Marty Peretz Is An Idiot

Martin Peretz is not my favorite columnist. I sometimes wonder why I read his work. Much as going to the mall does, his columns only serve to make me mad at the idiocy found therein.

Last week in The New Republic, he had a rather predictable piece on Palestinian suicide bombers. Well, predictable in sentiment, but stunning in its wording. Palestinian terror tactics, he wrote, represent "'the banality of evil' in another era." The muffled thumping sound that followed, I assumed, was made by Hannah Arendt, turning over in her grave.

The problem here is that "the banality of evil" means something more than evil which has become routine through repetition . Instead, as Arendt used the phrase in Eichmann in Jerusalem, it referred to the inability of Eichmann and his colleagues to comprehend that their timetables and struggles for promotion hinged on the murder of millions. Adolf Eichmann trafficked in empty slogans whose meanings he never bothered to ponder; he befriended individual Jews and then left them to their deaths without ever connecting their fates to his own actions. He had no concept of moral cause and effect, no sense of scale, no real ability to understand anything beyond his own bureaucratic ambitions. A small man without imagination could be as much of a moral monster as a psychotic killer.

Say what you will about suicide bombers, but don't call their actions banal. They don't get up in the morning, drink their coffee and complain about the weather, then stop off for a quick round of blowing up Israeli civilians on their way to the country club. This form of self-destruction is a dire act; it grabs at the imagination in a vivid and frightening way. This is the point. If suicide bombing ever becomes banal, it will stop, and the masterminds will find something else evil and not at all banal to try. Kidnap and torture, maybe. Or something else desperate and dreadful.

So what a shock to see George Will -- also not my favorite columnist -- declaring that Eichmann would have approved of the suicide bombers' propagandists. Of course he wouldn't have. He'd have insisted that they could kill the Jews like nice civilized people, without all this noise and self-pity.

I don't know where these guys get their ideas, but someone must be feeding them this crap. For two conservative columnists to let slip in the same week that they slept through the lecture on Arendt, I think, something more than mere coincidence. I'll give a nice big Lab shout-out to anyone who can track down the Ur-idiocy that gave Peretz and Will their marching orders.