Lucifer Effect Includes Calling Other People Cockroaches

18 07 2009

Situational psychologist Philip Zimbardo was interviewed about a book he wrote that I’ve read and blogged, The Lucifer Effect.
Powerful power of story stuff.

We can’t stop it until we can understand the mechanisms that corrupt not just individuals, but whole systems and institutions like politics or finance.

The Lucifer Effect is about bad barrels, not just bad apples.

It helps my own understanding to sharply distinguish school as institutional place, from education as personal goal/ attribute. What we compel is showing up at the place, not becoming an educated person.

. . .“place” can win over “person” through concepts like institutionalization, escalating dehumanization, stress and stereotyping, the seduction of boredom, the evil of inaction and much more. Sounds too much like what’s gone wrong between school and education — we’ve institutionalized thinking and learning and productive work, and lost the individuals we meant to inspire and empower in the process.

It all starts with “semantic distortion.”

Which leads to “moral disengagement” to detach from the human connection without really being aware of it and then finally, outright “demonization” of Other people.

Maybe words and ideas are repeatedly distorted to call the Other a cockroach, until you come to see that Other as sub-human, not your kind, literally insects to be squashed. It worked in Rwanda, telling Hutus that their neighbors the Tutsi were “cockroaches” and then giving them weapons to kill the bugs.

About 30 years ago, Zimbardo and his colleagues began to do research on dehumanization.
“What are the ways in which, instead of changing yourself and becoming the aggressor, it becomes easier to be hostile against other people by changing your psychological conception of them?” he asked.
“You think of them as worthless animals. That’s the killing power of stereotypes.”

It’s working on C Street, Doug Coe telling some well-connected elected white men that they’ve been chosen by divine will to be better than ordinary people, even their own wives and children much less their constituents. That they answer to a higher morality and aren’t bound by ordinary accountability . . .but it works even better if you keep really secret! I’m wondering if the cockroach trick will work for Rush Limbaugh, to turn enough of us against our president that someone will treat him like a bug?



44 responses

19 07 2009
Crimson Wife

So what’s the “bad barrel” that would cause a 60something year old married professor to hit on undergraduate students of his?

Zimabardo’s a jerk…

19 07 2009


Say he was a jerk, personally. Like Einstein reputedly was. Does that make you reject the science?

19 07 2009

Hmmm, and would you similarly reject Christianity and conservatism, because of Doug Coe and C Street’s sex coverups?

20 07 2009

I blame Viagra. Really. Why do these old white men think anyone is interested?

But isn’t this the sort of training — think of the other side as worthless animals so you can kill them without going too crazy — that the military receives?


20 07 2009

EXACTLY!! Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment was based on the Milgram shock experiments to test how the Nazi psychology was able to get good people to do horrific things to other people, and he studied the horrors of Abu Ghraib too, remember?

It takes Authority that sort of supplants individual morality, and then twists words around to get you to act on whatever the Authority tells you must happen . . .

And doesn’t every war exploit dehumanizing, literally “demoralizing” words for the enemy? That’s why I started thinking of Rush Limbaugh as Tokyo Rose; he’s got a catchy, dehumanizing word for everybody and everything.

20 07 2009
Crimson Wife

The 4 incidents involving Dr. Zimbardo that I’m personally aware of were in pre-Viagra days. The little blue pill may have made it easier for old men to act on their lecherous urges but it certainly didn’t create those urges.

I don’t buy the whole blame-the-situation excuse. The environment may encourage or discourage someone from doing something, but the individual ultimately has free will. It is his/her responsibility to resist the temptation to do something wrong.

20 07 2009

No one is excusing anything. Personal sexual behavior doesn’t automatically invalidate a professional psychologist’s life work, that’s all, and to say it does or even argue it should, is bizarre to me. I was the loudest critic (who wasn’t a political opportunist among his sworn enemies) of Bill Clinton as a serial sexual harasser and abuser of his institutional power over women, and I still believe I was right about that, but I can separate that from his political and policy work both in office and out.

Coincidentally Dale McGowan uses a famous philosopher of science quote to open his new post at “Parenting Beyond Belief” and it’s a slap-down of our universally human (but misguided) sense that our subjective personal conviction is fact, while the science of cognitive psychology is just some kind of subjective excuse.

