Visit ArabTopics.com

Vital Ignored Truths in Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Studies

Psychologist Stanley Milgram (1933–1984) was deeply affected by Nazi atrocities, so when his early 1960s research on Americans revealed an unexpectedly high rate of obedience to authority commanding subjects to commit cruel actions, this very much troubled him. Milgram’s studies revealed other truths—not as widely known—that are crucial to fighting authoritarianism.

One ignored finding is that many of Milgram’s subjects did express dissent but ultimately obeyed. Milgram very much wanted us to recognize that in authoritarian settings, dissent alone without disobedience is of no value in stopping abuse, as dissent is routinely ignored by authoritarians.

In the original Milgram study at Yale University, subjects were recruited for an experiment ostensibly investigating learning. The naïve subjects were the “teachers” and a confederate was the “learner,” and there was also an experimenter authority who ordered subject teachers to shock the learner for incorrect responses. In the most well-known variation of the experiment, 26 of 40 teacher subjects (65%) continued to shock the confederate learner to the highest level of 450 volts (which was labeled as “Danger: severe shock”) even as the confederate learner pounded the walls to protest and no longer answered after 315 volts. While 65% of subjects never disobeyed authority, even the other 35% (who ultimately disobeyed) did shock subjects at lower levels.

Vital but often ignored is that audio recordings of Milgram’s study reveal that many subjects did offer dissent but ultimately obeyed. Many subjects tried several different forms of verbal protest saying “I can’t do this anymore” or “I’m not going to do this anymore.” The experimenter authority responded to subjects’ objections with a series of orders/prods to ensure they continued (Prod 1: “Please continue”; Prod 2: “The experiment requires you to continue”; Prod 3: “It is absolutely essential that you continue”; and Prod 4: “You have no other choice, you must go on”). With these prods/orders, most subjects who had protested complied.

For critics of Milgram, these protests were attempts at disobedience, but for Milgram—and myself—these protests were dissent, not disobedience. And what’s crucial is that dissent without disobedience had no value for the victim.

Dissent is not the same as disobedience, as a person may voice protest with an authority but still obey. People who are capable of dissent but incapable of disobedience are often uncomfortable challenging the very legitimacy of that authority to wield power. In contrast, genuine anti-authoritarians are comfortable with both dissent and disobedience when they deem authority to be illegitimate.

Dissent alone may be effective in a genuinely democratic society, but authoritarians—be they Milgram’s experimenter authority or U.S. corporatist government—ignore dissent. Authoritarians realize that simply ignoring dissent is often an effective way to marginalize it, even when that dissent comes from the majority of the people.

In 2014, political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, in a study published in Perspectives on Politics, empirically established how average U.S. citizens are almost completely ignored by U.S. governmental authorities in terms of public policies. Reviewing U.S. public opinions of policy issues, along with examining 1,779 different enacted public policies between 1981 and 2002, Gilens and Page determined that “even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.” They conclude, “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

When dissent—be it through public opinion polls, protest demonstrations, or otherwise—is impotent in changing policy, this is an indicator of living under authoritarian rule. If a society is not authoritarian but democratic, then the tension that dissent creates is resolved so that dissenters experience their grievances being taken seriously, as evidenced by policy changes. In an authoritarian society, dissenters—even when in the majority—routinely feel impotent and helpless.

Dissent without disobedience is essentially no threat to authoritarians in power. Clever authoritarians may even welcome dissent without disobedience, since it can be easily ignored and provides the illusion of a free and democratic society. Only disobedience can threaten authoritarians.

Genuine anti-authoritarians who move beyond dissent to actually resist and disobey illegitimate authority are punished and marginalized. As I detail in Resisting Illegitimate Authority, U.S. anti-authoritarians have been shunned, financially punished, psychopathologized, criminalized, and assassinated. Anti-authoritarians are punished both to marginalize them and to send an intimidating message to others who may consider resisting illegitimate authority. Authoritarians know that just as cowardice is contagious so too can courage be contagious, a reality which Milgram validated.

Milgram, in one variation of his experiment, showed the importance of modeling disobedience in order to reduce compliance with illegitimate authority. When two other participant teachers were also confederates sitting next to the teacher subject refused to obey (one stopping at 150 volts, and the other stopping at 210 volts), the level of obedience was reduced from 65% to 10% compliance for the highest-level 450 volt shock. While Milgram confirmed the importance of models of disobedience, he was concerned that U.S. society lacked enough courageous models.

Prior to Milgram’s publishing Obedience to Authority (1974), he was shaken by the My Lai massacre and other U.S. atrocities that were committed by American soldiers in the Vietnam War. Milgram was pained by U.S. society’s incapacity to counter what he called humanity’s “fatal flaw” of compliance with abusive authority which, he concluded, “in the long run gives our species only a modest chance of survival.”

