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Argumentative research essay based on you own claim. Focus on a theme from The Lucifer Effect, with 3 support sources. TLE should be the focus of topic and essay. support sources should be evaluated to be considered viable sources for an academic paper. Quotes from all sources, especially TLE.





Evil of Inaction

[Writer’s Name]

[Name of the Institute]



The most striking 20th-century solution to this problem was Hannah Arendt's description of the "banality of evil". Arendt believed that there was nothing out of the ordinary about the men who administered the Nazi genocide. If anything, Arendt argues they were banal, mediocre and the genocide they directed was created out of the most ordinary bureaucratic impulses. A memo is forwarded from one to the other. A numerical quota needs to be met. Somebody seeks the attention of his superiors by excelling at his job and 6, 9, 11 million people are exterminated.

Zimbardo modifies Arendt's account by focusing on the specific circumstances and preconditions that lead ordinary members of society to the commission of wholesale murder and torture. Zimbardo is an academic psychologist retired from Stanford University as well as the director of the Stanford Centre on the Psychology of Terrorism. He is also the scholar who set up the notorious Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971, which showed how rapidly make-believe guards began to abuse make-believe prisoners in the make-believe prison Zimbardo set up in the basement of a university building.

The Lucifer Effect is, in part, a meditation on the moral implications of the Stanford study. The more urgent aspect of the book, though, is Zimbardo's analysis of the events at Abu Ghraib, in Baghdad, where American guards indulged in extensive abuse of Iraqi detainees. Zimbardo sees his study at Stanford as a close analogue to Abu Ghraib. Because he insists on describing the minutiae of the 1971 experiment at such length The Lucifer Effect is not suitable for an ordinary reader. But the results are interesting.

Zimbardo argues that our moral reflexes are "dispositional" where they should be "situational". The "dispositionalists" ignore the "reality of human vulnerability". Instead of asking, what is it in this person's character that caused them to act badly, we should ask, what is it about particular situations that empowers our worst impulses? This makes some horse sense. It's not statistically possible, for example, that a million wicked Germans just happened to be around in 1942 to man the SS and run the concentration camps and somehow were absent at other points in the history of Germany and other countries.

Zimbardo acknowledges that there are always individuals who resist their situations but, statistically and psychologically, the situation wins over the individual nine times out of 10. The Lucifer Effect identifies a series of social and psychological processes that "induce good people to do evil - among them de-individuation, obedience to authority, passivity in the face of threats, self-justification, and rationalization".

Dehumanization is the obvious one, pushing some people "to see others as enemies deserving of torment, torture, and annihilation". Zimbardo shows the equally destructive contributions of de-individuation, where torturer and victim are stripped of their particular names and identities, and rationalization, which can come up with ever more creative reasons for the perverse or shameful treatment of others.

The Lucifer Effect presents an extended case that the United States administration has enabled abuse, torture and murder on a grand scale in the war on terror. The specific episodes Zimbardo cites are extremely disturbing. What possessed the taker of a photograph "of a group of American soldiers smiling and giving high fives in front of the burned remains of an Iraqi, with the caption 'Burn Baby Burn? ?’ "After the photographs of sadism and abuse at Abu Ghraib were released, showing men on leashes and murdered prisoners packed in ice while their captors grinned, right-wing American talk-show host Rush Limbaugh waxed indignant - at anybody who might be offended by the images. Rush asked rhetorically: "They [the US soldiers] had a good time. You ever heard of the need to blow some steam off?"

Zimbardo's point is that almost all of us have the capacity to become "bad apples" if placed in a "bad barrel". But what barrel did Rush Limbaugh crawl out of? Can anyone be pushed to act immorally? Philip Zimbardo's answer will make you squirm. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil is not about religion. It's a landmark psychological tome about conditions that allow abuse to flourish in military, corporate, religious and other institutions. Zimbardo, a psychologist emeritus at Stanford University, created a fake prison in 1971 using random volunteers as guards and prisoners. He tells the story in the book's first half in a narrative loaded with drama, zeal and self-importance.

The experiment ended in less than a week. Even knowing the situation wasn't real, the volunteers engaged in over-the-top behavior. Guards became sadistic and brutal; prisoners suffered breakdowns. Zimbardo now sees modern applications, particularly in the abuses by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. We are all capable of evil under certain circumstances, the author concludes. Enron grew ripe for corporate fraud because "good" people kept silent about what was happening. The same is true of everything from corrupt cops to predator priests.

Zimbardo, who insists he's not an apologist for abuse, served as an expert witness for one of the court-martialed prison guards at Abu Ghraib. He also informally counseled another guard and his wife who, he says, called him "Uncle Phil." A lot of guards chose to look the other way, but Joe Darby reported the abuse, despite fears of retaliation. As with the fate of many corporate whistleblowers, the fallout for Darby was enormous.

Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa were heroes with a cause. One took a stand by sitting down; the other raised vast sums by embracing the poor. But the author says most heroic acts come from ordinary people unexpectedly thrust into bad situations. When the photos surfaced of Iraqi prisoners being taunted and tortured, the U.S. military brass blamed "a few bad apples" in the ranks. Catholic bishops are still singing that song about predator priests.

By focusing on apples, the barrel makers avoid responsibility, accountability and an infrastructure that tolerates abuse, Zimbardo says. They deflect attention from their role in "creating, sustaining, perpetuating, or conceding to the conditions ..."  Zimbardo says this kind of propaganda often works because most people consider evil as a quality inherent in some individuals and not in others. This line of thinking suggests that tyrants such as Hitler and Stalin were simply following their destiny. But the author makes a case that evil is learned. While the traditional approach focuses on who's to blame (i.e. the "sinner"), Zimbardo sidesteps the good vs. evil dichotomy and asks what conditions contributed to the behavior.