What is needed is not the will to believe but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. — Bertrand Russell

20 07 2009
Nance Confer

Well, CW, I don’t care who the Dr. diddled. I was just trying to follow the ideas.

JJ, I mean the good guys too. Us. You know, the ones fighting on the right side of every war.

We use, I think, the same sort of brainwashing to get our 18-year-olds to think it’s OK to kill the “other” guy.


20 07 2009

Nance, yes, on the same page there. The Abu Ghraib soldiers for example, were ours and supposed to be good guys . . .

Young Son has been so enamoured of military history the past couple of years, that we spend a good deal of effort working through that kind of thing here. Like FavD and her study of religions, I think it helps to have so many different causes and sides over different nations and centuries, for him to compare and contrast. It prevents that stubborn ethnocentric tunnel vision that your side or your god is singularly right and above the rules of the rest of the universe.

20 07 2009
Crimson Wife

I should clarify that I’m not aware of any cases where an undergraduate became involved in an inappropriate relationship with Dr. Zimbardo. It wasn’t exactly sexual harassment either since there was no quid pro quo and he stopped when rebuffed. It was just icky…

20 07 2009

So what do you think of his SCIENCE?

21 07 2009
Crimson Wife

Is it even possible to have an objective opinion about a person’s work when one has a vehement dislike of that person based on a negative encounter with him/her?

21 07 2009

Bingo! Is it ironic that if true, this very problem validates his science? — isn’t that the whole point, that once made visceral through vehement dislike of another person, feeling over thinking can cause us to lose our own higher order moral understandings, become less human and less sentient ourselves . . .

25 01 2010
SOme SERIOUS Mental Mistakes Out There! « Cocking A Snook!

[…] The Lucifer Effect for […]

20 08 2010
We Need to Sing Our Epics or Lose Them « Cocking A Snook!

[…] of George Lakoff, the political right-speak realism of Frank Schaeffer, the situational ethics of Philip Zimbardo and his Lucifer Effect, Harvard’s Howard Gardner on educating kids to love truth and America […]

23 08 2011

Update here a couple of years later: it’s the 40th anniversary of the Stanford Prison Experiment:

“You never know what you’re going to get involved in that will turn out to be a defining moment in your life.”

AAAS- American Association for the Advancement of Science
The Stanford Prison Experiment: 40 years later
August 19, 2011 | Author:Freelance writer Mary Bates, Ph.D.

An article in the July/August 2011 issue of Stanford Magazine revisits one of psychology’s most infamous experiments. In “The Menace Within,” author Romesh Ratnesar commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Stanford Prison Experiment by talking with some of those involved, from psychologist Philip Zimbardo and his research assistant, to the college students recruited as subjects.

The Stanford Prison Experiment became the subject of numerous books and documentaries, a feature film and the name of at least one punk band. In the last decade, after the revelations of abuses committed by U.S. military and intelligence personnel at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, the SPE provided lessons in how good people placed in adverse conditions can act barbarically.

The experiment is still a source of controversy and contention—even among those who took part in it.

Here, in their own words, some of the key players in the drama reflect on their roles and how those six days in August changed their lives. . .

23 08 2011

Sounds like SERE school in the military.,_Evasion,_Resistance_and_Escape This is a training method that gives military members a taste of what it could be like to be a POW [prisoner of war]. That may even be where they got the idea–who knows.

I am not surprised by the outcome of this experiment. A lot of people are not equipped with the internal moral compass to handle having that kind of power over others–prison or otherwise.

I have seen that sort of behavior a lot in the military, and even in everyday civilian jobs, but most especially in minimum wage jobs.

23 08 2011
Nance Confer

The lesson I took from this was that most of us are not capable of handling this situation correctly. The rare individual stands up to the instructor/authority figure to refuse to inflict pain on the subordinate. We would all like to think we are that individual but . . . not so much.

23 08 2011

Right, even the researchers Nance, as educated and objective as they were — it didn’t insulate them. I know about myself that I’m extremely chameleon-like in connecting with emotions around me and being affected by them, can’t just ignore them. So I would have been and would be today, a miserable, forever-changed person in this experiment no matter which role I’d had: guard or prisoner or researcher, even the wife. I would have worried terribly about the effects on everyone even from the outside.

