Re: Iraq: Responses to Zimbardo

From: Oudeyis (
Date: Wed May 12 2004 - 12:38:25 PDT

     The lecturer explained the political dimensions of the events he
described as functions of culturally induced disability to regard facts
clearly. I've heard Palestinian and Israeli intellectuals describe each
others partizanship in exactly the same manner.

     The complexity of these event sometime boggles the imagination. I
recall reading that an American or British diplomat reported that less than
a month after Kirov's murder (the ostensible excuse for Stalin's liquidation
of all his "enemies" in the party, the army and soviet society in general)
Moscow taxi drivers talked quite freely of Stalin's responsibilty for the
murder. A propos the 1937 coup d'etat of Stalin, the reportage of Europeans
and Americans - including John Dewey - concerning the Stalinist repression
was firmly rejected and ignored by CP members in Europe and the US as
Capitalist propaganda. This is not forgetfulness, rather it is as I wrote
earlier, the choice of preferred interpretation under circumstances of
intense social and political mobilization. I don't know how the Khruschev
revelations effected the Russians, it had tremendous repercussions for CP
members in Europe and the US; suicides, the fragmentation of circles of
intimate friends, anomic cynicism, and so on. In my view the strength of
this reaction to the Khruschev revelations surely indicates that the
decision - and it is a decision - to interpret facts in one way or another
is consciously taken and that the known alternatives are not forgotten, just
repressed. Though I don't know your grandma, it makes a lot of sense to me
that she was all too aware of the possibility that her 16 neighbors had been
caught up in Stalin's Red Terror, but chose to think otherwise since the
alternative could only result in the worst kind of anomic cynicism or active
opposition to Stalin and her own destruction. This last century has seen
far too many of these terrible choices, and there doesn't appear to be any
respite from them in this century either.
Highest regards,

By the way, it looks like we've closed the circle. Remember how this
discussion started? On the question of life and survival under conditions
of intense threat produced by extreme pressures for compliance in mass
society; totalitarian or not.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Eugene Matusov" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 5:37 PM
Subject: RE: Iraq: Responses to Zimbardo

> Dear Alisa--
> I did not mean any cultural phenomenon with regard not seeing the
> between Truth and ideology but rather a totalitarian phenomenon (Victor, I
> wonder if during the lecture you mentioned, the phenomenon was explained
> from cultural versus political perspective or both). For example, my
> claimed that she did not know anything about Stalinist repressions until
> Khrutsov revealed them at the end of 1950s. However, on another account
> told me that 16 neighbors "disappeared" from the communal apartment she
> lived (in Moscow) at one night in 1937. I saw many times when older
> generation completely suppressed their personal experiences and accepted
> official propaganda in the Soviet Union (read Jim Wertsch's recent book on
> remembering where he discusses this phenomenon). This suppression of the
> truth by the official ideology/propaganda seemed a defensive mechanism to
> cope with fear and to be caught by numerous spies that were around at that
> terrible time (cf. Freud). Based on many stories of my Vietnamese friends
> and literature about Vietnamese concentration camps, I have all suspicions
> that Communist Vietnam was similar to Stalinist Soviet Union in this
> I was raised during Brezhnev's era of so-called "stagnation" when
> repressions did not have mass character and were not so deadly, that is
> probably why the phenomenon was not so strong in my generation...
> What do you think?
> Eugene
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: []
> > Sent: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 11:02 AM
> > To:
> > Subject: RE: Iraq: Responses to Zimbardo
> >
> > Victor wrote:
> > > > In the mid '60s I attended a lecture on Vietnamese social psychology
> > by an
> > > > American Anthropologist working either for the DOD or the CIA. It
> > > > pure
> > > > nonsense; something about how the people of VN were incapable of
> > knowing
> > > > the
> > > > difference between Truth (what really happened) and their ideology.
> >
> > Eugene replied:
> > > The lecture might be stupid CIA and DOD propaganda, but the phenomenon
> > it
> > > focused on was not. When I was in college in mid 70s we had a lot of
> > > Vietnamese students. I made a few friends among them and they told me
> > lot
> > > of stories that make no much difference between Vietnamese and Soviet
> > > totalitarian socialist systems. You can read Soviet and Czech
> > > describing and analyzing this phenomenon. I have first hand account of
> > it
> > > because older generations raised under Stalin were very much like
> > >
> > > I think we should be very careful avoiding demonizing one side and
> > > glorifying another side. The gold rule is that there are no gold
> > > Local historical circumstances are very important and should be
> > considered
> > > holistically.
> >
> > 1. there is no such thing as the one objective truth - this belief has
> > mislead
> > many scientists (especially social scientists) before Ernst Mach (1838-
> > 1916),
> > Einstein, Whorf et al. discovered relativity. As Pyenson, L. & Sheets-
> > Pyenson,
> > S. (1999) [Servants of nature: A history of scientific institutions,
> > enterprises and sensibilities, London: W.W. Norton & Co.] wrote:
> > "Relativism
> > emerged rather suddenly at the end of the nineteenth century, when
> > European
> > thinkers had been seeking the grail of absolute truth. (.) Once it
> > apparent that truth had countless facets, speculative thinkers changed
> > focus on critical epistemology: if they could not say what was forever
> > true,
> > they could establish how current notions of nature had developed." (p.
> > 428)
> > 2. From what I personally know about Oriental (i.e. Asian) Culture
> > are
> > not necessarily considered something tangible or "scientific". E.g. in
> > Indian
> > etc. culture "Karma" is seen as a fact of life like birth, death etc. So
> > it
> > doesn't surprise me that Western scientist would define Eastern
> > as 'not knowing the difference between truth and ideology'.
> >
> > Alisa L.
> >
> > -------------------------------------------------
> > This mail sent through IMP:

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