Can An Evil Man Be A Decent Person?

Saddam Hussein

USAF (CC0)

July 30, 2017

How can someone be a monster — a brutal dictator, a mass murderer, a serial killer — and up close seem like a decent, caring person? In this hour, we tackle a complicated question: what happens when our moral categories fail and we find ourselves feeling empathy for monsters? Is that wrong? And what does it say about us?

  1. The American Guards Who Kept Saddam Hussein Safe Until His Execution

    The young American soldiers who protected Saddam Hussein during his trial spent hours alone with the “Butcher of Baghdad” and unexpectedly grew to like him. They were devastated by his execution and its violent aftermath. One of those soldiers tells us he’s still haunted by the experience.

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  2. Paul Beatty on "The Nazi and the Barber"

    Paul Beatty recommends a novel by German-Jewish Holocaust survivor Edgar Hilsenrath.

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    Average: 4.7 (3 votes)
  3. What Can Americans Learn from a Norwegian Massacre?

    The story of neo-Nazi Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people, most of them teenagers he gunned down on an island summer camp in Norway.

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    4.75
    Average: 4.8 (8 votes)
  4. Your Archenemy Turned Out To Be a Hero. Now What?

    During basketball camp in Fargo, North Dakota, cultural critic Chuck Klosterman made an enemy — for life. And maybe that was a bad idea.

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  5. Can Literature Make You More Empathetic?

    There’s a theory that reading fiction helps us learn to understand other people — and in the process, become kinder, better, more empathetic ourselves. Joshua Landy is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at Stanford and he agrees. Sort of.

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  6. Michael Tisserand on “My Friend Dahmer”

    What do you do when your buddy in high school turns out to be the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer?

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