23 08 2011

Beep is likely seeing other psychological principles at work too, in the cruelty and abuse that downtrodden folks receive and then turn on others? I don’t have studies handy but I know that abused children, children of addicts etc tend to VOW they won’t ever repeat those behavoirs and make others as miserable as they’ve been made, and they mean it. But then they do it anyway. I don’t know, hmmm — maybe that IS related?

23 08 2011


Well there are a lot of threads here to this discussion.

When people VOW to not inflict this on their children or loved ones–whatever was done to them, its a nice sentiment, but what really needs to happen to break the chain of abuse is to live an examined life. To be aware of what motivates you. For instance, I posit that most people cannot distinguish between the concepts of Justice and Revenge. They have never really thought about how these two things are mutually exclusive concepts, and what can distinguish one from the other, or cause justice to become merely revenge, etc.,

Without understanding the components at work, it is increasingly difficult to exercise control over a situation. No understanding of the components leaves no understanding for the dynamics, the roles, and eventually will obscure or even eclipse the desired outcome, resulting in perversion and loss.

I don’t believe it is fair to equate the entirety of martial training with abuse though. It serves it’s purposes when properly handled and contextualized. The issue that arises in our current military is the failure of the DoD to properly screen out recruits who show clear mental disturbances or who have a history of criminal conduct, both which can cultivate a very demented notion of morality, and ethics which in turn, adversely affects how authority is expressed and what passes for discipline and training.

And much of that is cultural. And I do not mean as in the subculture of the American military, but instead unfortunate dark reflections of our American culture at large.

The military is a microcosm of American Culture. So if you don’t like what you see, don’t blame it on the military, understand that it is merely a reflection on a smaller, tighter scale for mentalities and issues that afflict us as a whole.

23 08 2011

But it’s not like the worst situations would be dandy if only we get a better caliber of human in them. 🙂

Authoritarian situations can override our humanity and our individual qualities like education, mental toughness, compassion. Experiments like Milgram and Stanford give us the “shocking” (pun intended, get it, get it?) insight that it’s sometimes “it’s the situation, stupid.” That’s not an excuse but a surprising and humbling reality.

24 08 2011

Actually you would be surprised. A worse caliber of human being in the Worst Case Scenario will often perpetuate their own brand of opportunism, knowing that everyone else is too pre-occupied to deal with their BS. Why do you think rape is so prevalent in the military, and then consider how it explodes in numbers once the military reach the battle fields? Why do you think people are more likely to loot right after a Natural Disaster as opposed to whenever the sun goes down?
The idea or notion was already there for some, but they simply lacked the opportunity. Daylight, too many witnesses, an ordered and organized surroundings, etc., Reduce visibility, chase the would-be-witnesses off or pre-occupy them with survival, throw in a lot of loud, chaotic noise and real threats, and a bad person could get away with a lot right in the middle of everything.

As far as military folks being more prone to torture:
There have been suicides over less in the military, where individuals with extensive training refused to torture POWs : –Personal integrity does exist in the Uniform. Although I will say it is wrong to lionize all service members as if they were all infallible messengers of some god just for serving. Someone who wasn’t a great fan of the military once pointed out that the difference is this: A Warrior Code vs a Soldier Mentality. The former is an individualist code of honor and conduct, that requires independent thought, whereas the latter is all about following orders, not questioning authority, just doing.

{ But this internal moral battle is often fought in the corporate sphere as well, and among the public/civil servants, in every walk of life bascially. It is a decision you have to make often regarding how much you will sublimate your needs or will to conform with the needs or will of society–only you can decide if your actions are good, although a weaker person will operate purely in the realm of legalism and excuse every excess if there are rules that allow for it }

Modern military folk are put in-between those two poles and you can be in situations where you have to make some tough calls. If you have to question authority in the military, then you better be sure all your ducks are in a row, because even if you are right, you are going to pay with your pound of flesh. And if you are wrong, be prepared to face punishment which can include things like restriction, loss of rank, advancement opportunities and even court martial and jail time. So you really have to be sure that you have the legal standing to ask that question, and the balls to back it up. And if you do it, and question a popular leader or commander, be prepared for the rest of the command to turn on you. Sometimes it’s just emotionally stressful, but there have been times when such situations end with violence.

