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Corrosive Shame
Therapy for Life
Old News
Not sure why, but I'm drawn to share the following text I picked up after some BBC-News inspired surfing.

After the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, psychiatrist William Gault studied the actions of Charlie Company which resulted in the murder of perhaps 500 unarmed Vietnamese citizens.

He discovered six factors that contributed to the massacre.

  1. the enemy is everywhere.

  2. the enemy is not human.

  3. no personal responsibility.

  4. the pressure to act.

  5. the natural dominance of the psychopath.

  6. firepower.

Hmmm, no chance of that happeneing again now is there... Surely by the time they get around to invading Iraq they'll have got over all the machissimo of superior firepower. Hang on, isn't this the same US which has been arguing for immunity for its troops from War Crime prosecutions?

And the man in charge at My Lai? Served 3 years in prison.

Might make you think, you never know...

Current Mood: blank blank
Current Music: Moby - Running

6 lies or Lie to me
oldnick From: oldnick Date: November 13th, 2002 06:47 am (UTC) (Link)
If you want a good read on the subject, I'd suggest

Grossman, D., On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Little, Brown and Co, 1995 (hardback), 1996 (paperback).

Dave Grossman is (was?) a US army officer, who I met back in 93-94 while he was finishing this book (and on an exchange based at Sandhurst). He did a talk at a number of conferences over here based on the content of his manuscript at that time. Very interesting chap.

I remember fixing him up as a speaker at Warwick Uni Psychological society (which is a fairly left-wing long haired bunch, especially amongst the lecturers) where they just didn't know how to take him. They started from a position of detesting where he came from, but found a lot of what he said surprising and very convincing.

Towards the end of writing his book he as getting very concerned about the effects of "sanitising" killing that computer games was having on the young, and I see that more recently he has written a book with someone else on this subject
kneeshooter From: kneeshooter Date: November 13th, 2002 07:55 am (UTC) (Link)
It's such a huge and complicated topic I almost didn't make the original post less it trivialise the event and accompanying debate.

I'd love to have a great all-conquering response, but I'm reminded of two things. First

First They Came for the Jews
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

Ok - so it could be a bit melodromatic - but if you translate "speaking out" as "being prepared to defend what is right" then it can be an argument for violence and even killing. However this is verging on the concept of "Just War" which I don't claim to understand in any depth.

Secondly an anecdote relating to the computer game issue. For years as a kiddie I played with toy guns. When I got a bit older I started hitting people with swords and pretending to kill them. I still do that, but I also do airsoft and point very realistic guns at people and again try and kill them. I play computer games where I toy with enemies after surrounding them, destroying their resources and generally laugh in their ugly faces... cough...

Oh - the point - I remember very clearly saying, in the way of 10 year olds, to my dad at one point "I know I like playing with guns dad, but I don't think I could ever kill anyone for real." I guess life meant something even then.

However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Like my boss... now give me 5 minutes, a pair of clippers and a BMW manual and lets see what I can engineer...
oldnick From: oldnick Date: November 13th, 2002 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)
One of Dave Grossman's main theses is that these days we are normally distanced from death; We don't see animals killed, we don't see relatives die. His worry is that the computer / video games by depicting death as they do, to people who never see real death, manage to accomplish in the young a distancing between the concepts of killing and death that the military would have dreamed of producing in conscripts a couple of generations ago.

Without going into massive detail, studies basically show that the more you distance the weapon operator from the detail of killing, the more effectively they will kill. Artillery crews will work harder to kill people they can't see than machine gun operators. The machine gunners are still an order of magnitude more effective than riflemen, as they are are part of a crew, and hence not individually responsible. The least effective killers are the individuals firing on their own.

Except of course for the 3% or so who are nutters, and very effective.

Now - if the computer games provide that distancing that allows normal people to fight as if they are part of that 3%..
dreamfire From: dreamfire Date: November 13th, 2002 10:11 am (UTC) (Link)

a completely uninformed opinion

I don't think the risk is there... the games distance things within the game...
once a confirmed gamer is faced with a real situation all the usual problems surface quite well..if anything media coverage of casualties provides an improvement on previous years where people rush to sign up in times of crisis and have no clue of anything but the glory of war.
the real issue is that the killing mechanisms themselves have become remote - sitting at a computer targetting and pushing buttons rather than squeezing a trigger feeling the kick back or even seeing the terrain you are firing at and the possibility of real people in it. Its the actual tech thats the issue not the hobby tech.
I wouldn't have agreed with this along time ago... at 18 I used to wear a string of wooden beads with peace written on round my neck... I got dragged - protesting the ethics - to a game of lazerquest for a mates 18th b'day... I had an absolute blast...and there was no question I since then still largely pacifist - just less up my own arse about it...
nowadays my only reason for not taking part in this kind of game very much is that I can't play stuff in 1st person and so lose too often...and don't have the stamina for the outdoor stuff. Very telling is that despite the fact the AO addiction occured through RP - alot of the late nights and days off work were taken up with pure teaming or even solo missions... and I know I could still never kill at first hand.
Of course everytime I fail to make it to a march against war I am killing by proxy consent... (or something)
kneeshooter From: kneeshooter Date: November 13th, 2002 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: a completely uninformed opinion

Even though this is dragging the conversation down into Sci-Fi - have you read "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card? Genocide by proxy via a computer game.
delvy From: delvy Date: November 13th, 2002 01:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: a completely uninformed opinion

Actually one of my favourite books, and scarely close to certain experiments carried out by US militray in the last 10 years. In fact I just lent it to my sister and had a conversation about the ethics of what they did at the school this morning.... (while we were jumpstarting my car...)
6 lies or Lie to me