In his book Obedience To Authority, Stanley Milgram describes how people can be persuaded to perpetrate heinous acts on their fellow man by adopting an “agentic state”, that is, they transfer the blame or guilt for their actions to some other figure; in his example, a man in a white lab coat prompting the subject to shock the victim with an electrical current in the name of science.
This is not a new discovery to anybody that has heard about people being thrown to the lions, sent to gulags or herded into boxcars and sent to the East. He has just shown this to be the case with a clinical study.
What seems strange is that the reverse of this syndrome seems to be the case as well.
In several recent instances, people that had confrontations with the TSA over X-rays
or attempted gropings found no fault with the perpetrators. One woman that was reduced to tears said that the TSA molesters “acted professionally.” So what? Does it excuse Mr. Capone’s or Mr. Moran’s knee breakers because they collect the protection money efficiently or even politely? Is it any solace to the Kulak that is murdered by Stalin’s myrmidons that they acted professionally? Knowing the German reputation for efficiency, it’s probably safe to say that many of Hitler’s henchmen acted professionally.
In the case of agents in a totalitarian system, they have the excuse that they themselves might be killed or tortured if they don’t do as they are told. So far, in our system it hasn’t come to that; they are acting of their own volition and are therefore wholly culpable.
Any tyrant has to rely on those below him to carry out his orders. He doesn’t have enough hands to accomplish his evil designs, so he has to have many little helpers.
On the top level there will usually be very few. The middle level will have a much larger number, but the bottom – where the boots hit the ground – there will be thousands or millions to enforce the tyrant’s will. Without millions of yes-men there can be no tyranny; this is why the petty bureaucrat, cop, code enforcement officer, TSA, DEA, IRS, EPA or other agent should be a total outcast as far as decent people are concerned.
These low level people are the enablers of tyranny. Without them, it makes no difference how malevolent the tyrant is; he must have many accomplices. This is why the goon who is “just doing his job” is more dangerous than the man at the top. He will do his job in most cases no matter what it is; his paycheck depends on it. He should be shunned and ostracized because he is a danger to society.
Many public employees claim that they will not comply if ordered to do some contemplated outrage. They will comply. They have already dulled their conscience and weakened their will incrementally. They should not be defended for being efficient.