The phrase “banality of evil” originated in Hanna Arendt’s unforgettable (and controversial) impression of Adolf Eichmann during his 1963 trial for his activities in the Holocaust. She meant it as a contrast between Eichmann’s stupidity and utter smallness and the scope of his evil, but many others took understandable exception to her characterization — especially given Eichmann’s rather substantial role in implementing the Holocaust.
Today, Aspen Times writer Melanie Sturm applies the term with a little more accuracy to Kermit Gosnell. Sturm contrasts Gosnell’s mass murder and seemingly oblivious nature, while also noting all the people who did nothing despite the many warning signals of his evil:
It’s unimaginable that any side of the reproductive-health debate could tolerate the barbarity of Dr. Kermit Gosnell and his unlicensed staff who preyed on low-income and minority women.
Yet for 31 years, the public’s guardians — regulators, politicians and health care providers — averted their eyes and abandoned their duties, allowing a virtual Mengele to openly and profitably operate an unsanitary, Auschwitz-like health facility in Philadelphia where countless women suffered maiming, infection or worse.
According to the grand jury report that advanced Gosnell’s murder conviction, he “regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors,” as did his employees.
The grand jury faulted seemingly indifferent government officials who “literally licensed Gosnell’s criminally dangerous behavior” by refusing “to treat abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities.” Their inaction was action and a reminder that morality is a choice when otherwise ordinary people commit appalling acts, as in Nazi Germany.
I’d add that this analogy suffers on a couple of points — notably, scale and ideology. Gosnell murdered for money and his own sick pleasure, as the horrific trophies found in his office attest. Sturm’s application of Arendt’s observation as well as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s that “silence in the face of evil is evil” is entirely on point, though, as is her overall condemnation of not just Gosnell but those who allowed him to operate.
In case anyone has forgotten the powerful indictment from the grand jury not just of Gosnell, but of public officials who willingly turned a blind eye to murder, filmmaker Ann McIlhenny gives Hot Air an exclusive first look at her dramatic reading of that part of the report. The video also contains some disturbing images, so click with caution:
Ann and her husband Phelim McAleer and Magda Segieda are nearing the end of their crowdfunding effort to produce a TV movie about Gosnell, “the most prolific serial killer in American history.” They have to hit $2.1 million in order to secure the funding for the Gosnell Movie project, and they’re close — at just over $1.99 million as of the time this post was written. More than 21,000 people have contributed to this project, an amazingly wide donor base for a crowdfunding effort. They only need a little over $100,000 in the next four days in order to succeed.
I’ll interview Ann on today’s TEMS show, which starts at 4 ET this afternoon. Be sure to tune in — and be sure to contribute what you can to GosnellMovie.com, too.