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PPFE Part #2
Fundamental Question: What Revolutions are Necessary and How Can They be Engineered?
There are three PPFE pages:
If you haven't yet done so, you may want to quickly scan all three pages to get an overall idea of what's on them.
When Governmentologists prohibit certain activities, they may create Gaps. Resourceful entrepreneurs -- including PPFEs -- may be able to Mine these Gaps by enabling customers to perform the prohibited activities in ways that are difficult or impossible to stop -- see Online Poker Report.
The Internet, particularly YouTube, can be used to reach millions of people. For example, millions of people have watched "911-truth" videos online. Irrespective of who the real 911 perpetrators were, 911 can be used as a "Wedge Issue" -- see Potential Market Leverage Segments.
Statistics obtained through Google searches make it very easy to do crude market research to determine the popularity of certain topics. YouTube can be used to contact certain activists with considerable influence and "reach" to their audience.
Ann Coulter can be used as a role model for PPFEs on how to get publicity and improve your impact. If you can attract attention you can "monetize the attention" -- e.g., by selling books, T-shirts, getting advertisers to pay to advertise on your websites, etc. PPFE projects can become profiable.
The "Blasphemy Challenge" could be used as a model for creating a "Political Equivalent Challenge."
The section on "Second Life and Other Virtual Worlds" may provide some pointers on how to "convert large numbers of people to higher levels of freedom and competence.
It's important for PPFEs to recognize that, in addition to Governmentologists, certain people in "corporate business and finance" may be major enemies of freedom -- see Pecking Order Bully System (POBS), Big-Finance & Big-Business. What if most "key politicians" are owned by "corporate masters?"
It may be vital for PPFEs to create several alternative currencies along the lines of e-gold. (Unfortunately, e-gold set themselves up as a "sitting duck." Starting in 2005, Governmentologists were able to raid e-gold offices and servers, and steal millions from e-gold and some of its major customers. It seems that e-gold is no longer a viable business from a PPFE perspective.)
Key Question: In a contest between PPFEs and Governmentologists and their corporate masters, what would make it possible for PPFEs to gain the upper hand?
Grasping the concept of "Pretendities" is most important.
This page suggests certain specific strategies with the intention of "firing up the imaginations" of PPFEs. The idea is to stimulate a wide range of liberation activities all over the world. See also:
More potentially useful questions:
See Economic Means To Freedom, particularly Is the Private Sector Really Part of the Public Sector?.
By accident and/or design, Scientologists, Godologists, and Governmentologists take advantage of aspects of "human nature." It may be necesary for PPFEs to gain a superior understanding of human nature. See:
Pecking Order Bully System (POBS), Big-Finance & Big-Business
Consider the possibility that practically all humans have a powerful and deep-seated "Pecking Order Bully System" (POBS) program, inherited from our animal ancestors. If so, it would be automatic behavior for most people to create hierarchies and to position themselves within these hierarchies. Many people might feel lost if/when they're not part of a POBS hierarchy.
An aspect of the (POBS) program may be: "The word of the top bully is law." This may be so deep-seated and entrenched that it's very difficult, if at all possible, for most humans to let go the absurd notion that, "government makes laws" -- see Smash the Idols of Civilization in your Head!.
Now, consider the possibility that many top Governmentologists are effectively positioned in POBS hierarchies where the top bully is someone in Big-Finance and/or Big-Business. If so, then some of the "Biggest Bullies" would be in Big-Finance and/or Big-Business, and some top Governmentologists would really be "Lesser Bullies" in their respective POBS hierarchies.
The "corporate media" can be regarded as an important "speaking mouth" of Big-Finance and Big-Business. Many journalists are situated in POBS hierarchies -- and they follow orders from the bullies above them.
Author and filmmaker John Pilger has documented a great deal about journalism and the world's "corporate masters." He also writes some interesting things about Obama.
