Why no depiction of Hitler is evil enough

Robin Hanson thinks it the result of a signaling spiral, "wherein people strive to show how moral they are by thinking... even more lowly of standard exemplars of bad..." Certainly possible, and plausible.

But there is an alternative explanation: Hitler is the Devil — for Protestant atheists (secular progressives, in the cladistics of Mencius Moldbug). And why Hitler, of all the terrible people who could be elevated to Devil? (Note Hanson's theory does not explain this.)

The theory of Protestant atheism has more explanatory traction here. Democracy and industrialism are arguably the two major dimensions of Modernity, and Modernity is a bargain with the actual Devil. Hitler is perhaps the purest, the least alloyed product of industrialism and democracy, before Modernity evolved its outer armor involving several layers of confusion and obfuscation. Hitler may be a uniquely dramatic embodiment of everything that is wrong with Modernity, but there is no way to say so without endorsing an essentially Christian eschatology. The problem is that people don't want to be Christian; it's pretty much mutually-exclusive with cosmopolitan success via symbol-manipulating careers. However, they still want to say that bad things are bad, and that some things are so bad that they're... really bad. So they must, ultimately, generate a symbol of the Devil. That is, they must eventually believe in the existence of the Devil. And what symbol will they converge on, if not the explicitly theological one that's been on offer for ages? Well, whatever is too much themselves, whatever dramatizes their own bargain too clearly.

3 comments on “Why no depiction of Hitler is evil enough”

  1. Hi Justin, If you have not read it already, I highly recommend reading Denis De Rougement's The Devil's Share (La Part Du Diable) (1942/44). It's a sustained meditation on the devil's power to convince us of his non-existence written while De Rougement was in temporary exile from from Switzerland in the US. It's a beautiful work of existential theology which contains a chapter called 'Hitler or the Alibi'. It's very in tune with your thinking here.

    1. Hey John, it's been on the outer edges of my radar for some time but no. Thanks for commenting, I will definitely read it soon. Hope you're well.

  2. In a way, making someone into the devil is the same as making him into a god. Both devil and god are uncaused causes. You don’t ask what injustice the devil suffered that makes him act out in such antisocial ways. He’s just evil, end of story. Thus he’s a grounding figure. My enemies and I can endlessly debate who-wronged-who first, but if our genealogy of mutual wrongs gets back to the devil, and we can both agree that the devil is a bad guy, we have a foundation for mutual understanding.

    WW2 is the most recent founding event in our history. It’s the foundation of the current global-technocratic world order. The mutual understanding that allows this order to operate is the consensus that WW2 was the “good war”, because Nazism was an unthinkable evil and, yes, Adoph Hitler was the devil.

    This understanding has been implicit for most of the last 75 years. The fact that today it must be shouted ever more loudly and insistently is not a sign that people are more committed to that consensus opinion than they were a generation ago. Quite the opposite: it’s a sign that the order is becoming fragile.

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