From genocide in Rwanda to suicide in Jonestown, the analysis and conclusions offered in the latter half of the book are compelling. Zimbardo ends on a positive note, by celebrating ordinary people making heroic choices at great personal cost. It's one of the best books ever published on the dynamics of institutional wrongdoing -- so eerily on the mark in painting the picture that I read it twice. But the book is ill-served by the demonic title and, at 600 pages, is more than twice the length needed. Zimbardo, a past president of the American Psychological Association, says he began the book 30 years ago under a different publisher. Like many in academia, he spews every thought rather than pruning to the relevant detail.

Zimbardo was the creator of the infamous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE), where he randomly divided a group of normal students into guards and prisoners and simulated a prison environment. After the fifth day he had to terminate the experiment because of the abuse "guards" were inflicting on the "prisoners." Zimbardo went on to a distinguished career in psychology. He is now professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University.

"Any deed that any human being has ever committed, however horrible, is possible for any of us -- under the right or wrong situational circumstances," he says. "That knowledge does not excuse evil; rather, it democratizes it, sharing its blame among ordinary actors rather than declaring it the province only of deviants and despots -- of them but not us." Zimbardo's main thesis is that situational power can overcome individual power. His book analyses the nature of situational and systemic power. He describes his own descent into madness -- allowing the SPE to continue despite the obvious abuses in the first few days -- until his girlfriend (a graduate student who became his wife and a noted researcher herself) provided him with a major dose of reality on the fifth day, by saying simply: "What you are doing to these boys is a terrible thing!" That finally brought Zimbardo to a measure of sanity.

What can transform us into evil-doers? Zimbardo says it is "the systematic manipulation of the most mundane aspects of human nature over time in confining settings." It is ultimately the desire of all of us not to be too different, to go along with the majority, coupled with a very gradually increasing set of more extreme actions, in which individual accountability and opportunity to self-evaluate are both reduced.  Eight out of 16 chapters are devoted to a day-to-day account of the SPE, and two more chapters analyze what the SPE taught psychologists.

Two more chapters provide a detailed analysis of Abu Ghraib (Zimbardo served as an expert witness for the defense of Chip Frederick, one of the accused guards). As well, in two more chapters Zimbardo provides fascinating (and depressing) summaries of major experiments and experiences, including the Milgram study (subjects who willingly administered what they thought were overwhelmingly painful electric shocks), the classroom experiments (the brown eyes vs. the blue eyes, and the Third Wave -- both of which created Nazi-like group dynamics), the Jim Jones mass-suicide tragedy, and the incredible scam where persons pretending to be police officers telephoned McDonald's managers all over the United States and persuaded them to subject employees to strip searches and, in some cases, sexual abuses.

In all these cases, moral and upright people, normal in all respects, succumbed to the immoral suggestions of persons acting in some authority over them, and either did evil, or was willing to do evil, in the name of some principle which, at the time, seemed to be more important. Although the bulk of this book appears anecdotal, it is brought together by clear analysis and a synthesis of compelling research (including fascinating endnotes, which should have been footnotes). Zimbardo's aim is to convince each of us that we cannot afford to be superior to those he describes (including himself).
Philip Zimbardo challenges the interpretation of "bad apples" in "The Lucifer Effect." He sees "bad barrels" instead. While asserting repeatedly that no one is absolved of personal responsibility for immoral acts, he argues that efforts to understand human behavior require examination of the situation and the system that influence that conduct. He insists that the reader abandon the "us/them" view and consider how he or she would react in a similar place. Zimbardo's understanding of the interplay of forces that can corrupt good people into performing evil acts grew originally from a famous study he conducted in 1971, the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE).

The author and his colleagues enlisted a group of student volunteers, all of whom were of good character and mental health, and randomly assigned them to play the role of inmates or guards in a "prison" created in the basement of a Stanford University building. After only a few days, the participants, including the "warden" Zimbardo, were enveloped by the situation and absorbed in their positions. Most significantly, the "guards" came to view the "prisoners" as subhuman and to treat them more and more abusively. The experiment was ended after six days, but only when a nonparticipating colleague insisted to Zimbardo that the students were suffering. The SPE has been referenced many times as a way to understand how good people can turn evil.

About half the book is taken up with recounting the Stanford experiment in minute detail, and Zimbardo seems determined not only to explain his work but to apologize repeatedly to anyone who may have been hurt during the study. He then applies the SPE to Abu Ghraib. The situation at the Iraqi prison was grim. Men and women untrained as interrogators, lived night and day in barren ugliness, filth and decay (for example, Abu Ghraib had no running water). The soldiers were pressured by anonymous civilian intelligence officers to get information any way they could. They dealt with inmates who could be blamed for the danger in which the troops had to survive. Is it surprising that some of them -- ordinary men and women -- were able to dehumanize their captives? Zimbardo paints a relatively sympathetic portrait of most of the soldiers blamed for the abuses and places the real responsibility higher up the chain of command.

It may be that Zimbardo has provided too much detail to recommend this 500-page book to a general audience. His provocative argument -- that evil behavior is contingent on individuals acting in a situation that operates within a system and that the situation and the structure facilitate the wrongdoing -- is well worth hearing. Unfortunately, in this book he has embedded that argument in an exhaustive summary of the SPE, a lengthy review of the literature and a well-intentioned but innocuous chapter on how to be a hero.

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil By Philip Zimbaro
Reviewed by Mary Atwell. "WHY GOOD PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS." Roanoke Times & World News. Roanoke Times Titles Acct. 2007.
Wheeler, Stuart. "Only obeying orders." The Spectator. Spectator. 2007.
Josh Richman. "Rumsfeld selection draws faculty ire." Oakland Tribune. ANG Newspapers. 2007.

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