Psychologists and Psychiatrists
Some psychologists and psychiatrists can be regarded as enemies of freedom. A leading author on this topic is Thomas Szasz. In the Introduction to his book Ideology and Insanity: Essays on the Psychiatric Dehumanization of Man he writes:
"Where conventional psychiatrists saw themselves diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, I saw them stigmatizing and contolling persons; where they saw hospitals, I saw prisons; where they saw courageous professional advocacy of individualism and freedom, I saw craven support of collectivism and oppression. In a word, where psychiatrists saw themselves as pioneering leaders of the most glamorous of the helping professions, I saw them as representatives of an especially alarming new breed of agents of social control -- orchestrators of the typically modern medical dehumanization of man and leaders of the hindering professions who peddle therapeutic control in the name of personal liberation."
Szasz coined the term "The Therapeutic Sate" in 1963, and has written a book with this title -- Google: "The Therapeutic Sate" for more details.
See also: the "Psychological Control" videos.
There is an "antipsychiatry movement" -- for some numbers, see "Antipsychiatry" under Potential Market Leverage Segments.
To their credit, some Scientologists (including Tom Cruise) have attacked the "psychiatric establishment" -- see Project Lord Reincarnated Hubbard (LRH).
BloggingOne or more blogs could be a major element of any particular PPFE project. "Blog" is short for "weblog." It's basically a website where an owner can post articles and have visitors contribute their comments.
To get an idea of the extent of the "blogging phenomenon" or "blogosphere," see the numbers for "Blogging" under Potential Market Leverage Segments.
Arianna Huffington's Huffington Post is reportedly the most linked-to blog on the Internet. There's a book titled The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging.
The Alexa traffic chart below provides an indication of the popularity of the Huffington Post blog. When the chart is "above 500," the blog is among the top 500 most popular of all websites on the Internet.
Nick Richie (a.k.a. Hooman Karamian) launched TheDirty in 2007 "as a way to distract himself from his banking job."
The "Blasphemy Challenge" is operated by the atheist group Rational Response Squad.
Bible verse Mark 3:29: "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven" -- the only "unforgivable sin." Imagine you're a Godologist and you find videos with people "comitting the one unforgivable sin." No doubt, the strength of belief among Godologists varies from weak to strong. The "Blasphemy Challenge" probably induces some marginal Godologists to start questioning and thinking.
Check out The Blasphemy Challenge, Richard Dawkins.net, and do a Google video search for "Blasphemy Challenge." You may be surprised by the scope of the activity! On 12/12/07 a Google search for "Blasphemy Challenge" showed 96,600 web results and 3,179 videos. Do your own Google video search and notice how many times the videos have been rated. Thousands of people are watching these videos! It looks like the project started in December 06.
Significant media coverage has been generated, including TV. The media likes controversy, sensationalism, and spectacle. It could be compared to protesters burning their draft cards... What might the political equivalent of the "Blasphemy Challenge?"
Maybe some PPFEs can launch a blog that, among other things, encourages freedom lovers to post videos online, that express their "political equivalent of the Blasphemy Challenge!"
To get an idea of the principles, practices, and widespread influence of our Church, see SubGenius on Wikipedia.
The Church of the SubGenius is the Official Church of PPFE Central.
Official Home Page: The Church of the SubGenius. More links below.
THE DAY OF THE SUBGENIUS
TURN UP YOUR BRAIN WITH: The Bobacatto (Mark Mothersbaugh/SubGenius Foundation) - 3 minutes.
Stellar Garbage Redux (SubGenius) - TURN UP YOUR BRAIN WITH: 23 minutes of psychedelic eye candy with techno music... sponsored by the Association for Consciousness Exploration...
(Max Stirner is the Perfector of Smashed Idols and Friedrich Nietzsche is the Perfector of dead Gods and Übermenschen.)
