each new outrage, they become harder, angrier, more able and willing to compartmentalize their morality, until one day, there is virtually nothing they will not do when ordered. By that point, the moral are long gone.
Consider too that the Federal Government has an extraordinary number of agencies with armed officers, including many with SWAT teams armed with military grade weapons. Fox News recently wrote:
The recent uproar over armed EPA agents descending on a tiny Alaska mining town is shedding light on the fact that 40 federal agencies – including nearly a dozen typically not associated with law enforcement — have armed divisions.
The agencies employ about 120,000 full-time officers authorized to carry guns and make arrests, according to a June 2012 Justice Department report.
Though most Americans know agents within the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Bureau of Prisons carry guns, agencies such as the Library of Congress and Federal Reserve Board employing armed officers might come as a surprise.
It would seem that the Federal Government need not call solely on the FBI when armed force against citizens is necessary.
Consider the plight of elderly tourists, some from foreign lands, trapped at Yellowstone National Park by the shutdown.
The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t ‘recreate.’ The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t ‘recreating,’ just taking photos.
‘She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,’ Vaillancourt said.
The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.
‘They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,’ she said. ‘Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.
A tour guide involved accused NPS personnel of employing “Gestapo tactics.” Considering they, in fact, arrested the elderly tourists, that’s a fair assessment. An arrest occurs whenever a citizen is denied free movement and a reasonable person would not believe they were free to leave. That’s precisely what happened.
So determined were the Yellowstone gray-shirts, they drove multiple SUV’s to Old Faithful, which is near the Old Faithful Inn, minutes before every eruption, and encircled it to ensure no tourist might get near it or get an unobstructed photograph. As the tourists were escorted from the park on their tour bus, a drive that took more than two hours, rangers refused to allow them to stop to use restrooms, or for any other purpose.
This is the kind of calculated but petty cruelty that delights the sociopath and professional, permanent bureaucrat. It is also the kind of abuse of power that slowly but surely desensitizes the honest, making them numb to the suffering of innocent people, and more willing to inflict that suffering. This process is not lost on community organizers steeped in the doctrine of Marx and Alinsky. Indeed, these are the Rules For Radicals. Any tyrannical regime needs willing enforcers, spies and informers. Such people are conditioned and bred over time.
And then we have the bureaucrats in the Departments of Defense and Justice who, despite a law passed by the Congress to ensure the needs of our military members were met, denied the survivors of our fallen warriors their just death benefits, including money for travel to meet the coffins of their loved ones at Dover Air Force Base.
The souls of such people are already dead. It is hard to imagine what outrage they would not perpetrate on others, including lying to the survivors of the brave Americans that died at Benghazi, as President Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton so brazenly did. Mr. Obama, the Commander in Chief, could have instantly corrected this grotesque punishment of the families of our honored dead. He chose otherwise, and in so choosing demonstrated that he considers his enemies to be honest, patriotic Americans, Americans who are very unlikely indeed to accept the conditioning necessary to turn them against the Constitution and their fellow citizens.
Any rational American would like to believe that no President of the United States would be so cruel, so soul-dead as to order the harassment and harm of his fellow Americans for political purposes. They resist believing that he would order federal employees to engage in the illegal, immoral and cruel abuse of others as a means of desensitizing them, preparing them for even greater cruelties.
Given what we’ve seen in the last five years, and particularly the last few weeks, rational Americans would be less than rational to believe otherwise. The National Park Service, in days, has accumulated a reservoir of hatred and distrust that may take generations to dispel. That’s an amazing accomplishment, yet another to add to Mr. Obama’s legacy of hatred, strife and lawlessness.
Remember, gentle readers, that Barack Obama is not only the Commander In Chief, he is the head of the Executive branch of the federal government. His Baghdad Bobs can claim that he didn’t know the families of our slain warriors were being abused, or that citizens were being denied access to the monuments for which they have worked and paid. They can ignore his giving illegal aliens permission to hold an amnesty rally on the Mall–speaking at the rally, Nancy Pelosi thanked Mr. Obama for giving them permission for the rally–while a short distance away NPS gray-shirts deny WWII and Vietnam vets access to their memorials. There is one man, and one man alone that bears ultimate responsibility for all of this: Barack Hussein Obama.
We are seeing, acted out on a national scale, the banality of evil. We should pray that we never discover the lengths to which Mr. Obama is willing to go, and the lengths to which federal employees are willing to back him. Should that day come, any semblance of America and our democratic experiment will be over and America–and the world–will be plunged into a very dark age indeed. Even absent that day, post-Obama, Americans will labor for decades–perhaps generations–to repair the damage already done.
In the meantime, Smokey Bear is surely shedding a tear, and not because of forest fires.