Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Our national Milgram Experiment


From Josh Marshall at TPM:
You may think of Donald Trump as a crafty blowhard intuiting the darkest recesses of the American mood and riding that wave into ever-escalating racist incitement, militant derp and extremism. But this evening it occurred to me that it may not be that at all. ... You probably know about the notorious Milgram Experiment, conducted by the late Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1961. In the experiment subjects were tested to see how far they would go in inflicting extreme pain - escalating electric shocks - on other test subjects simply because a figure in authority, the person running the experiment, told them to do so. So how far would the subjects go?

It turns out really, really far. Sometimes they'd keep inducing shocks with a chilling indifference. In other instances it would be clear that the test subject knew what he was doing was wrong. But instructed to continue, in almost every case, that's what they did. (The person on the other side of the glass wasn't really being shocked; they were pretending, but quite convincingly and often begging for mercy and expressing fear of death.)

And here we are, the experiment taken nationwide.

Intended or not, we have a grand national version of something very similar. How far will this go? Donald Trump started calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. Then he called for the rushed expulsion of over 10 million residents of the United States. This was followed by proposals to create a national registry or database of American Muslims. Late last month it was the continued invocation of a lurid racist fantasy of thousands of U.S. Muslims cheering the fall of the Twin Towers from across the river in North Jersey on 9/11 — in many countries something that might be charged as racist incitement to violence. And then today, we have the culmination — or perhaps better to say, since this can't possibly be the end of it, the next massive upping of the ante — which became inevitable in the wake of everything that preceded it: Donald Trump, frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, says Muslims as a religious class should be banned from entering the United States.

What's next?

It reminds me of Nazi Germany, of the lead-up to the "final solution of the Jewish question" by the Nazis.

I'm serious. I'm very serious. The Nazis didn't start by killing six million Jews. That was just where they ended up.

Already, we have people supporting torture - Americans supporting torture!  I still struggle to believe it. Already we have Americans proposing to end freedom of religion. Already, we have fear-mongering, exaggeration, and stereotyping.

This is fascism. What's next? Where will it end?


Mary Smith said...

Very scary indeed. First it will be the Muslims, then maybe other non Christians and this mob will have a special hatred for atheists and agnostics because of their deep seated repressed fear that they might be correct in their non belief.

jeff725 said...

"Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

--Frederick Douglass

WCG said...

Yes, I completely agree, Mary.

WCG said...

I don't know about that, Jeff. Lately, I've been talking to gun nuts online. They're convinced that they're fighting 'tyranny,' and that they need guns in order to resist.

In fact, they seem eager to start shooting people. Who? Well, they're not at all clear on that. I mean, their enemy is 'the government.' It's kind of hard to shoot 'the government,' isn't it? Shooting is reserved for people.

I've been amazed at how batshit crazy these gun nuts are. One of them told me that they need their own army, so that "mutual assured destruction" (I'm not kidding; that's what he said) will force 'the government' to compromise.

Compromise? Our whole system of government is built around the concept of 'compromise' - which, incidentally, happens to be a dirty word for the right-wing these days (almost as dirty as 'moderate').

You don't 'compromise' with terrorists at the point of a gun, because terrorists just keep coming back until they get everything they want.

Anyway, my point is, that kind of talk about resisting tyrants is exactly what these right-wing gun nuts are saying. To them, Barack Obama is a tyrant, losing a democratic election is injustice, and not getting their own way in everything needs to be resisted with words and blows (well, gunshots).

I admire Frederick Douglass, but that was a different time and a different situation. Indeed, it was the slave-owners who ultimately resisted with force.

I would prefer not to go through another Civil War again, myself. But that seems to be what these neo-Confederate right-wing gun nuts are really looking forward to. Maybe they think they'll win this time?

jeff725 said...

I guess where I was headed with that quote was that it seems the gun nuts can't be bothered with reading the "be careful what you wish for" memo.