Guest Post: The Banality Of (Financial) Evil

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

The Banality Of (Financial) Evil

The financialized American economy and Central State are now totally dependent on a steady flow of lies and propaganda for their very survival. Were the truth told, the status quo would collapse in a foul, rotten heap.

Google's famous "don't be evil" is reversed in the American Central State and financial "industry": be evil, because everyone else is evil, too. In other words, lying, fraud, embezzlement, mispresentation of risk, material misrepresentation of facts, the cloaking of truth with half-truths, the replacement of statements of fact with propaganda and spin: these are not the work of a scattered handful of sociopaths: they represent the very essence and heart of the entire status quo.

Hannah Arendt coined the phrase the banality of evil to capture the essence of the Nazi regime in Germany: doing evil wasn't abnormal, it was normal. Doing evil wasn't an outlier of sociopaths, it was the everyday "job" of millions of people, Nazi Party members or not.

Not naming evil is the key to normalizing evil. Evil must first and foremost be derealized (a key concept in the Survival+ critique), detached from our realization and awareness by naming it something innocuous.

Here is a telling excerpt from the book Triumph of the Market:

Normalization of the unthinkable comes easily when money, status, power, and jobs are at stake.... Intellectuals will be dredged up to justify their (actions). The rationalizations are hoary with age: government knows best, ours is a strictly defensive effort, or, if it wasn't me somebody else would do it. There is also the retreat to ignorance, real, cultivated, or feigned.

Can any of the tens of thousands of people working on Wall Street or in the bowels of the Federal Reserve, Treasury, Pentagon, etc. truthfully claim they "didn't know it was wrong" to mislead the citizenry, the soldiers, the investors and the buyers of their fraud? On the contrary, every one of those tens of thousands of worker bees and managers knows full well the institution they toil for is doing evil simply by hiding the truth of its operations.

The entire status quo of the American Empire is built on lies.
Now the dependence on lies, fraud and misrepresentaion is complete; Wall Street and the Empire itself would fall if the truth were finally revealed and properly identified as evil.

Lying has been derealized; it is now the expected norm.
To tell the truth--on your resume, on your loan application, on your tax form, and about your own actions-- is now tainted and suspicious; the truth-teller is reviled as "putting on airs" of moral superiority, and they will be shunned and cut off by the liars around them.

Cheating on tests no longer carries any stain of ethical corruption; "everyone" cheats lest they fail to get into the university of their choice, the one that represents "the short cut" to a "good job" with excellent pay: yes, a job doing evil every day. But we no longer care about doing evil; we avoid it as a moral slaughterhouse we prefer not to see. Let the butchering of the moral heart of the nation be hidden from our delicate eyes and quivering guilty consciences.

The idea that we might not be able to buy the McMansion/auto/tattoo/toy we "deserve" enabled our killing of truth on the application.
Deprivation is a greater evil than the loss of personal integrity, and so hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans went along with the lie and sacrificed their integrity to support it, feed it, breathe life into it and then pass it on to the next liar.

So the mortgage applicant lied, and the mortgage broker lied by accepting a document he/she knew was false. And so the lie grew heavier as it passed from hand to hand, and the truth became lighter than air and floated away long before the falsified mortgage was originated, packaged, tranched and sold as a AAA "safe" investment.

We now say and vouch for whatever it necessary to "win," whatever "winning" is in a universe with no moral compass. When the entire system depends on the steady relentless flow of lies--from the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the Pentagon, the banks and Wall Street, the ratings agencies, the accounting depeartments, every nook and cranny of the American economy and empire--then no one is willing to sacrifice their own livelihood because they know it wouldn't stop anything. The machine would continue on, processing lies, fraud and propaganda, without them. but they would be outside the lucrative heart of darkness, and no longer able to buy their coveted McMansion/auto/tattoo/toy that defined who they are.

Integrity has become as light as the truth itself, and both have floated away, unnoticed and unmourned. Hannah Arendt wrote about the Great Evil, Nazi Germany, and "The Final Solution" of death camps. But the Nazi machine spewed plentiful opportunities to practice the banality of evil, and the death camps were simply one division of the daily grind of pressing one's palms on evil and passing it on to the next "good German."

Here is a memorial outside the village where my brother lives in France. It is a typical village, quite small, perhaps a few hundred residents. The memorial commemorates three young French civilians who were taken out and shot by Nazi soldiers, either for suspected "crimes" or as a "lesson" to the civilian populace.

The routine killing of civilians went on day after day; it was the "day job" of the occupying troops.

Americans toiling away in their various departments of evil excuse their complicity by telling themselves, "nobody died because I lied" (except in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who am I to stop what goes on there?). Hiding the truth carries no penalties or remorse because it is SOP now, standard operating procedure.

