Bystander syndrome was a term coined in 1969 after a man stabbed and killed a woman named Kitty Genovese while 38 people watched and did nothing. Similar occurrences have happened since. Some people are scared that they would be hurt or their families threatened with retaliation if they intervene or call for help. Others assume someone else is calling the police or will do something.I note that in addition to the Kitty Genovese case-study cited above, there are two infamous social psych experiments that are relevant to the abuses of the Bush era:
We had eight years of criminals running our country, violating their oaths to preserve the constitution, engaging in a war based on lies with the intent of making a few favored corporations wealthy in first tearing the country down and then rebuilding it. Anyone with half a brain knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. These leaders did not try to cover their crimes, they openly boasted of them, or at least denounced what they were doing with a wink and a nod.This brings to mind the questions, why aren't these guys and gals under indictment? Why are they out on the speaking circuit making money instead of testifying before congress under oath?
Bush clowned around about trying to find weapons of mass destruction Cheney made speeches talking about the need to resort to dark tactics to get information. Bush mentioned in a state of the union address, "Many who opposed us are no longer with us." A wink and a nod reference to assassinations. After the abuses were found at Abu Gahrib Bush gave another wink and a nod by saying that the US doesn't torture, but did anyone really believe that whopper? At that point he had no credibility, everyone with half a brain knew he was lying through his teeth every time he opened his mouth. Before leaving office Bush admitted to giving the go ahead on waterboarding. Before and after leaving office Cheney had made repeated statements justifying the use of torture, which amount to a confession that he ordered it. Condoleza Rice just admitted on tape to a college student that she passed on the orders, making her a co-conspirator in the use of torture. This is not a complete list of all the crimes Bush and his minions committed by any means, but you get the idea.
My theory is bystander syndrome. While these crooks were robbing the treasury and destroying the economy, while they were fighting two wars on the cheap leaving our military overextended, over deployed, under provisioned, under protected, the wounded under cared for, and the dead disrespected. While they set up an illegal concentration camp, tortured and killed without getting any useful intelligence destroying this country's reputation and losing us allies as well as making us more enemies. Where was the fourth estate, a free press to report these crimes? Where were the democrats? Where was public opinion?
Zimbardo's Stanford prison experiment... and
The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. Twenty-four undergraduates were selected out of 70 to play the roles of both guards and prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Those selected were chosen for their lack of psychological issues, crime history, and medical disabilities, in order to obtain a representative sample. Roles were assigned based on a coin toss.
Prisoners and guards rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited "genuine" sadistic tendencies, while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized and two had to be removed from the experiment early. After being confronted by Christina Maslach, a graduate student in psychology whom he was dating, and realizing that he had been passively allowing unethical acts to be performed under his direct supervision, Zimbardo concluded that both prisoners and guards had become too grossly absorbed in their roles and terminated the experiment after six days.
the Milgram experimentStrange as it seems, YES - social psychology does have predictive value!
The Milgram experiment was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. Milgram first described his research in 1963 in an article published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, and later discussed his findings in greater depth in his 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View.
The experiments began in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised the experiments to answer this question: "Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?"
Milgram summarized the experiment in his 1974 article, "The Perils of Obedience", writing:The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous importance, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.
p.s. full-disclosure: My undergraduate degree is in social psych... the Kitty Genovese case-study, and the Milgram & Zimbardo experiments were much-discussed in my core classes.