Brothers Karamazov

I’m rereading Brothers Karamazov after many years. What a great book! And what resonance with US political dynamics of the moment. In the core of the complicated plot is a murder mystery driven by the mechanism of the inciter and the incited. The murderer eventually admits his crime (privately, to the inciter; the forces of justice condemn the wrong man). But claims that the real guilt lies with the man who told him that murder is licit. (If God does not exist, then everything is licit.) The inciter’s first reaction is to deny any guilt (To suggest criminal acts are justified doesn’t make them happen!) But he slowly recognizes his complicity–a shrinking violet compared with Trump.

Donald Trump says: “I didn’t tell them, go perpetrate violence; I’m against violence.” 

The incited, at least the few arrested, say: “The president told me to do it.”

That mechanism was at work when the trickster God Loki put a lethal weapon (mistletoe!) into the hand of the blind god Hother and told him to throw it at the dancing Balder. It turns into a lance and kills the good god. 

Also when Henry II said, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome cleric!” (Ok, more explicit than a dog whistle, but he’s a king.)

Any other examples?

The form this takes with Trump is, “They’re stealing the country from us! You’ve got to fight like hell.” 

It’s murder and mayhem incited with deniability. In Bros Karamazov both inciter and incited are ultimately destroyed by the murder. But probably a good lawyer can get Trump off.

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