From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

An atrocity (from the Latin atrox, "atrocious", from Latin ater ="matte black") is a term used to describe crimes or excesses ranging from an act committed against a single person to one committed against a population or ethnic group.

In general use, an atrocity or massacre designates a politically or ethnically motivated killing of civilians. In international law, more precise terms are war crime and crime against humanity.

An atrocity can be a single specific event, or a series of events, or can refer to genocide. The defining characteristic of an atrocity is its brutal or systematic nature. It is an act of killing that is in violation of most traditional moral principles, although some societies do not condemn such behavior. Often, hostilities exceed the legitimate mandate of killing enemy combatants to include attacks upon unarmed people, upon combatants after their surrender, or upon otherwise non-combative peoples. Thus, nearly every culture has in its history acts of killing which are atrocities.

The historical record is clouded by a failure to determine if mutilated bodies represent torture before death, or mutilation of a dead body. In either case, the important effect is the propaganda value, and its effect on the morale of the enemy.

Sometimes mass killing is imposed on civilian populations of no military significance, simply as a warning. For example, Dresden or Hiroshima. In other cases, they are targeted at military sub-groups, such as African-American summary execution in the field by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Small-scale atrocities may represent anything from disrespect, regional propaganda or both.

In modern settings not involving ethnic conflict, atrocities on individual leaders are rare, partially because they tend backfire or simply escalate, as in the case of Breaker Morant.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Atrocity" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools