Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Authoritarianism

The following is a "Fair Use" partial quote from Huffington Post by Jason Linkins.

"Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald writes about the experience of watching Fox News explain an experiment conducted by French documentarians, in which participants on a fake game show were instructed to "administer electric shock to unseen contestants each time they answered questions incorrectly, with increasing potency for each wrong answer." [Quoting from Greenwald:]

"The experiment neatly mirrors a famous study conducted by Stanley Milgram, and the results were more or less the same as well: "Even as the unseen contestants (who were actors) screamed in agony and pleaded for mercy -- and even once they went silent and were presumably dead -- 81% of the participants continued to obey the instructions of the authority-figure/host and kept administering higher and higher levels of electric shock."

"...The Fox anchors -- Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum -- were shocked and outraged that these French people could be induced by the power of television to embrace torture.

"Speaking as employees of the corporation that produced the highly influential, torture-glorifying 24, and on the channel that has churned out years worth of pro-torture "news" advocacy, the anchors were particularly astonished that television could play such a powerful role in influencing people's views and getting them to acquiesce to such heinous acts. Ultimately, they speculated that perhaps it was something unique about the character and psychology of the French that made them so susceptible to external influences and so willing to submit to amoral authority, just like many of them submitted to and even supported the Nazis, they explained. I kept waiting for them to make the connection to America's torture policies and Fox's support for it -- if only to explain to their own game show participants at home Fox News viewers why that was totally different -- but it really seemed the connection just never occurred to them. They just prattled away -- shocked, horrified and blissfully un-self-aware -- about the evils of torture and mindless submission to authority and the role television plays in all of that.

"France won key battles by torturing suspects for intelligence. But the bigger lesson is that it lost the war. The fact that French military leaders resorted to the extensive use of torture shows that they had lost the support of the populace at large. It is a lesson that seems to have been ignored by American leaders as they prosecute a war in Iraq."

As Jason Linkins says: "Torture's Clear Lessons Go Unlearned."

Of course Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum were shocked and outraged that the French were...well, like us, and the Germans, and the Russians, not to mention Canadians, South Africans, Brits and the rest of the world.

Of course Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum are in denial, just like most of the rest of us.

So were Americans in general six decades ago. That was before Milgram, Zimbardo, Stout, Hare, and Altemeyer and now the French.

Genetics predisposes Homo sapiens to be this way. See Peace Via Nature's Way - Index for a synopsis of how this came to be. In effect, humanity has yet to grow up. We in the West in particular still live in a fantasy-land where "we" are nice people; "they" are less than human. And this is not just western civilization, it is just more apparent here, given a media beset with Denial and Projection.

It is noteworthy that Three Great Americans, General David Petreaus, Senator John McCain and Congressman Ron Paul think otherwise, as we do. Although the Administration has scaled back some of the Bush excesses, it has not gone far enough.

"'s not about the terrorists, it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are.
John McCain - who was tortured in Vietnam.

Of course torture works against some individuals with limited effect. What it does not do is win the war of ideas, which is what terrorism is all about. General Petreaus gets it. On May 10, 2007, he sent a letter on values to all U.S. troops in Iraq:

"Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information…. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary…. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight …is how we behave. In everything we do, we must …treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect."
David Petreuas, Theater Commander.

Petreaus is right on of course. WWII interrogators, in the Pacific theater especially, were highly successful by simply winning prisoner's confidence. Of course, those who see the world as only about power, dominance and submission, not only ignore evidence contrary to their views, they don't even let such ideas enter their thoughts. They should read about the Witch Hunters . But of course they won't. Is this the kind of society we want? If not, then why do we emulate our enemies? For more on this, see Little Boy saved - From His Hangups for how tenacious denial can be. Projection, denial's hand maiden, only aggravates the problem

After losing his Spain campaign, Napoleon learned the hard way that torture is not enough to subdue a people fighting for their homeland. His later countrymen repeated his mistake in Algeria; they won every battle, many on information gained by torture, only to lose the war--and more. The history of torture is repeating itself, and the horse in denial clothing rears his head once again in our times. [We say "his" only because mares are not quite as bad of stallions.]

Obama hasn't backed off nearly far enough. This nasty business will survive him in all likelihood. He is much too smart to emulate Bush, but on this issue he does. We can only hope he will learn.

Torture your enemies long enough and even your allies will turn against you.


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.