Evil is as evil does

Jonah Goldberg, a thinker and writer I admire, recently commented on the word ‘evil’ in connection with the depraved terror tactics of Islamists. Mr. Goldberg notes that some journalists and academics object to the word because it harks back to “a simpler time” or even that it “stops us from thinking.” He responds: “No, it doesn’t. But perhaps a reflexive and dogmatic fear of the word “evil” hinders thinking?”

(e*vil n. 2.That which causes harm, misfortune or destruction. 4. Something that is a cause or source of suffering, injury or destruction.)

Goldberg wrote the hefty, scholarly book, “Liberal Fascism.” In it he chronicles the harm done to societies by fascists including statist liberals in America. Although he didn’t, as I recall, describe our domestic fascists as evil, he does think that Islamists deserve the “evil” identifier. The headline of the article reflects his main point: “If the Islamic State is not ‘evil,’ what is?”

American press people, academics and government bureaucrats have done a disservice to us by euphemizing our language. Goldberg notes the murderous killings of defenseless people at Ft. Hood, Texas by radical Muslim, Nadal Hasan, in the name of “Allah.” His vile deed was declared “workplace violence” by feckless military bureaucrats. Goldberg calls this “sanitizing the language,” but it masks the truth.

Our English dictionaries offer ample words that make things, actions and descriptors clear, brief and powerful. We needn’t fear them, hide them or deny their truth. Goldberg asks a “fundamental” question: “Is the Islamic State evil?”

As he suggests, those who speak the truth (with clear language) are thinking people. I suggest that writers and speakers using fuzzy words and phrases want to hide the truth. Goldberg says they’ve “stopped thinking.” Ultimately, we all know evil by what it does. Think about that.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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