Philip Weiss’ latest

A powerful cri de coeur from Mondoweiss, titled “The occupation is the Stanley Milgram experiment for American Jews,” turns on this paragraph:

The general U.S. Jewish position is like the Stanley Milgram experiment, the famous Yale study in which paid research subjects were instructed by a researcher to apply higher and higher levels of shock to someone on the other side of a curtain every time he got an answer wrong on a test. And with increasing levels of shock that other subject– who wasn’t really a subject but a confederate of the researcher– howled louder and louder and passed out from pain. Still the students applied the shock. That is the American Jewish community. They hear the Palestinians screaming for 60 years but they have been told by an authority figure that the Palestinians deserve the shocks they are getting– because they are resisters, because they are terrorists, because they are animals, because they are violent, because their women cover themselves, because they live off the land, because they want their houses back, because they don’t have gay rights, because they read the Koran, because they want to return to their homes, because they elected Hamas… on and on the instructor justifies it with lies and bullshit, still the community cranks the dial and ignores the screams.

The Milgram experiment seems to have a powerful resonance for a certain kind of American intellectual.  For example, in his 1999 book The Holocaust in American Life, Peter Novick suggested that the USA might be a better place if, instead of recurring so often to the Holocaust as the ultimate index of political evil, Americans were in the habit of referring to the findings of the Milgram experiment.  I attended a talk Professor Novick gave in that year; from the podium, he made such a strong claim for the symbolic power of the Milgram experiment that half the Q & A session consisted of expressions of disbelief.  Still, I highly recommend Weiss’ essay, and for that matter Novick’s works.


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1 Comment

  1. I am not sure about David Smith-Ferri’s ability to “live outside the shadow of his narrow-mindedness and ethno-centrism”. What I have had great and enduring difficulty with is expecting that “anything good can actually come out of” our counter insurgencies/armed occupations of Afghanistan or Iraq. Because of these two self-administered calamities, the 21st Century has not started off well, if my fellow countrymen are deluded that it will be an American Century.

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