The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) thinks that practically all "modern" humans (including most Germans) are really "Urmenschen" (primeval or prehistoric people), as demonstrated by their primitive religious and political institutions. In fact, their religious and political beliefs and superstitions are so primitive that they can only be understood as a form of "Urdummheit" (primeval stupidity)! Max Stirner Nietzsche will help all "Urmenschen" (as well as "Luftmenschen") become "Übermenschen!" A website that utilizes this theme could stir some controversy and attract many visitors. Consider calling it "The German Perfection Society," with the goal of helping Germans become "Perfect Übermenschen!" so they can rescue Earthlings from the savagery of civilization. Such a strategy could generate considerable media coverage.
See The Ego and His Own by Max Stirner.
(Coluche is the Perfector of Politics, Cops, the Poor, and Motorcycles. Voltaire is the Perfector of Freethought, Humor, Revolution, and Swiss Watches. Éttiene de La Boétie is the Perfector of Voluntary Servitude.)
Among many possibilities, Coluche Voltaire de La Boétie could teach the French how to become more sophisticated than apes; why the best politicians do nothing; how cops can stop riots; how the poor can eat cakes; how to ride motorcycles without crashing; how slaves can choose their idiot-master-politicians; how the French can use their watches to intellectually move forward from the year 1500 to today, and politically from the year 1100 to the present; etc.
Speculation: If Voltaire's level of intellectual development in the year 1750 is taken as a standard, then how do typical "modern college-educated humans" compare? Is 1500 unrealistic? I.e., are typical "modern educated humans," in terms of intellectual development, 250 years behind where Voltaire was in 1750?
How about political understanding? De La Boétie probably wrote his Discours de la Servitude Volontaire in 1552 or 1553. If 1550 is taken as a standard, then how do typical "modern college-educated humans" compare? Is 1100 unrealistic? I.e., are typical "modern educated humans," in terms of political understanding, 450 years behind where de La Boétie was in 1550? Do the "Rummel numbers" have any bearing on the question?
In 1981, Coluche ran for "President of France" with the promise that, if elected, he would do nothing. He loved ridiculing politicians and cops. Before he pulled out of the political race, some polls indicated he would get as much as 10-15% of the vote. There's been some speculation that his death in a 1986 motorcycle crash wasn't an accident, but murder -- Google:coluche assassin.
Maybe the term sauvage sophistiqué ("sophisticated savage") can be used in humorously effective ways: "The French are sophisticated savages, compared to the unsophisticated savages in the rest of the world!" (Maybe there are French equivalents for the German Urmensch and Urdummheit -- see Suggested Strategy for German-speaking PPFEs.)
Jonathan Swift, Guy Fawkes, Robin Hood, Braveheart, William Shakespeare, George Bernhard Shaw, James Dean, John Wayne, George Carlin, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Heinlein, Benjamin Franklin, George Orwell, Mark Twain, Paul Revere, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Tucker, Pierre Proudhon, Murray Rothbard, Lysander Spooner, -- any of them could be "resurrected" to liberate English speakers from Governmentologists and Godologists.
"...I had frequently run over the whole system how I should employ myself, and pass the time if I were sure to live forever.
...I would first resolve by all arts and methods whatsoever to procure myself riches... in the second place, I would from my earliest youth apply myself to the study of arts and sciences, by which I should arrive in time to exceed all others in learning... by all which requirements, I should be a living treasury of knowledge and wisdom...
...I would entertain myself in forming and directing the minds of hopeful young men... but, my choice and constant companions should be a set of my own immortal brotherhood, among whom I would elect a dozen from the most ancient down to my own contemporaries...
These struldbruggs [immortals] and I would mutually communicate our observations and memorials through the course of time, remark the several gradations by which corruption steals into the world, and oppose it in every step, by giving perpetual warning and instruction to mankind; which, added to the strong influence of our own example, would probably prevent the continual degeneracy of human nature so justly complained of in all ages."
-- Jonathan Swift (A Voyage to Laputa)
Ayn Rand, Rose Wilder Lane, Louise Michel, Voltairine de Cleyre, Carol Moore, Mary Ruwart, Wendy McElroy, Claire Wolfe, Melanie, Kennedy, Sharon Presley, Sharon Harris, Leah Lail, Ilana Mercer, Barbara Amiel, Virginia Postrel, Christina Sommers, Norma Jean Almodovar, Barbara Branden, Esther Dyson, Joan Kennedy Taylor, Karen Kay, Lauren Royal, Tyffany Million, Camille Paglia, Frances Kendall (with Leon Louw), Joan of Arc, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Virgin Mary.
