Little Eichmanns

eichmann by shmuel katz

Little Eichmanns [ahyk-muhn] is a phrase used to describe the complicity of those who participate in destructive and immoral systems in a way that, although on an individual scale may seem indirect, when taken collectively would have an effect comparable to Nazi official Adolf Eichmann’s role in The Holocaust. Anarcho-primitivist John Zerzan used the phrase in his essay ‘Whose Unabomber?’ in 1995. The phrase gained prominence in American political culture four years after 9/11, when an essay written by Ward Churchill shortly after the attacks received renewed media scrutiny. In the essay, ‘On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,’ Churchill reiterated the phrase to describe technocrats working at the World Trade Center; his statement caused much controversy.

The use of ‘Eichmann’ as an archetype stems from Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem.’ Arendt wrote that aside from a desire for improving his career, Eichmann showed no trace of anti-Semitism or psychological damage. She called him the embodiment of the ‘banality of evil’ as he appeared at his trial to have an ordinary and common personality and displayed neither guilt nor hatred. She suggested that this most strikingly discredits the idea that the Nazi criminals were manifestly psychopathic and fundamentally different from ordinary people. Lewis Mumford collectively refers to people willing to placidly carry out the extreme goals of megamachines as ‘Eichmanns.’

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