Wednesday, October 27, 2004

You will do what I say

In the classic Asch conformity experiment, a volunteer sits together with a few other confederates to do a very simple task. Look at three lines of different lengths and decide which one most matches the length of a fourth line. It's straightforward. However, there's a catch. The conferederates will intentionally say the wrong answer, i.e., "oh, I think this line (2cm) is longer than this line (5cm)." The volunteer, not knowing that the confederates are in the loop, takes all the additional comments into account. It's shocking, but 74% of volunteers will waver in their convictions at least one time, abandon what they really know all along, and go along with the group just because it's the fashionable thing to do. This happens even in the total absense of explicit coersion and in the presense of total strangers. It's hard work not to conform. Mr. Asch manipulated the variables and found that the extent of conformity could be reduced if certain things happened, including, I think, a most crucial thing: if there was a dissenter in the group. This morning came the shocking news that Australia's top spy at ASIO (Australia's CIA equivalent) has decided to dissent. It's like this huge bubble that those hardliners are in, believing in something and taking lots of people in as well to believe that 'the war on terror will not increase the threat of terrorists striking back.' Howard, Downer and Bush has till this day decided to conform to each other and not admitting that simple fact.

ASIO Director Richard says, "it is Australian interests overseas that are at greater risk because of Iraq, especially those in the Middle East... the coalition campaign in Iraq has helped Al Qaeda recruit potential terrorists...Iraq has provided Al Qaeda with propaganda in recruitment opportunities and it only stands to reason that they would have some success... it has provided another justification or rationalisation for acts of terrorism... it has increased the threat against Australian interests in the Middle East."

This sort of assessment should have been made before the war began. But things are beginning to turn. John Kerry punched out of the bubble, and dissented in the first debate. That started the ball rolling...and I hope it keeps on rolling...because I think a 3cm line is not really longer than a 5 cm line... And oh yeah, I usually listen to country music, but Eminem has a new Bush-protest video out. It's very, very impressive.

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