After Foley Execution, CNN.com Wonders If ISIS Should Be Called 'Evil'

Is the beheading of an American journalist – along with the genocide of Christians and other religious minorities – enough to label the Islamist terror group ISIS as the consummation of evil? According to CNN.com, the answer is really quite complicated.

In fact, James Dawes, director of the program in Human Rights at Macalester College, argued in a piece for CNN’s online arm that “there are few things more dangerous now than allowing ourselves to think” that ISIS does “evil things for evil ends,”as NRO’s Jonah Goldberg phrased it in a tweet earlier this week. Dawes’s assertion is that Americans need to “do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that unmakes them.” He added that“understanding” will “help us see the world through their eyes.” [See Goldberg's tweet and excerpts from the piece after the jump.]

Relevant portions of the article are below (emphases mine):

There is only one good reason to denounce a group as evil -- because you plan to injure them, and calling them evil makes it psychologically easier to do so. "Evil" is the most powerful word we have to prepare ourselves to kill other people comfortably.

The flip side is that "evil" is also a word that stops us from thinking.

National Review's Jonah Goldberg tried to shame those who are trying to think seriously about ISIS. In a recent tweet, he mocked the attempt to understand ISIS in its social and political context, suggesting that we should focus instead on one fact: "They're evil. They do obviously evil things for evil ends.”

The fact is, there are few things more dangerous now than allowing ourselves to think that way.

…How is ISIS able to achieve the support it needs? What drives people into its ranks? What social pressures and needs, what political and regional vacuums, make it possible for a group like this to thrive? We can choose to answer these questions in two ways.

We can say they are evil people doing evil things for evil ends. Or we can do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that unmakes them.

…Nonetheless, trying to understand evil is an offense. It is an offense to everything we hold dear, because understanding -- that is, true and effective understanding -- must bring us close to the other, must help us see the world through their eyes.

That is a painful, offensive process, and that is exactly what we must do.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.