When some people have unrestricted and unreviewable power over others — when no one can be compelled to answer for his actions when asked: “Why?” — some of those with power will behave like beasts simply because they can. And because absolute power corrupts absolutely. This melancholy fact about the human species was underscored last year in a nonfiction book about a lawless sheriff who bestrode Florida’s Lake County in the 1950s (“Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found,” by Gilbert King).
Do you wonder how the Nazis managed to find people willing to work as concentration-camp personnel? It was not that difficult.
Because of the investigation led by three University of South Florida researchers, and because of exemplary journalism by the Tampa Bay Times, we now have an intensely discomforting but welcome enrichment of American literature.