{Being in the military is just as political as being a grad student competing for grants and prestigious positions under an admired mentor}.

You have also failed to acknowledge what we do to Whistle Blowers after the fact. Having been one, I can tell you that killing the messenger would be a relief compared to being labeled some kind of traitor or professionally branded a trouble maker.

The implied threat of “You will never work in this town again” is a powerful one that carries a real threat. Especially now with the advent of the Internet and all it’s modern inconveniences.

One could make similar arguments about Public School Systems, it was certainly true of the school I went to. Class, color and importance of family name overrode just about any other consideration. Religion often plays a part too–thinking of the Tempest Smith case and other cases like it.

Basically what you are arguing against is institutional organizations/mentality. I get why, but it still does not solve the bigger problem. The effect inside an institution is more pronounced because of the insular qualities of any given institution. But the same things happen outside institutions. The difference being that one might have more freedom to escape the inevitable. Which is clearly punishment for failure to conform to a dysfunctional paradigm and make concrete, the value and legitimacy of the evil or unethical acts committed by members of that institution, group, family or community against others.

The whole reason we have laws to protect Whistleblowers is due to cases in which one person does stand up to the powers that be inside of institutions [however toothless those laws may be].

Other examples:

The whole reason we have [as women] the right to vote, to claim head of the household and the right to defend our bodily integrity from rape and assault [even in marriage] is because individuals before us were brave enough to buck the system, question the paradigm and it’s doctrinal authority, and other brave souls felt so moved to support them.

The same with the race end of the Civil Rights movement, with Gay Rights, with Religious Freedoms [including freedom from].

The behaviors are so pervasive that to me it seems clear that what we are dealing with in both large and small realms, is human nature. That doesn’t excuse it or condone it. It simply acknowledges that it is ever-present. The word/phenomenon I am thinking of is Groupthink.

It takes a special person to be powerful enough to resist groupthink, and a very strong one to openly stand against it.

24 08 2011

I could read that a couple of (diametrically opposed) ways, so I’m a little lost. Let’s unpack some of that so I can see it spread out on the bed. 🙂

I see several points no one would likely dispute, like:

1) Bad individuals can become horrific given the opportunity by situation/institution.

2) Good individuals must be exceptional to resist and/or blow the whistle on bad individuals and/or on bad situations/institutions.

3) Corporate workplaces and schools are situations/institutions too, often with authoritarian abuses, not just “the military”

4) What we are dealing with in all psychology, is always about human nature!

But packing all those points won’t completely outfit me for my travel toward making sense of this research, so let’s clean out the closet to find our favorite jeans, maybe that little black dress and the shoes with room to wiggle our toes as we explore. 🙂

Bullet Three above is wrinkled so let’s smooth it out a bit. This research was not specifically about the military, although it’s certainly true and relevant to understand that along with cults, prisons, boarding schools/camps and perhaps hospital/nursing homes, the military is comprehensively authoritarian and this research therefore illuminates it too.

Indeed, these studies were explicitly done NOT with military personnel. So leaving “the military” out of our suitcase for this current trip is probably a good idea; it seems to be taking up too much room and just getting in the way.

Bullets One and Two emphasize the individual making the difference and the difference being whether each individual is good or bad, weak or strong, and while that’s a proper foundation garment to pack, we better not pack all underwear, no outer clothes! It’s not ONLY the individual, indeed not nearly as much about each individual as we humans want and need to believe. That’s the central finding of the studies, the surprising thing that situational psychology can teach us to our universal chagrin, if we can open ourselves up to it instead of reflexively defending our sense of self against it.

It is a decision you have to make often regarding how much you will sublimate your needs or will to conform with the needs or will of society–only you can decide if your actions are good, although a weaker person will operate purely in the realm of legalism and excuse every excess

Again, it’s tricky not to over-read either the Individual or the Institutional.

Way more than we have room to pack here, but stuffed in closets and attics full of vintage ideas:

Making Magic In Spite of School

Individuals are not interchangeable. People cannot be standardized, though we often pretend otherwise. Teaching, parenting, and public service are neither noble nor shields for abusive individuals — they can be anything in between. It all depends on the individual. Some teachers are unsung heroes. But Harry discovers that others are frauds and some are downright dangerous. The best of them are imperfect. No two are the same.

