Observing the 1963 Jerusalem trial of the mass murderer Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt coined the phrase ‘the banality of evil’.
In 2014 the mass murderer Charles Manson, 80, proves yet again that evil isn’t just banal. It’s also extremely attractive in all sorts of ways, including sexual.
This monster, serving a life sentence for the 1969 cult murder of the actress Sharon Tate and seven others, including her unborn child, has been issued a licence to marry a 26-year-old woman who says she loves him.
The bride, Afton Burton, first became smitten with the bridegroom, who had Sharon Tate’s baby cut out of her womb and butchered, when she was 17.
At that impressionable age she read Charlie’s jailhouse scribbles on the harm nasty people do to the environment and realised he was a man after her heart.
Since then this loving daughter of Baptist parents, who inexplicably disapprove of her nuptial plans, has moved to California to be nearer Charlie’s prison. She has been visiting him regularly, though not in a conjugal way (as a lifer, he’s denied that privilege, even assuming that at his age he’d be able to take advantage of it).
The girl bears an uncanny resemblance to some murderous female members of the Manson ‘family’, and the same question can be asked of her as of them.
What exactly is the bridegroom’s attraction?
What, for that matter, is the attraction of other murderers, many of whom have panting fans ‘on the out’?
Certainly in Afton’s case this question is hard to answer in any rational terms and yet, until we hear the contrary, we have to assume the girl is sane.
Considering that the bridegroom will next be up for parole in his mid-90s, Afton can’t look forward to any domestic bliss, however short-lived. Nor will her passion for Charlie ever be consummated in any traditional way.
Generally speaking, it’s possible to love deeply flawed and violent people. Though we like for something, we love in spite of everything.
But, delving into the issue a bit deeper than Hannah Arendt, perhaps we’ll discover that the answer isn’t so close to the surface.
For I’m convinced that many people are attracted to murderers or other nasties not in spite of their being evil but because of it.
Gangsta thugs with a string of criminal convictions to their names are seldom short of middleclass girlfriends. And it’s out of ‘lurv’ that many women routinely stay with violent men who break their bones.
Looking on a larger scale, historically unprecedented mass murderers, such as Lenin, Stalin or Hitler, had millions of fans in the West.
Many of those didn’t necessarily share the ideologies behind the murders – they were driven not by theoretical abstractions but by the anomic evil within them.
The attraction was often sexual, as it was with many Bloomsbury chaps who envied the leather-jerkined commissars their masculinity, something they themselves didn’t have.
There was something irresistibly butch about all that rustling leather crisscrossed by belts supporting Mausers. Beats regular rough trade any day.
Or take women like Unity Mitford, who loved the Führer not just ideologically but erotically. Opinions differ on whether or not she sated her passion with Hitler himself, but she certainly entertained SS officers created in his image, a dozen at a time.
Evil attracts; absolute evil attracts absolutely. That never changes, and today one sees hordes of so-called conservatives, both male and female, pining for the muscular masculinity of Col. Putin (Peter Hitchens, ring your office).
And I doubt that all those British Muslims who join the ranks of ISIS cannibals do so out of Islamic piety. It’s much more likely that they are attracted by the horrific violence that they can both admire and perpetrate.
That sort of thing may or may not have sexual overtones. But even when it does, those aren’t the initial impulse.
Rather sex in such instances is the expression of deep-seated evil, whose origin is not in the libido of Freud’s fancy but in the workings of the hideous creature to which an earlier source refers as ‘the prince of this world’.
I hope when the long-awaited wedding takes place, whoever is officiating will say “What therefore Satan hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
The rest of us should perhaps take some time to ponder evil, and why it’s so much more than just banal.
My new book, Democracy as a Neocon Trick, is available from Amazon and the more discerning bookshops. However, my publisher would rather you ordered it from http://www.roperpenberthy.co.uk/index.php/browse-books/political/democracy-as-a-neocon-trick.htmlor, in the USA, http://www.newwinebookshop.com/Books/0002752