Hitler and Milgram’s Ghosts- Obey; You Will Shock the Human

By Erik Larson

Dr. Jerry Burger has replicated some aspects of Stanley Milgram‘s famous experiment and found that people are just as inclined to obey authority, even if it means inflicting pain on others. Milgram had found that 79% of subjects were willing to administer what they thought were 450 volt shocks to participants in a scientific experiment; the real experiment was studying people’s obedience to authority. The experiment led to a new ethics code for scientific researchers that involved disclosure to particpants, which has made it impossible to directly replicate Milgram’s findings. Burger has done a limited replication which found that 70% of partcipants “had to be stopped” from continuing past the 150 volt mark, which was the point where Milgram had found most particpants that expressed misgivings refused to continue, if they did refuse. Burger’s research has replicated Milgram’s finding that men and women are equally likely to obey and inflict pain.


Nearly 50 years after one of the most controversial behavioral experiments in history, a social psychologist has found that people are still just as willing to administer what they believe are painful electric shocks to others when urged on by an authority figure.


So, next time you’re at some protest that turns violent thanks to police provocateurs, don’t expect the men or women at the trigger of the microwave simulated flesh burning weapons to have any mercy- or the soldiers, CIA ops and private contractors torturing innocent detainees at Abu Ghraib– or executing air strikes on Afghan wedding parties– they’re just following orders. Possibly all the way to a new Nuremburg. Are we really responsible for our own actions? Or is our “free will” mostly genes, imprinting and socialization? 

What about the decades of research that shows IQ scores are governed more by nutrition and neighborhood than genes, culture or education? Are kids subjected to poverty by the Walmartization of America that grow up to be criminals really responsible for their actions? Can the boards and executives of criminal Wall Street corporations (like the White House, Federal Reserve and the Treasury Dept) really be held responsible for the global economic meltdown that they were warned about? They were under pressure from their stockholders and competitors, right? 

The playing field needs to be leveled for kids and corporate criminals. If kids are being condemned and held responsible for things they have no control over, then it seems at least logical and fair to hold corporate criminals and treasonous public officials responsible for knowingly risking other people’s lives, health and welfare in order to perpetuate inequalities in the economy and political process. If the case can be made that the people behind the Republocrats actually “merit”, let it be made; however the 1% “elite” won’t talk about how they “merit”; they just use their wealth and power to shut out the real public debate from the private corporation-controlled political debates, policy making and “news” media. 

It’s obviously simple for the power “elite” to administer economic shocks to “the little people” from an ivory tower- they’re insulated from consequences and responsibility for their actions.


Each of our Individual Voices Is More Important Than We’ve Realized  by George Washington – A study found that “even one dissenting voice can give people permission to think for themselves.”

The False Logic of Hopelessness (Why the Elephant Should Stand Up to the Mouse)  by George Washington


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