The possibilities are infinite. Tyffany Million is actually Virgin Mary reincarnated, and...
Because she is so well known, "resurrecting Ayn Rand" could be a particularly powerful strategy. In Heaven, Rand met up with the FSM, who helped cure her from the vestiges of Governmentology she failed to eradicate from her brain during her first life on Earth... The "new Rand" could confess the mistakes of the "first Rand," e.g., her "limited-government nonsense," "tabula rasa mistake," "endorsing Goldwater for president," etc. Lawyers representing Rand's estate might threaten to sue the "new Ayn Rand." This could be used to generate publicity.
Free Your Mind...
and the Rest will Follow!
Jack Johnson, Steve Biko, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Malcolm X.
MLK went to Heaven where FSM (the Flying Spaghetti Monster) and Jack Johnson helped MLK cure his Godologist and Governmentologist diseases! Imagine the controversy and media coverage that could be generated by "MLK reincarnated as a PPFE!"
Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Rasputin, Tolstoy, Bakunin (anarchist who inspired Kurt Vonnegut's Bokonon -- Google: bokononism), Kropotkin (anarchist) -- any of them could be "resurrected" to liberate Russian speakers from Governmentologists and Godologists.
Geronimo, Pocahontas, Will Rogers, Sacajawea, Russell Means, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, Chief Pontiac
Quotes by Will Rogers:
If the white invaders are too stupid to save themselves from Godologists and Governmentologists...
Brian Willson wakes up from "Governmentologist Cult Brainwashing" -- The Politics of Obedience: Breaking the Habit of Voluntary Servitude -- The first 8 minutes of the video are about Ricky Clousing's press conference, announcing his refusal to obey orders to go back to Iraq and his surrender to the military in Ft. Lewis.
Waging Unconditional Peace
(Reasons for Addiction to War)
Conformity, obedience, and mediocrity are "close relatives." If you're like most people, when you grew up you were effectively forced to believe all kinds of "unreal nonsense" by your parents, teachers, preachers, etc. "Unreal nonsense" refers to ideas and beliefs not rooted in objective reality. You were not explicitly taught to use your senses as your primary means to test ideas and beliefs to determine if they represented physical reality.
Some psychologists use the term "unreflective socialization" to describe this kind of acceptance of ideas and beliefs without thinking about their validity, or testing them against objective reality. Sadly, most young children have a great deal of "unreal nonsense" shoved down their throats before they have developed the ability to decide for themselves what's real and what's nonsense. For more details on this, see Molyneux's video: "Fearing Our Parents."
You were effectively taught that you had to believe what you were told by older, bigger, and stronger people -- "authority" figures. The only way you could believe the unreal nonsense was by "disconnecting from objective reality" and surrendering to "subjective social agreement." This involves a "snapping of the mind." So guess who teaches that "obedience is a virtue?"
Erich Fromm wrote an essay, "On Disobedience," published in his book On Disobedience and Other Essays. Fromm wrote that "human history began with an act of disobedience." He was referring to Adam and Eve whose act of disobedience in eating the apple of knowledge set them "free and opened their eyes."
Fromm further wrote: "Man has continued to evolve by acts of disobedience. Not only was his spiritual development possible only because there were men who dared say no to the powers that be in the name of their conscience or their faith, but also his intellectual development was dependent on the capacity for being disobedient -- disobedient to authorities who tried to muzzle new thoughts and to the authority of long-established opinions which declared a change to be nonsense."
