to internalise what was said about them. The deterioration of sanitary conditions created an ‘ecology of dehumanisation’ as the guards perceived the sweaty, dirty, smelly inmates as ever more contemptible. Zimbardo observed that as long as the guards believed themselves to be essentially decent they could go on harming the inmates indefinitely. They simply went to greater lengths to rationalise their behaviour. This paradox was one of his most striking insights. It caused him to view the essentialisation of goodness and evil as potentially one of the most destructive human traits. The Stanford prison experiment was hugely influential. Social psychologists and historians subsequently used it to explain the origins of mass atrocity in various contexts. Most notably, Christopher Browning found situational pressures the best explanation for the behaviour of the Germans in Reserve Police Battalion 101, who shot to death thousands of Jews in Poland in 1941–42. However, Browning’s analysis has been questioned, not least by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Indeed, cases of Nazi atrocities, which Zimbardo constantly invokes as both proof and evidence of his thesis, expose the weakness of the entire project.
The Nazi killing fields were not a tabula rasa and the perpetrators were not innocents. The Germans saw their victims through lenses tinted by ethnology, geography, religion, nationalism, and racism. Yet Zimbardo’s explanatory framework relegates ideology to insignificance. To him, ‘Ideology is a system or proposition that usually legitimises whatever means are necessary to attain an ultimate goal’. It is precisely because his volunteers were ‘ordinary’, with no ideological baggage, that their conduct tells us so little. Ideology sets the goals. The American military police did not arrive in Abu Ghraib as a bunch of innocents. They were Christians transported on a ‘crusade’ to a region that had been stigmatised in US popular culture for decades, and thrust into a Muslim country full of ‘towel heads’. While Zimbardo is undoubtedly correct that the abuses arose from poor training, lack of resources, appalling leadership and malign instructions from on high, he cannot simply blame ‘the System’. Ultimately he reduces the perpetrators to puppets of anonymous forces, part of a vast conspiracy in which they are almost as helpless as their victims. To order this book at £15.19, see LR Bookshop on page 37
P R I Z E C R O S S W O R D ACROSS 1 Aluminium, Cobalt and Tritium used twice by author (6) 4 Second fruit with asparagus shoot (5) 9 Biscuit taken with drink? (7) 10 Useful quality a Hardy heroine rejected (5) 11 Ahospital intern moved English poet (1.1.7) 12 Born to meet daughter’s requirement (4) 13 Novelist’s depressions (5) 16 Missing introduction to Callas operatic solo (4) 19 Cover for book?(9) 21 Small hole not completed by pack animal (5) 22 One tightly packed into function crossing a road (7) 23 One might wager this is deadly to Stoker’s subject?(5) 24Piece heard in darkness (6)
Oxford University Presshas generously decided to sponsor the prizes for this month’s crossword. Five winners will be selected from the correct puzzles received by noon on 16 August 2007. Each will receive a copy of the magnificentOxford Dictionary of English . The winners of our July competition are.Mr R Snailham of Windsor, Rodney Dingle of Devon, Clive Murphy of Brick Lane, Sandra Moore of Suffolk, and Anais Gutowska of London. Each will receive a copy of The Proms, published by Thames & Hudson.
Answers to the July competition: ACROSS: 4 Palace, 7 Passim, 8 Opinions, 9 Wide, 10 Strum, 12 Eden, 18 Rheumy, 19 Upkeep, 20 Bale, 23 Spine, 27 Lion, 28 Allegory, 29 League, 30 Tsetse. DOWN: 1 Satin, 2 Ashes, 3 Amour, 4 Priam, 5 Loire, 6 Canoe, 11Tome, 13 Diet, 14 Nips, 15 Crab, 16 Deal, 17 Spin, 21 Atlas, 22 Event, 23 Stowe, 24 Idyll, 25 Elgar, 26 Vogue.
LITERARY REVIEW August 2007
DOWN 1 Reddish-brown and golden glow (6) 2 Duo overthrow the French (6) 3 Excellent piece turned up with bone (5) 5 Paltry amount paid for Schulz cartoon (7) 6 Suppose fool and yours truly have you, say, taken in (6) 7 Compiler sets record, one gathered by army following soldier (11) 8 Weight of tablet (5) 13 Sorcerer making conflict over stretch of canal (7) 14 Breathing apparatus for young creature in South Africa (5) 15 Rain lightly covering state in hard stuff (6) 17 Travelling on horseback to part of Yorkshire (6) 18 Appearance in period leading up to party season (6) 20 One taking spin around Italian city (5)