Killer of Sacred Cows
Friday, September 29, 2006
  How Fascism Takes Root
A chronology of experiments:

Conformity (1951): In experiments done by Solomon Asch, 33% of people exposed to the peer pressure of others conformed to the peers' belief in an obviously incorrect answer to a simple question.

Obedience (1963): In experiments done by Stanley Milgram, between 61% and 66% of subjects obeyed an authority figure when told to continue shocking an innocent victim who had provided incorrect answers to simple questions, up to and including lethal levels of electric shock.

Groupthink (1967): In an experiment done by Ron Jones, the promises of rewards, group identity, and superiority caused more than 60 students at a Palo Alto high school to become proto-fascists willing to obey their leader without thinking and betray their fellows without compunction.

Role Assignment (1971): In experiments done by Philip Zimbardo, all persons given the superior or authority role became not just immoral but amoral and tortured persons under their care and supervision. Interestingly (and shockingly), only one of over 50 people aware of this situation outside of the experiment questioned its morality.

"I can see the looks on some of your faces, saying, "Oh, I would have walked differently." Then ask yourselves why you were clapping." - John Keating (Robin Williams), Dead Poets Society

When we stop being on guard against our baser instincts, as the subjects of these experiments did, we risk not only our society, but our very humanity. One of our baser instincts is that of seeking safety. We are far too willing to listen to people who claim they have The Answer.

Be on your guard, folks. Teach your children to be on theirs. We are spiraling downward faster and faster, and it frightens me to death.
 
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