Fromm continues: "...[W]hile we are living technically in the Atomic Age, the majority of men -- including most of those who are in power -- still live emotionally in the Stone Age; ... while our mathematics, astronomy, and the natural sciences are of the twentieth century, most of our ideas about politics, the state, and society lag far behind the age of science. If mankind commits suicide it will be because people will obey those who command them to push the deadly buttons; because they will obey the archaic passions of fear, hate, and greed; because they will obey obsolete clichés of State sovereignty and national honor."
If you haven't yet done so, this may be a good time to watch Asch's Conformity Experiment
Fromm continues: "Obedience is the root of much evil... [I]n order to disobey we need courage, and the capacity for courage depends on our state of development. When we are fully developed individuals, having "emerged from mother's lap and father's commands," and having acquired the ability to think and feel for ourselves, then we have the courage to say "no" to political coercion."
In Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View Stanley Milgram writes: "Obedience, because of its very ubiquitousness, is easily overlooked as a subject of inquiry in social psychology. But without an appreciation of its role in shaping human action, a wide range of significant behavior cannot be understood. For an act carried out under command is, psychologically, of a profoundly different character than action which is spontaneous.
The person who, with inner conviction, loathes stealing, killing, and assault may find himself performing these acts with relative ease when commanded by authority. Behavior that is unthinkable in an individual who is acting on his own may be executed without hesitation when carried out under orders.
...Obedience, as a determinant of behavior, is of particular relevance to our time. It has been reliably established that from 1933 to 1945 millions of innocent people were systematically slaughtered on command. Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded, daily quotas of corpses were produced with the same efficiency as the manufacture of appliances. These inhumane policies may have been originated in the mind of a single person, but they could only have been carried out on a massive scale if a very large number of people obeyed orders.
...Though such prescriptions as "Thou shalt not kill" occupy a pre-eminent place in the moral order, they do not occupy a correspondingly intractable position in human psychic structure. A few changes in newspaper headlines, a call from the draft board, orders from a man with epaulets, and men are led to kill with little difficulty. Even the forces mustered in a psychology experiment will go a long way toward removing the individual from moral controls. Moral factors can be shunted aside with relative ease by a calculated restructuring of the informational and social field."
Milgram conducted some experiments to determine the degree to which people are obedient to authority. In a typical experiment there is a "teacher," a "learner" and the "authority" (experimenter) who conducts the experiment. The teacher asks a series of questions to the learner. If the learner gives an incorrect answer the teacher presses a button that supposedly administers an electric shock to the learner. Actually no shock is involved, but the learner is an actor who pretends that he suffers pain from the shock.
There's a series of buttons to administer a range of shocks, starting at 15 volts and going up to 450 volts in 15-volt increments. Every time the learner makes a mistake the teacher is to administer the next higher level of shock. The teacher is told that high levels of shock will hurt the learner and may even kill him.
Prior to a typical experiment people were asked what they thought would be the maximum shock applied. Among 39 psychiatrists, one predicted that the strongest shock would be 300 volts, two predicted 195 volts. All the other predictions were lower. Among 31 college students, the highest prediction by one student was 210 volts. Among middle-class adults, the highest prediction by three people was 300 volts.
In the actual experiments, generally, about two-thirds of teachers administered the maximum shock, despite the learner's screams of pain and demands that the experiment be stopped. In some variations of the experiment over 90 percent of the teachers administered the maximum shock. The degree of obedience to authority was vastly higher than anyone expected.
Milgram concluded from his experiments that obedience to authority is a "danger to human survival inherent in our make-up." His experiments revealed something very dangerous: "[T]he capacity for man to abandon his humanity, indeed the inevitability that he does so, as he merges his unique personality into larger institutional structures.
This is a fatal flaw nature has designed into us, and which in the long run gives our species only a modest chance of survival...
Each individual possesses a conscience which to a greater or lesser degree serves to restrain the unimpeded flow of impulses destructive to others. But when he merges his person into an organizational structure, a new creature replaces autonomous man, unhindered by the limitations of individual morality, freed of humane inhibition, mindful only of the sanctions of authority."
