Allyson Burger, Michael Chetkof, and the Banality of Evil

December 20, 2017



Allyson Burger, Michael Chetkof and the Banality of Evil

By Norman G Finkelstein (19 December 2017)

Political theorist Hannah Arendt (in)famously subtitled her chronicle of the Eichmann trial “a report on the banality of evil.”

It’s often misunderstood what Arendt meant by banality.

How could a mass murderer be banal, which my American Heritage Collegiate Dictionary defines as “drearily commonplace” and “trite”?

Even renowned Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg recoiled at Arendt’s characterization.  Adolf Eichmann, he recalled, played a critical, even impressive, role in the machinery of destruction during the Final Solution.

In a contentious exchange with Jewish writer Gershom Scholem, Arendt endeavored to clarify her usage.

When she entered the courthouse in Jerusalem, Arendt saw up close the “monster” Eichmann behind the glass enclosure.

She was overwhelmed by how underwhelmed she was.  Eichmann’s every gesture and word, until his very last, bespoke the “drearily commonplace” and “trite.”

Evil, she memorably, and even reluctantly, concluded, had no depth.  It possesses all the profundity of a perfectly flat plane.

One almost wishes that the executor of a monstrously evil act was in fact a Satanic creature.

It provides a kind of psychological relief and emotional consolation that the perpetrator plumbed a negative moral depth commensurate with the positive magnitude of the crime.

But, said Arendt, it wasn’t so.  Eichmann was as profound as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman.

Had it not been for the serendipity of Nazism and the ensuing war, and the “opportunities” they opened up, Eichmann would probably have been just another eminently forgettable casualty of the Depression, or in more prosperous times a Willy Loman.

My late mother experienced Arendt’s epiphany in 1979 when she was a witness at a trial of former guards in Maijdanek concentration camp.

Upon seeing the guards 35 years later in the courtroom, my mother was aghast.  She remembered them in her mind’s eye as Ubermenschen: lean, tall, crisply uniformed.

But now they were fat, squat, dressed in drab blouses and pleated skirts.

“Oh my God,” my mother whispered to me in bewilderment, “they’re washwomen!”

I recalled Arendt and my mother’s reactions this morning while contemplating the latest chapter in The Vulture Chronicles.

Readers will recall that just after Dr Rudolph Baldeo lost his life savings, and shelled out $100,000 in attorneys fees, Michael Chetkof, who is 83 years old, demanded another $7,500.

A close friend of mine sent me an email saying: “UNSPEAKABLY vile.”

Last night Dr Baldeo was over at my apartment.  He asked me not to talk about the divorce, as he wanted a respite from the horrors this past week.

But half way through the evening, he checked his cellphone for messages.

He found in his inbox an “Attorney Affidavit” from Allyson Burger.

After reading it, Dr Baldeo cocked his head back, closed his eyes and fell eerily silent.

Burger demanded yet another twenty-six thousand dollars ($26,000) in attorneys fees.

It seems that Burger and Chetkof are dead set on draining Dr Baldeo of his last drop of blood.

While she sinks her hideous fangs into him, this clueless vampire recites in the Attorney Affidavit her resume—“I am a member of  . . . I am the current Chair of . . . I am an Associate of . . . I have presented and lectured before . . . I am a published writer in . . . I was chosen by . . . ”—as if this entitles her to suck the blood from the living.

It’s cause for wonder why Burger omitted that she did tap in grade school and was on twirlers in high school.

Hers is not quite the banality of evil.

Behold in Allyson Burger an evil that would truly be comical were it not so sick.


Gandhi once wrote that the most powerful word in the English language is “No.”

Each of us retains the capacity to not cooperate with and to resist evil.

I will await the judge’s decision.

If the occasion requires it, I will say No and resist.

I will not allow Nassau County’s fraternity of legal ghouls to murder Dr Baldeo on the installment plan.