There is a concept in language known colloquially as “dragging in from left field” — a process whereby stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand is brought into the conversation in order to make the speaker’s or writer’s extraneous point of some sort. Case in point: a post on www.inversecondemnation.com about — are you ready? — the moral implications of the Holocaust, in which our friend Robert Thomas abandons his usual able discourse on takings of property, and along with an associate, presents us with a defense of Hannah Arendt’s writings about the Holocaust, and of “Arendt,” a recent film made about her.* Arendt’s writings are not what you might call the usual fare among condemnation lawyers, and Thomas’ flimsy excuse for dragging her in is that her writing in this case, even though not about law, may be of interest to lawyers in connection with a film festival on that subect being planned in Hawaii. Maybe. We know lots of things that though not about law are of interest to lawyers, including single malt Scotch and Porsche Carreras (but not together). So what? We don’t see how any of that would be of interest in a discussion of inverse — or even direct — condemnation. And neither is Eichmann. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, so we need to back up a tad.
First, a confession up front. It so happens that your faithful servant went through WW II the hard way, and got to see the Holocaust with the original cast, as it were, so he is a lot more judgmental about it than Mr. Thomas and his co-author, Ms. Bethany C. K. Ace, who manage to drag in inter alia the oh-so difficult legal question of whether the Nuremberg trials of the Nazis were, er, legal or merely “victor’s justice,” and whether Israel had jurisdiction to try Eichman. Understandably, your servant is a lot less tolerant about these matters and is unimpressed by armchair pontificators who — if they were alive at all — spent WW II being protected by the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, the Air Corps, the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marine, WACS, SPARS, WRENS and all those other brave folks who laid their lives on the line and saw to it that no bombs fell on the fruited plain of the United States whose population — except of course of those who served in the aforementioned armed forces — got to live in safety and comfort (even if, oh dear, sugar was rationed), thus enabling them to go on and eventually engage in the sort of armchair moralizing, displayed in the Roberts caper.
While tempted to draw on our WW II experiences and launch into a moral refutation of this whitewash job (that goes something like this: Eichmann wasn’t really all that evil, you see — just a banal bureaucrat), we won’t do that because doing so would only be playing Thomas’ and Ace’s game which we have no intention of doing. However, we would like to see them do their fastidious moralizing, not on the high level of abstraction on which they ponder the soundness of Arendt’s notion of “banality of evil,” but rather on a much lower level of abstraction and tell us instead what they propose to do legally about those who amused themselves during the war by bashing babies’ skulls against a wall, or picking them up with pitchforks and tossing them into a fire (see Jan Gross’ book, “Neighbors”). Anybody got “jurisdiction” over that? Has anybody tried to exercise it?
Anyway, to get back to the point of this post, horrible as these things may have been, they have nothing to do with takings of property (no, Hermann Goering’s theft of artworks doesn’t count), and if Thomas and Ace, writing in a blog on inverse condemnation, can’t keep their hands off this subject and must express their moral fastidiousness, better they should express it by moralizing on the side of the victims rather than probing the “banality” of the perpetrators, and defending Arendt’s misrepresentations in doing so. So if you want to read about that, do read an article by Sol Stern, entitled The Lies of “Hanna Arendt,” COMMENTARY magazine, September, 2013, at p. 43 (“A film [that] distorts history to lionize a heroine who was no heroine.” That pretty much says it.)
One more thing. How did that Arendt film make it into the Hawaiian film festival about lawyers? We think we know, and on the basis of what we were told by an insider, it had nothing do with moral fastidiousness or indeed with Eichmann, or for that matter with films about law and lawyers. While we choose to keep his name confidential (but we do have it in writing), here is what he said about the Hawaii lawyers sponsoring the Arendt movie: “The Museum required us to show its for its premiere in Hawaii.” “Required”? Oh yes, where have we heard that one before: I vas only following orders.
So as you read that www.inversecondemnatio.com piece about Arendt’ moral fastidiousness, presented in the midst of an inverse condemnation blog, take it with a grain of salt. Hawaiian red sea salt may suit the occasion.
* In case Arendt and the Holocaust are not your thing — and who could blame you if they aren’t? — we should note that Hannah Arendt went to Jerusalem to attend Adolf Eichmann’s trial, wrote about it for the New Yorker and later transformed her writings into a book entitled “Eichmann in Jerusalem” in which she coined the phrase “The Banality of Evil.” There she floated what turned out to be the successfully peddled thesis that Eichmann was not really an evil person but rather a sort of nerdy bureaucratic nebbish who was keeping his records and was more concerned with train schedules than the mass murders he was committing. We’ll let you make your own moral judgment as to whether that rings true, given what Eichmann actually accomplished, and refrain from noting that by that reasoning Hitler was pretty much a nebbish too: he killed nobody, and just sat in the Reichschancellery (with side trips to Berchtesgaden) making nutty speeches and giving orders so he could later raise the defense of “I vas only giving orders.” Banal?