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There is evil. It’s in-born and it’s horrible. It cannot be explained away. Neither psychology nor sociology has an answer. There are far too many sociopaths running around and radical Islam has an over-representation of them. In order to protect ourselves, we should be prepared—for war.

That is pretty much the message of Eugen Sorg’s book entitled (in translation) ‘The Lust for Evil and Why Violence is not Curable’ (available only in German, published by Hansen Verlag 2011).

It is a pretty bad book. George Bush and Dick Cheney would have loved it.

Eugen Sorg is a trained psychotherapist who dropped clinical psychology in favor of journalism. As a war reporter he travelled to and wrote about several contemporary war zones, and especially the former Yugoslavia. What he saw there, or rather what he heard people talk about—both victims and perpetrators—convinced him that when people do harm they do so because they enjoy it—not because they are sick as clinical psychology thinks, or because they have suffered discrimination and exclusion, as sociologists like to believe. Individuals (and groups) are violent because that fills them with satisfaction; and that is what makes violence incurable, in the sense that it cannot be overcome (within individuals) or coped with (by societies).

There are several flaws with Sorg’s argument. First, he draws generalizations about both psychology and sociology on the basis of a very small and biased sample of theories, and commentary reproduced out of context. Second, that humans can be nasty and enjoy it is something everyone knows—ever seen or read comics? Third, that something perverse yet ‘pleasing’ is incurable precisely for that reason speaks for a rather crude analytical (and therapeutic) approach—or a hidden agenda.

I fear the hidden agenda of Sorg’s book is that of justifying the use of all (and any) means in the fight against radical Islam. It is the reactionary approach shared by the religious and the secular extreme right. It is in fact no different than that proclaimed by Al Qaeda or Iran’s Ahmadinejad.

Above all, it is banal; and as we know from a much more intelligent study of evil, namely Hannah Arendt’s report on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, the power of evil lies in its triviality.

Sorg’s book is unreflective and treacherous.

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