By Kevin Stoda
I don’t know to what extent the subject of this article on Milgram, Bush and Cheney has been raised before by historians and neurolinguistic programmers for further investigation.
However, with the continued irate public response to another U.S. Attorney General who promotes “water boarding” and other torture techniques, I have decided to start looking at the biographies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney closely and see if there is any apparent reason to not link the results of the seminal Stanley Milgram experiments (involving the study of how willingly Americans and others can be trained to become executioners on behalf of authority figures, etc.) and our American leaders today.
Within minutes of starting this research, I discovered that Milgram’s, the Yale psychologist’s, experiments were carried out starting in 1961 (with the first paper published in 1963, the year Bush entered Yale University).
At the time the experiments did not break any APA ethics. However, in the wake of the abuse apparent in such experiments, heavier restrictions from the APA have since been made—leading to little duplication of such experiments. That is they are illegal and/or for APA publication and other research purposes in the USA.
I also quickly discovered after doing just a little more research that Vice President Dick Cheney was certainly attending Yale at the time of these experiments.Could it be that Cheney either participated in these experiments or knew of the results of these experiments from first-hand participants (or actors or assistants involved in the experiment) in the early 1960s? When did he first know and what did he know? What did he think of such an experiment?
These Milgram obedience-experiments, begun in July 1961, were intended to emulate what occurred under the Germans under Nazism and Fascism in the 1930s and 1940s Europe. The experiment, involving 40 subjects at Yale , measured the willingness of unsuspecting-participants to (1) obey authorities and (2) to commit acts of torture on others—unto the point of death of the subjects.
Most introductions-to-psychology students are aware of Milgram’s study. He began the experiment in 1961 just as the Adolf Eichmann trial in Israel was wrapping up.
The procedure of the experiment is explained as follows: “A person comes to the laboratory and, in the context of a learning experiment, is told to give increasingly severe shocks to another person (who is actually an actor). The purpose of the experiment is to see how far a subject will proceed before refusing to comply with the experimenter’s instructions. Twenty-six of 40 subjects administered the highest shocks on the generator.”
Milgram notes, “ ‘Behavioral study of obedience’ was the first published account of a series of studies I had taken at Yale University on the response of individuals to destructive authority.”
DESTRUCTIVE AUTHORITY?Isn’t obeying an executive branch indirect or direct order to conduct water-boarding a good example of destructive authority? “Water boarding” is even against the law in the USA and in almost all lands around the world.
What is not mentioned in many reviews of Milgram’s seminal research is that Yale University is the home to a great number of CIA agents and public servants in the USA. As a matter of fact an almost identical statue of Nathan Hale stands at both Yale University and in front of the CIA federal building.
As is also well-known, Yale University is also home to the semi-infamous Skull and Bones Society (fraternity) to which President George W. Bush once belonged in the mid-1960s.
As in most traditional eastern fraternities, hazing—verging on torture—was not unknown throughout the 1960s while Bush was at Yale. What did Bush undergo in terms of acquiring obedience within a culture of authority worship back in the 1960s?QUESTIONS
(1) What is the relationship of Bush and Cheney to Milgram and similar obedience research?
(2) How has this experiment and others like it affected modern American history?