Not at all, is your impulsive reaction. So would I. But the disturbing documentary, How Evil Are You, on watchdocumentary.com proves anyone can become evil, or at least exhibit evil behaviours given certain circumstances. It dabbles a bit in genetics but doesn’t prove anything concrete through DNA. watch curiosity – how evil are you
An experiment known as The Milgram Experiment was created and conducted for the first time in the 1960s. It sought to answer one question: would a subject torture another person solely on the basis of an authority figure telling the subject to do so? 1,000 subjects were manipulated into believing they were administering increasingly painful electric shocks to a person in another room whenever they gave wrong answers to a series of questions. The result?
During the 1961 experiment, people noticeably cringed and shook their heads as they administered the shocks. Many got out of their seats or turned to the man in the white lab coat at the back of the room to protest the experiment, yet when instructed, they continued to administer what they believed to be horrendous pain to a helpless person. Fast forward to the 21st century. And the results? Disappointingly, the same. At no time did anyone refuse to shock the victim, no matter how the victim protested. The victim screamed and pretended to have a heart defect yet the subjects kept on pushing those buttons. watch milgram experiment revisited
The experiment might help people to understand the type of tortures and treatment of Jews by the Nazis. The Milgram subjects were all visibly shaken yet authority convinced them the act of violence against another human being was essential to the experiment. So they complied. Let’s apply that thinking and behaviour to the millions of Nazi soldiers and military leaders during WWII. Insofar as the upper evil echelon goes, I have no sympathy at all. These were among the most well-educated (except Hitler), intelligent and successful men in the 3rd Reich. They had the power and the opportunity to refuse the Reich and to refuse to follow orders. Most of them could easily have escaped Germany, even if through the underground, to avoid committing their atrocities. watch quiet rage: the stanford prison study
The soldiers, the laymen, however, were a different breed. Generally speaking the overall population was considerably lower in intellect and professional success than the Reich leaders. They were much more easily led. They had neither the power nor the inclination to refuse authority, and after enough repetition and systematic brainwashing, the Nazi soldiers became emotionless fighting machines. Did that make them evil? watch crime and punishment documentary
Perhaps that answer lies beyond the full scope of this experiment, which mostly involved one person administering torture to another, rather than an entire nation of people. Milgram generalized it to the Reich using a sample of 1,000 people, rather than millions, yet the numbers may not matter. Humans are social beings. We need to belong. We seek approval and are reassured that we are doing what is right, no matter how wrong it may be. watch the power of nazi propaganda
Mob mentality builds in that manner. The most infamous American riot of the 20th century resulted from the Rodney King videotape, where ten white policemen beat and kicked King repeatedly while laughing and egging each other on. Some of the police officers involved in the attack went on trial and when the jury returned a not guilty verdict, L.A. became a place no one would want to be: thousands of blacks became enraged, smashing store windows, stealing, fighting, and displaying behaviours they never would have done had it not been for this the verdict. The target of this trial wasn’t strictly about pain and power, however. Race was the central issue which added a third dimension to the Rodney King riots. The mob reaction itself reflects the premise of the Millgram experiment. watch rodney king tape on national news
At the very least there seems to be an impetus toward human sadism that all of us exhibit: authority. It is stated that “with great power comes great responsibility”, yet humans throughout history consistently fail to live up to the adage. In light of the Experiment, Nazis and their extreme cruelty towards the Jews, as staggering as it was, becomes a little easier to understand. Not to forgive. To understand.