As probably every Psych 101 student knows, in 1961, just three months after former SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann went on trial for war crimes in Jerusalem, Stanley Milgram began his experiment with 40 subjects in a lab at Yale. In groups of two, participants were told that one would be the "learner" and one the "teacher," chosen by whomever picked those identities written on folded slips of paper they drew as lots.
But the drawing was rigged. And the "learner" was actually a confederate of the experimenters, an actor. The teacher and the learner were put in separate rooms where they could communicate with, but not see, each other. The teacher was then told to push a button to administer electric shocks in 15-volt increments to the learner each time he answered a question wrong. The learner's reactions were, of course, faked. But none of the 40 teachers knew that. Only one of them stopped "shocking" the learner before the bogus voltage indicator hit 300. Twenty-six of them went all the way to the top, 450 volts.
Participants in France recently did pretty much the same thing, thinking they were on a television game show.
The hostess and a chanting audience urged the players — who had levers in front of them — to send jolts of electricity into the man in the box when he gave an incorrect answer.
Laurent Le Doyen, an actor in the documentary "Game of Death," broadcast in France, pretends to grimace as participants in a game show obey orders to deliver increasingly powerful electric shocks to him. Ultimately, he appears to die.
Even when the player screamed out in pain for them to stop, 80 percent of the contestants kept zapping him. In reality, the man in the electric chair was an actor who wasn't really being shocked — but the players and the audience did not know that.
The documentary makers say reality television relies increasingly on violent, humiliating and cruel acts to boost ratings. They say they simply wanted to see if we would go so far as to kill someone for entertainment.
Christophe Nick produced the documentary, The Game of Death, with a group of scientists and researchers. ...
One of the game show participants, Jerome Pasanau, said in an interview that he was still haunted by the experience.
"I wanted to stop the whole time, but I just couldn't. I didn't have the will to do it. And that goes against my nature," he said. "I haven't really figured out why I did it."
Pasanau told the TV host that he felt intimidated and isolated on the fictitious game show set, and that the crowd was overbearing.
Pasanau's reaction was not striking. Nearly five decades before, Milgram had divided the participants in his experiment into three groups:
• Obeyed but justified themselves.
• Obeyed but blamed themselves.
Finally, rebellious subjects questioned the authority of the experimenter and argued there was a greater ethical imperative calling for the protection of the learner over the needs of the experimenter. Some of these individuals felt they were accountable to a higher authority.
However, even though 14 participants in Milgram's experiment rebelled, refusing to continue administering shocks above a certain level, none of them asked after the well-being of the "learner" or demanded to be let into the room to make sure he was OK, even though he had told several of them that he had a heart condition.
All of which proves, once again, that you don't have to be an SS officer to willingly torture someone to death.
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At Daily Kos on this date in 2003
Now, that Bush has finally gotten his war going, he's finally talking about the costs of war in treasure and lives. We've already talked about the $90 billion for one month of hostilities. Now, Ari talks about loss of life:
"Americans ought to be prepared for loss of life," spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
How could they be prepared? The administration and its allies have been saying all along that this would be easy. A matter of days. Mass defections. Smart bombs. Shock and awe.
The president never once said: "We may have to sacrifice the youth of our nation, but their sacrifice won't be in vain because yadda yadda yadda". This was always a video game war where the losers hit "reset" and rise to play again.