Storm clouds pass over the top of the Empire State Building in New York, June 13, 2013.
Lucas Jackson / Reuters

In 2010, a disturbing report made its entry into an already upsetting news cycle. Members of a U.S. Army brigade, assembled into a self-proclaimed “kill team,” had indiscriminately targeted civilians in southern Afghanistan. As trophies for their deeds, the soldiers collected fingers, leg bones, and skulls from their victims. Photos taken by the soldiers posing next to dead bodies came to light, along with the fact that the main instigator kept tally of each victim by having skulls tattooed on his calf.

Such news reports, a sadly recurring feature of contemporary life, trace a predictable arc. The initial horror quickly subsides in the face of official reassurances and the unrelenting tide of other news. Should the public seek to draw lasting political conclusions from such horrors, it will be predictably reminded that there is only one: that an atavistic darkness has lurked in the hearts of man since the emergence

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