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Abstract

The chapter examines the ways in which psychologising evil is used by the media in Greece at this point in history, the time of debt crisis. The coverage of opportunism in politics – one form of political evil – uses psychologising evil to alleviate responsibility for the politicians who were found with their hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. On the other hand, the coverage of the crisis related suicides of laypeople, particularly those who leave letters behind them, not traditional suicide notes but accusations that point to the political choices of the ruling elite, is different. Here psychology is used to intensify the responsibility of the people who commit suicide, to privatise their deed, in spite of their claims that their actions are political. If you are hurting the common good and you are a politician, then psychologising evil serves to reverse the blame and lay it on society, for making you ill in the first place; if you are hurting yourself and you are a lay person, then psychologising evil serves to reverse the reasons for which you killed yourself, and make them private instead of political. The chapter uses Arendt, Castoriadis and Aristotle’s work to demonstrate how this kind of instrumental/mechanical thinking, which sees people as nothing more than a specimen of the species and takes choice away from them, is a science of misanthropy, and signals a profound crisis in our judgement of what is right and what is wrong. Psychologising evil manipulates a moral issue to make it anything one wants, and makes morality a relative value where we most need a clear judgement in regard to evil in politics.

In: Perspectives on Evil

Using the political philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis’s categorisation regarding the structure of the symbolic in society, i.e. the functions of what he calls ‘social imaginary significations,’ this paper addresses the representations, aims and feelings in our Western societies as they are promoted in the mass media. It argues that these three functions are tainted by the promoted successful self who is also demonstrably and acceptingly evil. In this self evil is ‘natural,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘strong’ and ‘interesting’ and the evil self ‘immortal’ – juxtaposed to a virtuous self which is ‘weak’ and ‘boring’ and ‘a lie,’ and much more in danger of a dismal future. If Castoriadis is right and the task of psychoanalysis is political, in that it tries to reconcile the person with his own mortality, then once we accept our mortality we can start to live, taking on responsibilities without the constant fear of death. This paper examines the ways in which the mass media insist on a self that is positioned as far as possible from mortality. Addressing news items that show the self as a neo-liberal ‘hero,’ a risk taker, and others that demonstrate death and loss being ‘annulled’ for successful business leaders (Berlusconi remaining ‘young,’ or, ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort remaining successful in spite of crimes) the paper tackles narratives of the ‘successful’ self that resonate as narcissistic and evil, and tests the distinct possibility that the formation of the self as an active citizen in the audience is undermined by them. It also examines how the insistence that our society creates leaders, or harbours ‘leaders,’ puts forth ‘personas’ as masks that replace identity – as the self does not identify with roles in social institutions, but instead exists as evil does: without an identity, only through its effects, echoing the deified corporate ‘results.’

In: This Thing of Darkness: Shedding Light on Evil

This chapter examines the ways in which psychologising evil is used by the media in Greece at this point in historical time, the time of debt crisis. The coverage of opportunism in politics – hence political evil – uses psychologising evil to alleviate responsibility of the politicians who ‘were found with their hand in the jar’, so to speak. Thus, when politicians embezzled money that belonged to the state, they did so because they ‘were mentally ill’. On the other hand, the coverage of suicides of laypeople because of the crisis, which leave behind letters that accuse the political choices of the ruling elite who votes for higher and higher taxes, uses psychologising to intensify the responsibility of the people who commit suicide, to privatise their deed in spite of their claims to have been a political choice. If you are hurting the common good and are a politician, then psychologising evil serves to reverse the blame and bring it to society, for making you ill in the first place; if you are hurting yourself and you are a lay person, then psychologising evil serves to reverse the reasons for which you killed yourself, and make them private instead of political. The chapter uses Arendt, Castoriadis and Aristotle’s work to demonstrate how this kind of instrumental/mechanical thinking, which sees people as nothing more than a specimen of the species and takes choice away from them, is a ‘science of misanthropy’, and signals a ‘profound crisis’ in our judgement of what is right and what is wrong. Their work shows that evil is a-political because it refuses to acknowledge an other; psychologising this evil manipulates a moral issue to make it anything one wants, and makes morality a relative value where we need a clear judgement most: in regard with evil in politics.

