Amplifying Evil to What Ends?

In AD 627, Muhammad committed an atrocity against the Qurayza, the last remaining major tribe of Jews in Medina. The founder of Islam beheaded all the men and the pubescent boys and enslaved the women and children.

In an action we today regard as genocide, Muhammad wiped out the entire tribe. Indeed, Muhammad’s massacre of the Qurayza is letter-of-the-law genocide.

In the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Muhammad violated at least points (a) and (e), and very likely (b) and probably some of the others. Yet we’re suppose to admire God’s messenger and appreciate his doctrines and tolerate his rituals. There are nearly two billion people in the world devoted to this ideology. We’re suppose to embrace them. Meanwhile, sharing Nazi symbology gets you banned on Twitter.

If you investigate the actions of Genghis Khan, Khagan of the Mongol Empire, or Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, you will also find Hitlerian-level atrocities. Yet folks admire these maniacs. Meanwhile, Hitler is, as Biden tells it, “demonic.” Why aren’t those other historical figures “demonic”? Why is any historical figure demonic?

I just read an article titled “Three Times When Alexander the Great wasn’t so Great.” The article went on to rationalize that Alexander didn’t do anything others hadn’t done before him. As far as ancient history goes, though, Alexander’s brutality was typical: “He was a man of his own violent times, no better or worse in his actions than Caesar or Hannibal,” writes Philip Freeman in Alexander the Great. “He killed tens of thousands of civilians in his campaigns and spread terror in his wake, but so did every other general in the ancient world.” Imagine somebody saying that about Hitler. You don’t have to. People have. And they are destroyed.

I’m not trying to rehabilitate Hitler. Good Lord no. Hitler was a maniac. Industrial-strength mass murder is arguably the worse sort because of the mechanical way in which human beings are killed (see the work of Zygmunt Bauman). But then why in my history lessons were Genghis Khan and Alexander put on pedestals? Why was I taught to mourn Caesar and not celebrate the republicans who murdered him?

Hitler frenzies like the one over Kayne West’s comments on Alex Jones’ InfoWars are reminders that double standards remain a problem. If standards were applied equally, millions would be triggered every moment. It is good that they are not. Perhaps we could stop giving Hitler special status, the epitome of evil, and recognize the horrors of conquest and war wherever they occur. Maybe we could stop focusing on the Hitler figure as the paradigm of fascism and recognize fascism’s sine qua non: the corporate state and technocratic rule.

It’s too easy for folks to practice doublethink. Why is that? Because they don’t operate from principle. And it’s this defect that paralyzes the citizenry. (See Horkheimer and his Eclipse of Reason.)

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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