What Should We Call Christ as a Kick in the Head?

Every time I go by, the little boys have long wooden rods in both hands, that they spin like batons and with which they energetically whack away at big dummies with men’s heads and karate clothes. There are as many attack dummies as pupils; does this mean anything, I wonder? (Are they rebelling against their own fathers, perhaps, or fighting their own future selves to avoid becoming their own worst enemy?)

Or is it more literal than that, are they all expecting to need to fight for their place in the world against the men who came before them? Or expecting a pre-ordained invasion force they’re being schooled to face, hmmm. . .

The Dismal Taste of High-Yield Corporate School

. . . the tough but realistic trade-offs we face when we value both diversity AND affordable access for the masses, both quality and quantity, both the quirky local and the successfully flattened globe, both the individual and the institution.

Reading the Weave of Individual and Institution
Part Two

Neither book performs its scholarly concilience by taking sides, both books raise whole new lines of inquiry rather than prescribing answers, and both books are about beauty, goodness and intelligence, three things which one reviewer said “especially puzzled Charles Darwin.”

Socialist Catholic Church Sees Individual Home Education as Dangerous Competitor?

Seems a pretty stark set-up of American individualism in selfish conflict with institutional, one might even say SOCIALISTIC traditions . . .

24 08 2011

My response about the military seems to be certain commentary you have about it, in which I perceive a certain disdain for it based on the assumption that all members of the military are in it, for violence sake and nothing else.

The Christ as a Kick in the Head sequence sort of furthers that. It appears to be in reference to a Martial Arts Dojo and someone [you or a person you are quoting] is questioning the ultimate purpose of learning Martial arts with the same implication, that ultimately it is learned for violence’s sake.

The idea that Martial Arts as a mental discipline or a method of learning a philosophy etc., is ignored.

If that is not how you mean these statements, then do correct me. If it is, then I would ask:

Is it possible that receiving martial training or military training, learning these disciplines are suitable and good for some people? That this knowledge does serve a good purpose in society?

If not what are your beliefs or recommendations regarding these matters? When will this training no longer be necessary? When will people in these fields no longer be necessary?

As for that “stark set-up” I believe it to be a major source of cognitive dissonance currently as well as anomie for some people. I know it has been for me.

While in the military people were quick to praise my “patriotism” but now out, if I protest anything, I am immediately under suspicion. When I am active duty, I am under the complete control and *ownership of the DoD. My personal power is severely limited by contractual obligation.

But now that I am out, people sometimes fear that I will use my military background to hurt others [much like baggers threaten to do] or like McVeigh did etc., They do not trust me or others with that kind of knowledge or personal power and fear the potential for violence [think BART over-reaction]. Even though I have no priors on my record, no reason to think I would do such a thing, my military background is enough. Instead of being seen as a *protector, now I am seen as a potential threat by some.

So I think that ultimately the question people want to ask, but fail to is: “After you receive all that training in martial arts or in the military, what do you intend to do with all that personal power?

It is strongly implied that I cannot sublimate my needs to a greater whole now that I am out of the military, that *all this personal power precludes that. So people fear me and where they imagine my personal loyalties lay. [ironic isn’t it?]

This is the question we should ask everyone though really: What do you intend to do with all that personal power?

Each person is powerful, even if they do not know it.

24 08 2011

And something new on “human nature” this week:

To the extent that natural science can inform the way we think about politics and economics, it undermines the view that human beings are, or could be, rational actors devoted to the common good, rather than emotion-driven, semi-rational cousins of chimps and gorillas. . .

The skepticism about human rationality that science inspires should not be taken as support for authoritarianism or paternalism . . . It makes more sense to think of our leaders and intellectuals as half-crazed hooting howler monkeys — just like the rest of us.

Science can tell monkeys where they came from, and technology, informed by science, can build a cleaner and safer monkey house. But a knowledge of science cannot turn monkeys into something that we are not.

24 08 2011

Beep, unfortunately we’re still not in the same conversation if you’re somehow getting this from it:

I perceive a certain disdain for it based on the assumption that all members of the military are in it, for violence sake and nothing else.

