Deviance in the Military

This weeks’ writing assignment is to “discuss how members of a military unit could openly bring themselves to commit murder against some individuals and not feel any sense of deviance or criminal wrongdoing for the act. Be sure to include ideas from the work of Stanley Milgram in your answer. ”

In the 1960’s, Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment at Yale University regarding the relationship between obedience and authority where local residents, were asked to give harmful electric shocks-up to somebody because the conductors of the experiment had “commanded” them to, despite the fact that the victim did not do anything to deserve the shocks.

The victim was actually an actor who did not receive shocks, but this was not revealed to the subjects until the end of the experiment. But, during the experiment itself, the experience was a powerfully real and gripping one for most participants. (stanleymilgram. com) In this experiment, 37 out of 40 participants administered the full range of shocks up to 450 volts, the highest obedience rate Milgram found in his whole experiment.

According to

Milgram, the subject shifted the responsibility of harming the subjects onto another person and did not blame themselves for the result of inflicting pain on an innocent person. This resembles real-life incidents in which people see themselves as merely cogs in a machine, just “doing their job,” allowing them to avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions. ” (absoluteastronomy. com) It seems that Milgram makes a good point in his findings, that if a person is asked to do something by an authority figure, they feel that it is an “approved” action.

They are given positive sanctions for committing an act that has a possible negative effect. In regards to the military, the soldiers have commanding officers are giving them orders to go into battle to possibly commit murder. Although they are given commands, I do not believe that their decision DEVIANCE 3 to commit these “crimes” are in full, because of the order. What these men and women see on a daily basis is beyond what a civilian can even comprehend. My father was a door-gunner in the Vietnam War. Although I don’t think he ever wanted

me to know this story, at his funeral some of his “army buddies” told me something that I had never known about. In my fathers’ time in Vietnam, he watched as an eight or nine year old boy that his company was befriending and giving candy to shot his commanding officer in the back of the head and then opened fire at the rest of the soldiers. After watching that, his entire company defended themselves by opening fire on that child and the others that were with him, who were also carrying guns and preparing to shoot them.

Whereas situations like this are common during war – children being forced into battle – sometimes there is no choice but to defend yourself. I do believe that Milgram was correct in his assessment, but there are situations that are beyond “command” and not all soldiers that have killed someone can be considered a murderer – they may, by some, be considered a hero.

My fathers’ life was saved by his team because they shot and killed this child that would have killed all of them. I apologize for going off topic a bit, but I feel that this story is one that needs to be told when referring to “murder” by soldiers to get a realistic view of situations. I feel that soldiers are willing to kill (or be killed) because they are fighting for what they are told is the “right thing”, although this may only be the right thing in our culture, not necessarily in the culture of the place these soldiers are being brought to. They are given guns and told that it’s alright to use them to defend themselves.

They are told that they are fighting for our country, but the issues that they are fighting against are sometimes not even issues of this country. DEVIANCE 4 I was once told that U. S. Marines are brainwashed when they are in basic training. Although I’m not sure of the truth to that statement, I can see where it could be considered that because of their new ability to kill without remorse (granted, some aren’t capable of doing this without remorse and are usually discharged from the service). They are told that this is the right thing to do and because of that, they do it.

I do believe that all variations listed in our textbook also take part in their decision to kill though. Variation by Place – it is okay to kill when in Iraq, but these men and women also know that it’s not alright to murder an Iraqi on the streets of New York City. Variation by Situation – even in Iraq, they are not going to openly shoot at a woman walking down the street with groceries, but they would most likely shoot at a person walking down the street with an AK-47 or with explosives strapped to their chest. DEVIANCE 5 References Books: Basirico, L. , Cashion, B.

G. , Eshleman, J. R. (2009). Introduction to Sociology. Redding, CA: BVT Publishing. Websites: Author Unknown; (Date Unknown); Wikipedia: Stanley Milgram http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Stanley_Milgram#Anti-social_behavior_experiment Author Unknown; (Date Unknown); About. com: Milgram Experiment http://psychology. about. com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram. htm Blass, T. Ph. D. ; (2007); StanleyMilgrim. com http://www. stanleymilgram. com/ Author Unknown; (Date Unknown); absoluteastromomy. com: Stanley Milgram http://www. absoluteastronomy. com/topics/Stanley_Milgram.