In: I Want to Do Bad Things: Modern Interpretations of Evil

After the Iraq war, the American comedian Lewis Black referred to the lies the ‘West’ had fed the media in order to publicly justify starting the war. He wondered why, after it was clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ‘– Why didn’t they make something up?’ This new way of not bothering to uphold a lie when it is out in the open is at the centre of a new way of lying in politics and this chapter calls it ‘open deception’. Using the work of Arendt, Castoriadis and Orwell, the chapter proposes to examine the practice recognising three stages in it: first, open deception we’re all used to, coming from advertising, where we all know it’s a lie that a nice car will get you a nice life; second, the open deception as ‘lying truths’, such as those on food packaging (‘bread-product’ – not bread, ‘yogurt-like dessert’ in Greek, rather than real yogurt, and, in the news, a lawyer claiming that his client who embezzled money is ‘in the last pre-cancerous stage’; these are not ‘lies’, and ‘it is your fault’ if you do not see the play on words); thirdly, an actual no lies practice, in which the U.S. admits there are no weapons of mass destruction, and the Greek government right after the 2009 General Election ‘admits’ that there is no money, even though they based their campaign on claims that there is plenty. The chapter examines open deception as aimed at getting the public used to accepting lies, and traces its pathway in the reign of the social (as hierarchical and distinguished from the political – Arendt), the means and ends mentality and trust in a ‘totemised’ technoscience (Arendt and Castoriadis) and an intelligentsia that does not care to uphold the truth (Orwell).

In: Deception: An Interdisciplinary Exploration

The present paper addresses the notions of the successful self and identity in terms of the categorisation of Cornelius Castoriadis’s ‘social imaginary significations.’ As the structure of the symbolic in society, the social imaginary significations are found in the representations, the aims/finalities and the feelings/affects promoted by the mass media in our western societies. The paper argues that these three functions are tainted by the media promoted ‘successful self’ who is also demonstrably and acceptingly evil. In this self, evil is ‘natural,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘strong,’ and ‘interesting’ and the evil self ‘immortal’ – juxtaposed to a virtuous self which is ‘weak’ and ‘boring’ and ‘a lie,’ and much more in danger of a dismal future. If Castoriadis is right and the task of psychoanalysis is political in that it tries to reconcile the person with his own mortality, then once we accept our mortality we can start to live, taking on responsibilities without the constant fear of death. This paper examines the ways in which the mass media insist on a self that is positioned as far as possible from mortality. Addressing news items that show the self as a neo-liberal ‘hero,’ a risk taker, and others that demonstrate death and loss being ‘annulled’ for successful business leaders (Berlusconi remaining ‘young,’ or Donald Trump remaining successful in spite criminal investigations and ‘bankruptcies’) the paper tackles narratives of the ‘successful’ self that resonate as narcissistic and evil, and tests the distinct possibility that the formation of the self as an active citizen in the audience is undermined by them. It also examines our society’s leadership obsession as it appears in the media, and the effects of a media distortion of what a leader is, on identification and identity.

In: Piercing the Shroud: Destabilizations of ‘Evil’
A Critique of Current and Past Norms
The current erotic landscape is contradictory: While the West sees greater sexual and erotic freedom than ever, there is also a movement to restrict the behaviour of various sexual minorities. Expanding and Restricting the Erotic addresses the way in which the erotic has been constrained and freed, both historically and at present. Topics range from the troubling way in which the mainstream media represents the erotic, to the concept of friends with benefits. Other chapters explore female eroticism, from contemporary female hip hop artists to Latin American women seeking to express their eroticism in the midst of sexual repression. Medieval and Early Modern medical conceptions of the female body are explored, as are ancient Greek erotic practices. Finally, the controversial area of teenage girls’ erotic representation is analysed.