Shocking … But True … Part 2

Graham goes on…

John says …
Finally – I mean part one was four days ago … and in case you missed Part 1, it is here.

Can’t rush literary craftsmanship. Well, actually, can and maybe should. But anyway…

To recap: Stanley Milgram, a professor at Harvard, ran experiments in the ’60s …

so glad the other chap agrees with this chap on the correct use of the ” ‘ ” in referring to decades – it is definitely a peeve of his.

… suggesting that people tend so much towards compliance with authority, they will electroshock a stranger to the point of extreme pain and lethality, just because an authority figure tells them to. What these amateur torturers did not know is that there was no shock: The apparent suffering was merely good acting, as was the air of authority of the white-coated figure instructing them. Stanley Milgram achieved his branding as “The Man Who Shocked The World” without an iota of physical pain being imposed. Which is as it should be — because Milgram was a scientist, a researcher, demonstrating and measuring how people act, but not forcing them to act that way.

Which brings us, almost, to the point of this. All that went before served two functions, really. It allowed Graham to offer a contrast with what is to come here. And it allowed him to sneak up on this, for himself, with some distance and rationalization.

Sneak up on what? War crimes. Enormous real pain and suffering, going well beyond Milgram and exerted in our name, to break the will and spirit of individuals, to force them into a state of complete compliance, unable to resist interrogation and commands, and never mind how their minds and bodies were damaged. Real electric shocks, delivered to intimate parts of the body. Waterboarding (which this program refined well beyond its ancient origins.) Sensory deprivation, physical torture. Designed, controlled, and monitored by scientists from the same discipline as Milgram and this Chap. Experiments on humans, the like of which had others hanged after WWII.

Mitchell and Jessen oversaw or personally engaged in techniques intended to produce “debility, disorientation and dread.” Their “theory” had a particular means-ends relationship that is not well understood, as Mitchell testily explained in an interview on Vice News: “The point of the bad cop is to get the bad guy to talk to the good cop.” In other words, “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the Bush administration’s euphemism for torture) do not themselves produce useful information; rather, they produce the condition of total submission that will facilitate extraction of actionable intelligence.

These war criminals were paid millions, defended by government and fellow professionals alike, and allowed to walk free in the world. This information is not new, but it came again to this Chap’s attention, in a more pointed form, and… the Chap is sick, angry, and even ashamed a little, that somehow, this can be made to fit into someone’s framework of legality and ethics. Five decades ago, Stanley Milgram, who left not a cut or a burn on his “subjects,”* was almost run out of town. James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, who admitted to committing violent and abusive acts personally, and whose studied refinements of torture techniques went into the realm of human experimentation, received $81 million from the US government. They may yet be sued. But for the damage done to the unwilling subjects of their banned experiments, and to the science of which they are such poor representatives, there is no redress.

The Other Chap frequently asserts his final-comment privilege (obligation?) This Chap happily passes the bat to him at this point.

John says …
the topic that the other chap has just covered is just too important to ignore and certainly not one to make light of. So no final comment here – other than to say thank god for the ACLU, who are suing, with the trial due this summer. Like always however, the real perpetrators will just move on.

*(though to be fair, there remained lingering questions over whether the subjects themselves suffered any lasting psychological damage from the process in which they participated.)

  • TomE

    I looked into the backgrounds of Mitchell and Jessen, hoping that their status as psychologists could be qualified in some way.

    No, the label is justified. Both received PhDs in psychology. University of Utah (Jessen), and University of South Florida (Mitchell).

    But one side note of interest. Jessen was briefly a bishop in the Mormon church.

    • I liked The Book Of Mormon – but not sure that’s the same thing … and in line 23 of your comment – did you mean ‘disqualified’ ?

      • TomE

        ‘Qualified’ was intended, but perhaps not clear.

        I meant it in the sense of being constrained or limited. For example, if the claim to being a psychologist was based on just an undergraduate major in psychology, or training in behavior analysis, or a job title in a particular military organization, , then I would have argument that they to call them psychologists requires significant qualification.

        • oh interesting – yes – the subtle shadings of the meaning of words – without any qualification at all – thankyou for clarifying 🙂