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Evil as Entertainment

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The further in time one gets from World War II, its savagery and ruthlessness, the horrors of the Holocaust, the destruction of cities and the senseless massacre of millions of soldiers and civilians, the more the memory begins to resemble a filmed entertainment complete with make believe pain and what passes for realism and authenticity.

One begins to see a growing army of doubters and deniers alleging that the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis were exaggerations for purposes of propaganda by the allies who needed to portray the Nazis as Neanderthals.

The changes in perceptions, despite all the historical data, the endless documentaries and books attesting to the abject cruelty of the Nazis and their allies, the laws that Germany has enacted to prevent such a bestial catastrophe from happening again, are beginning to find traction in the old and new media. We no longer turn away in horror, but often observe these events merely as spectacle, a performance by others for our entertainment.

Remarks by a Danish filmmaker about his sympathy for Hitler elicits chuckles, despite his slap on the wrist punishment, and a Holocaust denier is President of Iran and very nearly becomes head of the oil cartel. Sympathy for Israel, once the plucky little democracy created by the UN in the aftermath of the Holocaust as a haven for this oppressed minority, is now considered a menace to its billion strong neighbors and must now justify to the world its right to exist as a Jewish nation. Apparently, even our historical memory is being attacked by Alzheimer's.

Perhaps there is so much evil being portrayed in the fiction of films and books that it seems commonplace to believe that real evil is merely fiction. Even the most bizarre and tragic circumstances programmed in prime time on the telly showing peaceful protesters in Syria being killed on orders of a power mad dictator, teenagers deliberately trashing their own neighborhoods in London, ubiquitous images of human horror, massacres by machete, beheadings, suicide bombings, and an endless catalogue of abominations are seen, if one isn't at risk, as mere entertainments.

To many of us, the bloody conflict offered up on our screens seems repetitive and ordinary. We shrug with vague acceptance when we learn that the weaponry of mass destruction is proliferating, that religious wars are accelerating, that true believers of one cause or another butcher true believers of opposing causes. Mankind seems to float on a river of blood. All of this is recorded, filmed, packaged and sent to our homes and offices through the miracle of technology. We are voyeurs of evil. We love it.

There are, for example, thousands of Internet sites set up by ultra fascist groups hawking monstrous accusations against imagined enemies, similar to the methods employed by Hitler to whip up a killing spree designed to eliminate any group not on his master race list. Many of his ideas have been recast and expanded, notably in Arabic, and used to promote Jihad and brainwash potential suicide bombers to perpetrate evil crimes against those who do not share their ideas of exclusivity. Copycat Nazi hate machines have been rejuvenated and they are gaining adherents and supporters.

One might say it has always been thus. Evil is mankind's hobby. Killing fields are everywhere.

Of course, the great stars in this mass charade are the so-called leaders who orchestrate their appearance with contrived props, cheering crowds, their words packaged for digital dissemination. It's getting so that every time I see and hear a speech by a politician I think of Charlie Chaplin and his indelible performance of Adolf Hitler in the film, The Great Dictator.

If there is any bottom line to all this sturm and drang it is that if it is not happening to you directly, it is merely entertainment. And if it is happening to you, rest assured that others will be viewing your agony on a screen somewhere holding a bowl of popcorn, mesmerized and being entertained by the spectacle.

Warren Adler is the author of 32 novels and short story collections published in numerous languages. Films adapted from his books include "The War of the Roses", "Random Hearts" and the PBS trilogy "The Sunset Gang." He is a pioneer in digital publishing. For more information please visit www.warrenadler.com.