The banality of evil: Shocking video of a man being lashed in Iran

It is hard to put a face to the torturers and murderers that have filled our common psyche in the past months. What exactly does a human being who beats another to death look like? In what dingy outpost of civilization do these deeds occur? Are filthy, dark cellars the only province of deliberately inflicted pain?

But harder still is the jarring realization of what philosopher Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil, that great oppression is carried out by legions of functionaries who may pull a prisoners nails out with pliers, then go home and kiss their children goodnight. Normality in the name of a premise, an ideology, a religion.

Much as our sanity demands it, we cannot relegate evil to groups of fanatics operating in the stifling heat of a detention center, overcrowded and reeking of urine and feces and fear.

It can be seen in the jovial face of Hamid Rasai, Majlis representative from Tehran, as he compares Mir Hossein Mousavi with MKO leader Massoud Rajavi and says that anyone who stands in the way of the goals of the Islamic Revolution must be eliminated. And it can be heard in the words of former health minister, Kamran Lankarani, a poster boy for youthful idealism, as he claims that Mohsen Rouholamini died of meningitis, not because he was bludgeoned so severely in jail that his jaw had been shattered. Or in the fatherly figure of Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the supposedly moderate former head of the judiciary, as he pleads that he could have done no more than sign a watered-down moratorium on stonings after Jafar Kiani had been buried in a pit and stoned to death in Takistan.

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