As I describe in Resisting Illegitimate Authority, within the human family there are anti-authoritarians—people comfortable resisting illegitimate authority; but at present, for reasons that I discuss, there are not enough of them.

Bruce E. Levine, a practicing clinical psychologist, writes and speaks about how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect. His most recent book is Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian―Strategies, Tools, and Models (AK Press). His Web site is brucelevine.net

 

Source: 
Dr. Bruce Levine

Dear friends of this aggregator

  • Yes, I intentionally removed Newsbud from the aggregator on Mar 22.
  • Newsbud did not block the aggregator, although their editor blocked me on twitter after a comment I made to her
  • As far as I know, the only site that blocks this aggregator is Global Research. I have no idea why!!
  • Please stop recommending Newsbud and Global Research to be added to the aggregator.

Support this site

News Sources

Source Items
WWI Hidden History 51
Grayzone Project 245
Pass Blue 256
Dilyana Gaytandzhieva 16
John Pilger 418
The Real News 367
Scrutinised Minds 29
Need To Know News 2811
FEE 4920
Marine Le Pen 391
Francois Asselineau 25
Opassande 53
HAX on 5July 220
Henrik Alexandersson 1020
Mohamed Omar 392
Professors Blog 10
Arg Blatte Talar 40
Angry Foreigner 18
Fritte Fritzson 12
Teologiska rummet 32
Filosofiska rummet 118
Vetenskapsradion Historia 166
Snedtänkt (Kalle Lind) 230
Les Crises 3051
Richard Falk 181
Ian Sinclair 115
SpinWatch 61
Counter Currents 10324
Kafila 511
Gail Malone 42
Transnational Foundation 221
Rick Falkvinge 95
The Duran 10128
Vanessa Beeley 152
Nina Kouprianova 9
MintPress 5704
Paul Craig Roberts 2037
News Junkie Post 58
Nomi Prins 27
Kurt Nimmo 191
Strategic Culture 5211
Sir Ken Robinson 25
Stephan Kinsella 103
Liberty Blitzkrieg 863
Sami Bedouin 65
Consortium News 2685
21 Century Wire 3722
Burning Blogger 324
Stephen Gowans 94
David D. Friedman 154
Anarchist Standard 16
The BRICS Post 1523
Tom Dispatch 555
Levant Report 18
The Saker 4541
The Barnes Review 541
John Friend 499
Psyche Truth 160
Jonathan Cook 162
New Eastern Outlook 4313
School Sucks Project 1784
Giza Death Star 2000
Andrew Gavin Marshall 15
Red Ice Radio 628
GMWatch 2409
Robert Faurisson 150
Espionage History Archive 34
Jay's Analysis 1038
Le 4ème singe 90
Jacob Cohen 213
Agora Vox 16728
Cercle Des Volontaires 440
Panamza 2294
Fairewinds 117
Project Censored 1010
Spy Culture 567
Conspiracy Archive 78
Crystal Clark 11
Timothy Kelly 590
PINAC 1482
The Conscious Resistance 876
Independent Science News 83
The Anti Media 6768
Positive News 820
Brandon Martinez 30
Steven Chovanec 61
Lionel 300
The Mind renewed 447
Natural Society 2621
Yanis Varoufakis 1039
Tragedy & Hope 122
Dr. Tim Ball 114
Web of Debt 150
Porkins Policy Review 439
Conspiracy Watch 174
Eva Bartlett 621
Libyan War Truth 341
DeadLine Live 1914
Kevin Ryan 64
BSNEWS 2089
Aaron Franz 247
Traces of Reality 166
Revelations Radio News 121
Dr. Bruce Levine 151
Peter B Collins 1644
Faux Capitalism 205
Dissident Voice 11139
Climate Audit 226
Donna Laframboise 462
Judith Curry 1146
Geneva Business Insider 40
Media Monarchy 2488
Syria Report 78
Human Rights Investigation 93
Intifada (Voice of Palestine) 1685
Down With Tyranny 12442
Laura Wells Solutions 45
Video Rebel's Blog 444
Revisionist Review 485
Aletho News 21263
ضد العولمة 27
Penny for your thoughts 3118
Northerntruthseeker 2497
كساريات 37
Color Revolutions and Geopolitics 27
Stop Nato 4742
AntiWar.com Blog 3187
AntiWar.com Original Content 7186
Corbett Report 2448
Stop Imperialism 491
Land Destroyer 1237
Webster Tarpley Website 1119

Compiled Feeds

Public Lists

Title Visibility
Funny Public