Thursday, 5 April 2007

Meaningless Evil

Micheal Bywater reviews a new book called "THE LUCIFER EFFECT: How Good People Turn Evil" by Philip Zimbardo in the Times, the book itself looks facinating, but Bywater makes this point:
Google "evil" – a word so empty that it should surely have withered away – and up come 136m hits in a third of a second. Tony Blair swore to confront evil wherever he found it. George W Bush would be lost without the word: his name is co-googled with it more than 2m times.

It's something I've said before. When every little nasty thing that happens becomes "evil" then evil has not meaning.

I believe Christopher Hitchens has said something similar about "offensive". Nowadays rather than merely disliking something or being mildly annoyed by it we can't seem to have a negative opinion about something without having to describe that something as offensive. It's an odd debasement of language that such powerful terms come to mean so very little. It's not that we can somehow reserve these words, "evil" and "offensive" will always get bandied about whenever there as disagreement, but I think they should be questioned where found.

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