The moral slaughterhouse is filled with corpses.
We don't really know what our Central State is doing in the world, in the Mideast or Afghanistan. We also don't know what the Central State/Wall Street partnership is doing, either. Those inside know, of course, but very few are telling, because the see-saw is just so imbalanced in a system which depends on lies and the distortion of truth to continue its domination.

The truth-teller will lose their prestigious position, their generous salary and the acceptance of their peers. In exchange for this sacrifice, the truth-teller receives only the glowing, ephemeral shards of his/her integrity: in the American culture and economy, that literally has no value. The machine will grind on without them, impervious to the tiny pricks of truth; the machinery of propaganda, artifice, misdirection and misrepresentation is well-oiled and masterful in the reach and scope of its operation.

Lest you think this an exaggeration, please watch The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg was only one of thousands of "good Americans" doing their job in a war machine built entirely on lies and propaganda. Only one citizen out of those thousands, or tens of thousands, was willing to trade his career for his integrity and conscience.

That's how the banality of evil works. Maybe someday someone will break free of the culture of lies and propaganda in the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, Wall Street and the "too big to fail banks" and tell the truth. They will be hounded, discredited, scorned and reviled for telling the truth, and the truth will quickly be covered up or shredded.

That's how the banality of evil works. Truth has become too dangerous to the status quo, so it must be strangled every day, by tens of thousands of people, and its limp corpse hidden away.


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JLee2027's picture

As soon as I see "American Empire" I turn off. 

That is a complete misrepresentation of what America is.

snowball777's picture

Your ignorance is abhorrent to thinking people everywhere.

Popo's picture

America is the most powerful empire in history.  

You should stop turning off.

Buzz Fuzzel's picture

Feeling trapped? 

Remember it was the representative of the emperor who asked the famous question "What is truth".  It was his prisoner who said "the Truth shall set you free"

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

As soon as I see "American Empire" I turn off. 

A closed mind is a wonderful thing to waste.

RECISION's picture

And, makes wonderful cannon-fodder.


Pants McPants's picture

US arrogance notwithstanding your comments are usually worth the time taken to read them. 

hbjork1's picture



Living conditions here are better than they have ever been and this country has been a place people want to get into instead of get out of.  The iron age Europeans overwhelmed the late stone age indigineous population but as a nation relating to other nations, there was no attempt at empire. 

IMO, the dollar HAS been the worlds currency because, in the past, we paid our bills.  We will see how long that lasts.  If we stop paying our bills our "empire" will go away.  

SheepDog-One's picture

Pure Evil Empire, bitchez.

Its time for people to start talking, show where the corpses are buried, who did the shootin, where all the loot is buried....because next up its 3 piece suits dangling on piano wire from lamp posts you can bet your ASS on that!

SheepDog-One's picture

AW some delusion-bot didnt like that post and junked it? Gee thats a shame.

assumptionblindness's picture

Some bitchez just can't handle the truth.  With my last breath, I spit at thee...

Ripped Chunk's picture

Must have been the piano wire imagery?

I still think the guillotine has the best "deterrent factor" impact.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

What I've never understood is why they place the soon to be headless face down.

Since you've already decided to go with blood thirsty crowds, why not allow the condemned (and the grateful crowd) the final thrill of seeing several hundreds pounds of sharpened steel dispatching you to hell?

Curious how we play with our revenge.

Oracle of Kypseli's picture

It was customary that as soon as the head dropped in the basket, the executioner will lift it and the executed will see its own headless body, since you can still have the sense of sight for a few minutes after decapitation.

Forgive the ugly details but those who are next in line for decapitation may be reading this.

downrodeo's picture

You know what we should do, is round them up, lock them in the Louisiana super-dome with no cocaine, blare KeSHa and Justin Bieber music and play a contiunous slide-show of portraits of Keynes on the jumbotron. You know, the whole 'there are things worse than death' idea...

RECISION's picture

How about - round them up, put them in dog cages and regularly waterboard them.

Find out all their juicy little secrets...

...mmmm...  bring Guantanamo to Wall Street and Washington

NOTW777's picture

the wages of sin is death

SheepDog-One's picture

I hear that, time for the purveyors of propaganda, the piss bucket carriers, to come forth against their masters and tell their stories and beg forgiveness, or else theyll be dangling from piano wire like all the rest of the 3 piece suits. People in america just cant believe this can happen...'never happen here' I hear all the time...they will be shocked at what they see very soon.

Desenstematic's picture

Will they though? Or is that what we keep telling ourselves to deal with the now.  Sometimes I feel like we are a bunch of kids complaining about the bully that doesn't follow the rules.  The bully usually wins...