Geez, not even Nance who has from time to time criticized “the military” as an institution, would fit that description! She’s usually trying to defend innocent young people from being de-individualized by any institution. And when you read through the Kick in the Head discussion, you’ll see Nance herself was quick to defend that particular form of martial institution against MY perceived critique! (one of the reasons I included that link here.)

So one more time and then I don’t see the point in going around again, reducing situational psychology to attacking versus defending “the military” is getting way, way in the way of understanding what I’m talking about related to this research — in the way of what I think, of what I think I said, and of what all those full closets and attics contain about individualism AND institutionalism. My purpose in providing several diverse conversations and links to research, books, movies and other opinion besides mine, was to illustrate that even when we consciously expand out from “the military” to the whole world, overstatements don’t fit either individuals or institutions. Human cognition and emotion and psychology and volition and instinct are the complex code for Reading Our Reality yet we’re apparently made not to be able to be completely objective and detached from it even when we’re “in control” of ourselves and others and the situation. (And power does corrupt.) So that applies to the military, yes, but also to everything else in the world.

I hope when you have time to read them fully and then explore out from them in different directions, you too will see how seldom it’s “about the military” at all. Mostly the authoritarian institution I know and think and write about is School, and the “military” things you’re focusing on (training, discipline, what you learn inside and how you will use it in society once outside of the institution, how the public views the institution and its individuals, etc) are really more about Schooling anyway. 🙂

24 08 2011

Another reference to the Karate for Christ martial arts school I found, from March of this year:

Last night I passed this place again. A dozen serious young students in white, and I noticed how tall and slender yet well-proportioned, uniform in physique as well as, well, uniform!

Did they self-select into something that suited their body type in the first place, or did this activity affect how they grew and developed, making them better in such predictable ways that after the fact, it seemed they were born to it?

Which came first, I mused. The kickin’ or the edge? [groan]

And does that answer, whatever it may be, apply to our politics and religion, what attracts and repels us in life as we wind up living it, fashions and friends and mates and careers?

Everything is connected . . .

24 08 2011

Defining the Universe: Harder Than We Think:

It turns out that understanding the nature of the universe goes hand in hand with our understanding of who we are and how we fit into nature. . .In a very real sense, there was no longer a clear separation of the universe and the things it contains.

Here things get a bit confusing. . .

No kidding! 😉

It really *IS* all in how well we manage to think about how we think:

Physics is the art of approximations, a device we have to describe the world we measure. Sometimes, however, we get carried away, and ascribe reality to what are, in essence, thinking tools.

I know this may sound heretic, but it seems that the universe is one of these thinking tools.

24 08 2011

I use the military paradigm because it is what I know. I can see that has clouded the conversation. I am going to go back and re-read the material. I have no idea if I will come up with anything useful.

Perhaps I have not had enough coffee. Or it could be that whatever it is, is swooping just above my head. That does also happen from time to time.

24 08 2011
Nance Confer

The military is not really the point. The point is you. And me. And anyone else. The idea is that any of us, no matter how much we may really, really think otherwise, can be caught up in acting badly. And that we may hold the notion that our philosophy, our religion, our intelligence, our training, our breeding, our family values, our life experience, our fill-in-the-blank thing that makes you think you will rise above following orders to hurt someone else will keep you from failing this test. . . but it won’t. In the overwhelming number of cases, it won’t.

24 08 2011

Beep, I know. This is some pretty advanced stuff by now (Nance and I have been working through it for 15 years, honest) and to your enormous credit you are taking it on without (much) complaint and running a pretty good pace. Most people just quit and fall back, never to be heard from again, but I can see already that you have remarkable stick-to-it-iveness! 🙂

24 08 2011

Nance, JJ– many moons ago, I was a Whistle Blower. I have lived this. I have stood up to a lot of bad people and dysfunctional paradigms, chains of command, management policies–you name it. In the military, in the world, at various places of employment and even occasionally in college. All with varying degrees of success.

So yes, I know it’s not *the military. I use that as an example for two reasons. It keeps getting brought up, and it’s something I know through personal experience.

I know, intimately how hard it is to stand up in such situations. Even when what is at stake has nothing to do with torture.