Our conclusion: It may be people whose minds were severely damaged by their parents and by "compulsory schooling," who most easily succumb to "authority." The cognitive connections between their behavior and the consequences of their behavior may have been greatly weakened at home and in school. It may be these dependent, obedience-trained, relatively powerless people who submit most readily to "authority."
If you haven't yet done so, this may be a good time to watch a More Recent Version of the Milgram Experiment. Obedience must be just about the greatest of all human flaws. Obedience is the surrender of personal choice, power, and responsibility.
Milgram concludes his book by quoting from an article by Harold J. Laski, titled "The Dangers of Obedience": "...[C]ivilization means, above all, an unwillingness to inflict unnecessary pain. Within the ambit of that definition, those of us who heedlessly accept the commands of authority cannot yet claim to be civilized men."
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Phillip Zimbardo's "Lucifer Effect" video includes a series of Abu Ghraib pictures. The parallels between these images and those from the "Stanford Prison Experiment" conducted in 1971 are quite striking.
Phillip Zimbardo: Lucifer Effect
-- Psychology of Evil
Both the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrate that under certain conditions, seemingly "normal good people" can perform actions extremely harmful, even deadly, against innocent fellow humans. In the Milgram Experiment, when "teacher A" sat next to a "teacher B" who went up all the way to administer a shock of 450 volts (which could kill the "learner"), 90% of the "teacher As" also went up all the way to 450 volts. This indicates that the presence of someone performing destructive and even deadly actions, makes it "easier" for those around him or her to also perform similar destructive and even deadly actions. This is an aspect of conformity.
The most important thing to learn from the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment is that when people are put in positions that enable them to exercise coercive powers over others, there's no telling what atrocities they may perpetrate. And if one of them performs potentially deadly deeds, then the chances are higher that those around him or her will also perform potentially deadly deeds.
"Dehumanization" has to do with the "removal" of human qualities like freedom, independence, individuality, thinking for yourself, compassion, respect for others, and morality. When people get into a situation that enables them to exert coercive power over others, they tend to dehumanize themselves. This was demonstated by the Milgram Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment -- as well as by Abu Ghraib.
When parents force their children to believe unreal absurdities, they dehumanize their children.
When children are forced into "schools" and compelled to believe, obey, and conform, they are dehumanized. When "teachers" get into situations that enable them to exert coercive power over their students, they are likely to dehumanize themselves. "Compulsory schooling" can be described as "institutionalized dehumanization."
What other dehumanizing institutions can you think of? How about prisons and jails that serve primarily as "dehumanization factories?"
When soldiers put on their uniforms, are they trained to obey and kill without thinking; do they tend to become dehumanized killing robots?
What do you now think of Muhammad Ali's refusal to go to Vietnam? Was it a refusal to become a dehumanized killing robot, forced to kill people who had done him no harm?
The following extracts are from two articles -- one by Kathleen O'Toole (Stanford Report) and the other by Meredith Alexander (Stanford University News Service).
Strip searched, sprayed for lice and locked up with chains around their ankles, the "prisoners" were part of an experiment to test people's reactions to power dynamics in social situations. Other college student volunteers -- the "guards" -- were given authority to dictate 24-hour-a-day rules. They were soon humiliating the "prisoners" in an effort to break their will.
Using realistic methods, Zimbardo and others were able to create a prison atmosphere that transformed its participants. The young men who played prisoners and guards revealed how much circumstances can distort individual personalities -- and how anyone, when given complete control over others, can act like a monster.
"In a few days, the role dominated the person," Zimbardo recalled, "They became guards and prisoners."
"At that point, I felt there was something wrong with me, thinking here I am, I'm supposed to be a psychologist, I'm supposed to understand, and I was having a hard time watching what was happening to these kids." [Observing the Stanford Prison Experiment for the first time on the fifth day.] "I was sick to my stomach. When it's happening to you, it doesn't feel heroic; it feels real scary. It feels like you are a deviant." -- Professor Christina Maslach, UC-Berkeley, to psychologists gathered in Toronto, Aug. 12, 1996.
