Bad Apples ?

Or Bad Barrel ?

The Journalists View:

Mary Riddell
Sunday May 9, 2004
The Observer

A new monster-in-chief

Lynndie England, trailing an Iraqi prisoner on the end of her dog leash, is the most loathed woman in the world. Cigarette in mouth, finger stabbing towards the genitals of naked victims, she is, according to one newspaper, 'the trailer trash torturer who shames the US'. Queens of violence, from Penthesilea of the Amazons to Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, can attract awe, but Lynndie is no upmarket she-devil. Instead, the response to the Abu Ghraib pictures sandwiches her somewhere between Myra Hindley and Maxine Carr in an all-women axis of evil.
England reminds me a little of Carr. Same childish physique, same small town background, same terrible taste in men. Though England's lover and co-abuser, Charles Graner, is hardly Ian Huntley, there is not much to commend a grinning torturer with a Bible fetish and an alleged history of wife-beating. Like Carr, England is a bit-player who came to symbolise a wider horror story. Back home, family and friends are trying to work out how a 'sweet, down-to-earth' paper-pusher who wanted to be a weather girl turned into a preening sexual predator.

The Mother's View:

She added that, according to her daughter, "nothing happened which wasn't ordered by higher up. They are trying to pin all of this on the lower ranks.
My daughter was just following orders. I think there's a conspiracy." She did not comment on the fact that all U.S. military personel are trained to distinguish between lawful and unlawful orders, and are required to refuse and report to a higher command any unlawful order.

The Neighbours View:

Colleen Kesner, a resident from England's hometown, said: "A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq. To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way that girls like Lynndie are raised... Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."

A Psychologists View:

When you put that set of horrendous work conditions and external factors together, it creates an evil barrel. You could put virtually anybody in it and you're going to get this kind of evil behavior. The Pentagon and the military say that the Abu Ghraib scandal is the result of a few bad apples in an otherwise good barrel. That's the dispositional analysis. The social psychologist in me, and the consensus among many of my colleagues in experimental social psychology, says that's the wrong analysis. It's not the bad apples, it's the bad barrels that corrupt good people. Understanding the abuses at this Iraqi prison starts with an analysis of both the situational and systematic forces operating on those soldiers working the night shift in that 'little shop of horrors.'

The Students View:

Do you think Lynndie England was just following orders?

Do you think that her behaviour at Abu Ghraib was due to her personality? She is just a Bad Apple?

Do you agree with the psychologist? The situation she found herself in caused her to do what she did? She found herself in a bad barrel?

What do you think you would do if you were in a similar situation?

In the interview below psychologist Phillip Zimbardo outlines two different approaches to explaining human behaviour, Situational analysis and Dispositional analysis. Read or listen to the interview, on the basis of the evidence presented would you describe yourself as a situationalist or a dispositionalist.

Link to a video interview with Phillip Zimbardo and a printed transcript of the interview

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