SheepDog-One's picture

They will or they wont, their choice. BUT, only takes a couple of them coming forward to set off the chain reaction. Also, in my experience, the bully wins for a while until someone gives him a punch in the mouth and the big tough bully runs home crying.

Ferrari's picture

Look at what happened to the Ceau?escus. The bullies don't always triumph forever. Romania looked pretty dire, pretty locked down, but the regime faultered, the people rose up and the Ceau?escus went down. I'm not saying the same will happen to Lloyd, Ben Shalom, and their friends, but I will say the future is not written. It won't be a pretty picture when the great American homeowner wakes up to learn he's been made a fool. Americans are passive ignoramuses, but not infinately so.

snowball777's picture

the wages of sin are death...illiterate

SheepDog-One's picture

Man thats quite a low blow callin the guy ILLITERATE over an 'is' dontcha think? ;P

snowball777's picture

it's more about poking fun at what he's quoting and its lack of proper grammar.

shargash's picture

He's quoting the King James translation of the Bible. Whether that's relevant or not is another question entirely. All evidence from the financial industry is that the wages of sin are hundreds of millions of dollars. Not bad work if you can get it.

jus_lite_reading's picture

Amen. However, do not be mislead- Goldman Sachs is doing "God's work"

Commander Cody's picture

And henceforth, you can call me Dr. Evil.

Sabremesh's picture

I'm afraid the wages of your snide comment is ridicule, because your purported "correction" actually reveals YOUR ignorance of the English language. The word "wages" exists in its own right, and is not meant (in this context) as the plural of "wage". It means "retribution."

tewkatz's picture


Romans 6:23 (KJV)

 23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

"The wages", IMO, refers to the sum of all forms of compensation for sin as a singular entity.

Illiterate means you cannot read or write.  Even if he would have had a lapse in grammar, that is not even close to disclosing him illiterate.



Fish Gone Bad's picture

What happened in Europe in WWII (fingering the jews) was not a Nazi issue, it was an everyday, everyone did it, issue.  It is absolutely amazing what terrible things people can do, given the right environment.

philgramm's picture

For far too long the American citizenry has put the faith of their well being in the hands of the "leaders".  If you pawn off the duty of your well being and survival onto others then they can take advantage of it.  What else did we expect.  The only thing an individual can do now is to prepare.  It's (collapse) coming and nobody can do anything about it (even the "elected leaders").

SheepDog-One's picture

Yea TRUE! When you hand over your liberties to someone else, in particular a Gooberment, dont be surprised when you look around and realize youre a damn slave!

traderjoe's picture

Fractional reserve debt-money banking requires inflation to continue it's perpetuation for as long as possible. This requires citizens to 'invest' their money in order to attempt to beat inflation over time. Of course, they have to invest with the 'money-changers', who charge for the privilege of investing money with them. So, the bankers built a system which requires inflation, which requires citizens to put their money at risk with the bankers. Brilliant...for the bankers. 

Hard money and/or stable currencies can have stable or even declining prices over time. This is the natural order of things, as productivity reduces costs over time. Then, citizens can 'save' their money at low risk, since they can store their savings/purchasing power over time. 

A currency that would allow for the stability of value over time would make wide swaths of the 'money-changing' business obsolete virtually immediately. One can instigate and hope for such an outcome...

MarketTruth's picture

A small yet important point, Google is now doing evil on many levels. Am just saying...

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

Max Hunter's picture

That's the quote that came to my mind as well.

ssp2s's picture

If a company has a motto of "Don't Be Evil," you can bet it is.  Google is the new Halliburton.  No need for the author to undermine the rest of the article by starting with weak assertions.

tbd108's picture

I was down on the floor of the NYSE several weeks ago and looked around carefully with just this sort of issue on my mind. After carefully looking at the traders at their terminals and speaking with several veterans of the floor, I came to the followings conclustions: 1) none of them appeared to be "evil,"; 2) some of them looked trapped; and 3) they seemed to be very bright but in narrow ways so that I truly believe that they don't understand what mischief they bring.

Bob's picture

The "successful" class has an uncanny genius for being only as unaware and stupid as they need to be.

snowball777's picture

I'm sorry, did you say something? I was thinking about soup.

Ripped Chunk's picture

They set the game up that way.

None of the black boxes humming along on the floor were available for interview..................

DevelopMental's picture

NYSE = Pavlov's Casino.

"Ring the bell and they will come."

doomandbloom's picture

Nasa wants to have a one way mission to Mars


Larry Page of Google will invest around 1 Billion into the project....

snowball777's picture

I nominate Jabba Summers, Lord Blankstare, and Jamie 'Dime Bag' Dimon for the trip.