...Maslach would take actions that made her a heroine in some circles as "the one who stopped the Stanford Prison Experiment." She was involved in a romantic relationship with Zimbardo, the experiment's principal investigator... Yet she had difficulty resisting the group pressure to be enthusiastic about what was going on in the name of science.
...[T]he Stanford Prison Experiment made news in a big way. It offered the world a videotaped demonstration of how ordinary people middle-class college students can do things they would have never believed they were capable of doing. It seemed to say, as Hannah Arendt said of Adolf Eichmann, that normal people can take ghastly actions.
Those assigned to be guards were given uniforms and instructed that they were not to use violence but that their job was to maintain control of the prison.
From the perspective of the researchers, the experiment became exciting on day two when the prisoners staged a revolt. Once the guards had crushed the rebellion, "they steadily increased their coercive aggression tactics, humiliation and dehumanization of the prisoners," Zimbardo recalls. "The staff had to frequently remind the guards to refrain from such tactics," he said, and the worst instances of abuse occurred in the middle of the night when the guards thought the staff was not watching. The guards' treatment of the prisoners included such things as forcing them to clean out toilet bowls with their bare hands and act out degrading scenarios, or urging them to become snitches "resulted in extreme stress reactions that forced us to release five prisoners, one a day, prematurely."
Zimbardo's primary reason for conducting the experiment was to focus on the power of roles, rules, symbols, group identity and situational validation of behavior that generally would repulse ordinary individuals. "I had been conducting research for some years on deindividuation, vandalism and dehumanization that illustrated the ease with which ordinary people could be led to engage in anti-social acts by putting them in situations where they felt anonymous, or they could perceive of others in ways that made them less than human, as enemies or objects," Zimbardo told the Toronto symposium in the summer of 1996.
"I wondered, along with my research associates Craig Haney, Curtis Banks and Carlo Prescott, what would happen if we aggregated all of these processes, making some subjects feel deindividuated, others dehumanized within an anonymous environment in the same experimental setting, and where we could carefully document the process over time."
Maslach walked into the mock prison on the evening of the fifth day. Having just received her doctorate from Stanford and starting an assistant professorship at Berkeley, she had agreed to do subject interviews the next day and had come down the night before to familiarize herself with the experiment.
...[S]he had a pleasant conversation with a "charming, funny, smart" young man waiting to start his guard shift. Other researchers had told her there was a particularly sadistic guard, whom both prisoners and other guards had nicknamed John Wayne. Later, when she looked at the monitor of the prison yard again, she asked someone to point out John Wayne and was shocked to discover it was the young man she had talked with earlier.
"This man had been transformed. He was talking in a different accent a Southern accent, which I hadn't recalled at all. He moved differently, and the way he talked was different, not just in the accent, but in the way he was interacting with the prisoners. It was like [seeing] Jekyll and Hyde... It really took my breath away."
Several prisoners engaged in a debate with John Wayne, she said, in which they accused him of enjoying his job. He said that he wasn't really like that, he was just playing a role. One prisoner challenged this, Maslach said, noting that the guard had tripped him earlier when he was taking him down the hall to the bathroom. No researchers were around to see the act, the prisoner said, which indicated to him that the act reflected the guard's true disposition. John Wayne disagreed, saying that if he let up, the role wouldn't remain powerful.
Later that evening, Maslach said, she suddenly got sick to her stomach while watching guards taking the prisoners with paper bags over their heads to the bathroom before their bedtime... After leaving the prison with Zimbardo, she said, he asked her what she thought of it. "I think he expected some sort of great intellectual discussion about what was going on. Instead, I started to have this incredible emotional outburst. I started to scream, I started to yell, 'I think it is terrible what you are doing to those boys!' I cried. We had a fight you wouldn't believe, and I was beginning to think, wait a minute, I don't know this guy. I really don't, and I'm getting involved with him?"
Zimbardo was shocked by her reaction and upset, she said, but eventually that night, "he acknowledged what I was saying and realized what had happened to him and to other people in the study. At that point he decided to call the experiment to a halt." [Zimbardo, without realizing it when it happened, had automatically abandoned his role as "research director" and shifted into that of "prison superintendent."]
