Great, Satan

A Weekly roundtable on the subject of evil

Evil: Where would film, TV and religion be without it? Evil drives much of the world and much of the world's people—who are either trying to avoid it, overcome it, root it out or package it for Fox. It's a term deployed by common folk and presidents of the United States with regularity—especially recently—and with certainty that the receiver understands precisely what the word means.

But one man's evil is another man's Pride March. "Evil" is an absolute term in constant flux—Galileo was once considered evil, as were tomatoes—and those who wreak evil upon one group usually do so in the name of fighting evil for another. This would include just about every war ever fought, including the present conflict in which our enemy of "evildoers" addresses us as the Great Satan. "Evil" goes both ways.

We talked to people—some living, some dead, some who've seen evil, some who are viewed as such—about evil. Here's what they thought.

"Before all of this, I don't think I really believed that people could be evil. You know, they say a conservative is just a liberal who has been mugged. Most of us don't want to believe in evil because it makes looking at life very difficult, very unpleasant. We like to play with evil, talk about it, watch it in movies, you know, at a safe distance. But you have no idea what it is until you look the devil in the eye. It rips out your soul. If you're lucky, you can get on with your life, but you never really recover." Marc Klaas, father of Polly Klaas, whose murder at the hands of Richard Allen Davis sparked the Three Strikes movement. Klaas, who at first supported and then withdrew his support from Three Strikes when the law was applied to nonviolent criminals, started the Klaas Kids Foundation, which seeks ways to stop crime against children.


"Politics in Orange County often stinks of mendacity, but is mendacity 'evil'? Probably not. Indeed, I don't think even a 'thin' form of evil is properly characterized as 'evil.' I would hesitate, unlike former and current presidents (among others), to use the word casually. By using it as a synonym for behavior that is "merely" wrong, bad, distasteful, disagreeable or even illegal, we diminish the moral power of the word. If anything can be "evil" by simply saying so, then is there any form of behavior that's not at least potentially evil from someone's perspective? Probably not, if one considers Elie Wiesel's discussion of evil—real evil—in The Night Trilogy. By Wiesel's standard, there is, has been and probably will be "evil" in the world. However, while I find much in politics that is distasteful, wrong, corrupt, disgraceful and even illegal, I am not prepared to cast any such actions as evil. The word should be saved for the real thing—the Jesuit genocide of native Americans in South America during the 16th and 17th centuries; the Turkish genocide of Armenians; the Holocaust; the genocide in Rwanda; or perhaps the recent, brutal murder of Danielle van Dam." Dr. Mark Petracca, chairman, department of political science, UC Irvine.


Liezel Rubin
Photo by Liezel Rubin

"Evil is politicians, things like the Public Corporation for the Arts (they're shysters), these girls named Liz and Cindy, Orange County Republicans—they're all corrupt, they're evil, they're mainstream society, and they're very deceiving. Evil is not having integrity and not being righteous. I mean, I might do weird shit, but I have integrity. Most people think I'm evil—which I am—but I'm good evil because I'm fun evil. Creative evil is different. And my next show is evil—I did really bad things to Marilyn Monroe." Liezel Rubin, artist and photographer whose most recent piece was a series of photos of a woman trying to get a guy in a gorilla suit to jerk off into a cup.


"So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,

"Farewell remorse; all good to me is lost;

"Evil be thou my Good." John Milton,Paradise Lost, a poem that presents Satan as far more attractive than God. Milton believed that those who "lived loosely" in their youth had a better chance of making a successful marriage, while those who were chaste and modest were likely to feel themselves "chained unnaturally together." Milton, a Puritan, was married three times, each time unhappily.


Michael York
from The Omega Code

"Well, that's the problem Milton had with his devil, isn't it? I think [Satan] is completely seductive. That's his great strength, isn't it? The devil would have no power if he couldn't seduce us into doing his will. And I think we're attracted because we live in such a regulated society where you can't go anywhere where you aren't bound by rules of good behavior. I think that like small children, we want to break those rules sometimes, just for the hell of it, to use a phrase, and it just takes someone with great charisma to push us over the that line. In the Omega Codemovies, our version of the Antichrist was not of some bogeyman, but a very charismatic, very seductive media mogul hell-bent on destruction. And I hate to say this, but seeing the way things are coming down, well, I'll just say there is the potential there." Michael York, actor who portrayed the devil in TBN'sOmega Code movies. Another trend York detects is that "movie villains keep turning out to be British. I'm not sure why that is—maybe it's because we sneer so well. It's our upbringing; we can look down on people better than anyone."

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