Both Slate and
Salon review a new book
called Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origin of His Evil by Ron
Rosenbaum. Alex Ross at Slate says that
... it's difficult at this stage of the game to take a
bold moral stance against Der Führer. Rosenbaum,
in Explaining Hitler, writes a mix of amused
detachment and mildly off-kilter enthusiasm.
It's the same desktop-detective approach that
Rosenbaum brings to his triumphantly
idiosyncratic weekly column for the "New York
Observer", as he burrows through such issues
as the meaning of Bob Dylan's latest lyrics or
the inexplicable popularity of "Seinfeld". He
asks--as Seinfeld might--what was the deal
with Hitler? What was he thinking?
Somber Salon asks the existential questions.
For if Hitler really believed he was doing the right
thing, then in some sense he would be less guilty -- and this
is something that Rosenbaum cannot tolerate. He
offers the example of the grotesque first
Menendez murder trial, in which the brothers
were initially acquitted because they supposedly
"believed" that their parents were going to kill
them. "By that logic, if Hitler had survived to be
put on trial for murder in California, say, he
might theoretically have been able to argue that
he was 'honestly convinced' the Jews were trying
to destroy him," Rosenbaum writes.
Meanwhile back at Slate their "Chatterbox" column discusses an entirely
...Hitler, by this logic, might have been aware that
the world didn't think slaughtering the Jews was a
good thing, even though in his heart he knew it
was -- a variant of the "the masses are not yet
ready to understand our (Cultural Revolution, Armenian
genocide, Rwandan butchery, American slavery,
Bosnian atrocities, etc.)" line -- and therefore
Salon quotes philosopher Berel Lang: "the role of
the imagination in the elaboration of their
acts," the "sense of irony" manifest in
things like the sign "Arbeit macht Frei" ("Work
Will Make You Free") over the gate to Auschwitz
-- "it's like a joke, it is a
joke" -- that indicate "an artistic consciousness"
in evil. Which is to say that Hitler and his cronies did what they did not
in spite of the fact that they knew it was wrong,
but because they knew it was wrong.
The bizarre tale of how Jason Turner, New York City's
new welfare commissioner, ended up accused of
anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi sentiments. Turner's crime:
Uttering six common English words in a TV interview,
none of which was derogatory.
As welfare-reform groupies know, Turner was the
architect of Wisconsin's acclaimed welfare-to-work
program, who was named to his current post by Mayor
Rudy Guiliani in January... a
municipal labor leader likened the city's workfare
program to slavery. Even in the provinces, Turner
had some first-hand experience with the incendiary
rhetoric that surrounds the welfare debate. So Thursday
night when a TV interviewer asked about the slavery
comment, Turner had a ready riposte.
"It's work that sets you free," he replied.
Unwillingly took my new Grundig radio back to Circuit City at lunchtime. (I liked the design
and it worked fine the first day, then not at all one night, then again OK the next day - trouble!) Unlike Fry's,
no hassle at all getting the refund. As I expected, mine was the only unit in stock - an
exchange was my first choice. But now I understand Circuit City is to be avoided - something
shady involving DVD players has certain agitated voices raised in Usenet. I've never liked
them for the service contract hard-sell (although we've gotten used to it). On the way back
I ate at the Happi House, for a plate of their distinctively fast-food teriyaki.
Frittered away the afternoon reading a great web-page,
all about old TV shows. Do you remember the Church of What's Happnin' Now?