Maslach married Zimbardo in 1972 and became a full professor at Berkeley, studying the processes of dehumanization. "I started interviewing prison guards, real ones, and also people in emergency medical care. Out of that grew a lot of the research I have done over the years on job burn-out," she said. Her work has looked at "how people who are responsible for the care and treatment of others can come to view those they care for in object-like ways, leading them, in some cases, to behave in ways that are really insensitive, uncaring, brutal and dehumanizing."
Zimbardo and Maslach say they feel an ongoing responsibility to communicate about and apply the research beyond the academic world, which is why they generally agree to do interviews about it.
For Zimbardo, the prison experiment also has led to research on a range of social situations that generate pathological conditions. He has studied the social psychology of madness and cults, shyness as a kind of self-imposed prison, and time perspective the way people come to be controlled by their overuse of past, present or future timeframes.
The experiment has not, however, brought about the changes in prisons or even in guard training programs that he would have liked. In fact, prisons have been radically transformed in the United States in the last 25 years to make them less humane, Haney told the Toronto symposium audience. Voters have increasingly voted for politicians who take a tough public stance in favor of prisons as places for punishment, rather than for reforming social deviants. Long, determinate sentences are part of the new trend in policy, he said, as are an increasing number of prisons, like California's Pelican Bay, that put prisoners in long-term isolation.
"Psychology and other social science disciplines have been moved out of any kind of meaningful participation in debates over criminal justice policy," he said, urging the academics in his audience to "figure out ways in which we can re-involve ourselves in this debate." In Zimbardo's view, prisons are "failed social-political experiments" that continue to bring out the worst in relations between people "because the public is indifferent to what takes place in secret there, and politicians use them, fill them up as much as they can, to demonstrate only that they are tough on crime... They are as bad for the guards as the prisoners in terms of their destructive impact on self-esteem, sense of justice and human compassion."
In Milgram's 1965 experiment, the subjects were led to believe that they were delivering ever more powerful electric shocks to a stranger, on the orders of a white-coated researcher. Most were distressed by the situation, but two-thirds delivered the highest level of shock labeled "danger - severe shock." Like some of Zimbardo's guard subjects, some of Milgram's were anguished afterward by the revelation of their dark potential. When asked about the ethics of such research for a 1976 magazine profile, Zimbardo said that "the ethical point is legitimate insofar as who are you, as an experimenter, to give a person that kind of information about oneself. But my feeling is that that's the most valuable kind of information that you can have and that certainly a society needs it."
But it was unethical, he said, "because people suffered and others were allowed to inflict pain and humiliation on their fellows over an extended period of time... And yes, although we ended the study a week earlier than planned, we did not end it soon enough."
Steadily increasing levels of incarceration in the United States also have fueled interest in the experiment. Between 1986 and 1997 alone, the male adult prison population increased by over two-thirds and the female population doubled.
Zimbardo has strong opinions on the harmful effects of harsh prison sentences. "Prisons are evil places that demean humanity... They are as bad for the guards as they are for the prisoners," he said, pointing to results of his experiment showing that both guards' and prisoners' personalities were warped by their given roles.
What drives much of the fascination with the experiment is the sense that any individual could become a brutal dictator if given the chance. Zimbardo is still surprised at how quickly the participants changed their stripes. "These guys were all peaceniks," he recalled of the students chosen to be guards. "They became like Nazis. It shows how easy it is for good people to become perpetrators of evil."
"It's this old thing that has legs," Zimbardo remarked about the experiment. For him, those legs took him to the next level in his career. Zimbardo explained that his 1971 discoveries led him to examine another type of prisoner-guard situation: the voices that shy people hear when confronted with social situations. Shy people, he realized, act as their own guards. "The shy person is the quintessential combination of one's own prisoner and guard," said Zimbardo, who went on to found the Shyness Clinic at Stanford in 1975.
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