Perhaps I am coming towards this, not as an academic, so much as a person who has lived this. Instead of coming in from the top, I am coming up from beneath and within.

To me, homeschooling is an extension of this *habit, since I do it so often.

24 08 2011

I would also add, that it makes me happy to see such discussions still taking place in America today.

You are right. It seems most people get frustrated and give up on even exploring the subject passively, much less wrestling with the internal mechanisms that exist within each person, that motivates them to act one way or another.

24 08 2011
Nance Confer

I think we are all coming at this in an academic sense, BP. It is helpful to think it all through and think we know what the right answers are. Tougher to actually do the right thing when the time comes. Or to know what the right thing is.

I was just imagining a scenario where I come upon a crime scene, policeman is trying to handle one bad guy and points at fleeing other guy and tells me: “Here’s my taser. Taser him so he doesn’t get away.”

Do I do it? Yes? No? Why? When? Under what circumstances?

What if it’s dark or raining or a crash scene? What if it’s broad daylight?

What if I think he is pointing to one guy when he means a different guy?

Just all kinds of “heat of the moment” decisions, which I am either prepared to deal with or not, but the prep may or may not actually be helpful.

Now repeat that scenario of doing physical injury to someone else, over and over. For some good reason or other. I think we can all think we’d draw the line there. But we didn’t necessarily draw the same line in the first scenario. Or did we? Were we consistent? Was it the right thing to be consistent?


Yes, be a whistle blower. Great, now you have no job and your family is fucked. Don’t blow the whistle? Most people don’t. Which to feel worse about?


24 08 2011

This seems key! — I know, intimately how hard it is to stand up in such situations. Even when what is at stake has nothing to do with torture.

Perhaps I am coming towards this, not as an academic, so much as a person who has lived this.

And not only do you have that vivid and intimate knowing but it turns out you were exceptional, atypical, an out-lier. Yet in your own case which is what you know, it was 100% the way you know it happened. Tough to set that aside!

24 08 2011
Nance Confer

Why it’s hard for some hsers to understand that not everyone can homeschool. That they just can’t. Even when they can see people around them — outliers — happily and successfully hsing. Their brain does not rebel in that way. Even if they see harm being done to their own children.

24 08 2011

I didn’t say that I always got it right. — Just so we are clear about the Whistle-blowing. It’s true what you say Nance, it’s easy to get sucked into someone else’s schemes if you are not careful, and just as easy to misinterpret what they want or just play the patsy.

And you are right about the trade off. How many times I have had to sit people down and explain the risks. Some felt that I was discouraging them from standing up, But I did it because I have discovered that many people want whistle-blowers, but do not back them up. Do not come to their rescue or otherwise defend them to the powers that be.

So Whistle-blower = wind-dummy If you win, someone takes credit for you, and you still get the ugly end of the stick, and if you loose, people don’t have to worry about getting their hands dirty with your defeat, and your newly minted trouble maker status.

Reform is usually built on the husks of dead careers and ruined lives. 😦

Which do you choose? Food on the table or be able to look at yourself in the mirror?

I am glad I am no longer doing that. I need the break and I am happy to approach this issue from the ground up with two children, rather than trying to convince recalcitrant, emotionally immature adults that they are being [fill in the blank].

24 08 2011

I would also add, that the unfortunate end of the spectrum for Whistleblowing is the Do-Betterer.

25 08 2011
Nance Confer

Do-Betterer? More gungho than a Do-Gooder?

25 08 2011

Ha, I was automatically taking it to mean super-competitive to beat out others and damn do-gooding, determined to “do-better” than anyone else!

Or conversely, it would make sense if it meant not gung-ho at all, simply cruising along satisfied not to do much of anything, as long as it was incrementally better than the biggest loser one can point to?

25 08 2011

Think of it as do-gooder gone terribly awry. One who adheres to the letter of the law while gleefully ignoring the spirit of the law.

“fixing” things and people that aren’t broke because one is convinced otherwise.

25 08 2011
Nance Confer

OK then. 🙂

13 09 2011
“Partisan Polarization” Just Another Pathology of Hypercompetition? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Lucifer Effect Includes Calling Other People Cockroaches: “You think of them as worthless animals. That’s the killing power of […]

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