A Man Needs A Fish Like A Woman Needs a Bicycle
Thursday, May 13, 2004
WHY WHAT GOES ON IN A PRISON IS NOT THE SAME AS FRAT HAZING, OR, CONTEXT IS EVRYTHING I watch with wonder as conservative pundits want to claim that the Au Ghraib scandal is not really that bad.
This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?

I do not know if Mr. Limbaugh and others really believe this. But assuming this is a "good faith" effort to argue that the US has over-reacted to events is Abu Ghraib
I would like to respond:

1. The issue of coercion is paramount here. Frat hazings at least have a veneer of volition about them. After all, this is supposed to be something I suffer so that I can be "one of the gang." Goings on in Abu Ghraib were not voluntary. ANd I do not get to join the guys who dish it out if I pass the initiation. I just hopefully get out in one piece.

2. No frat hazee thinks for a minute that he will die if he doesn't follow through with a command. True, they might not get into the fraternity, but I submit, perhaps unfairly, that the threat of death, or severe physical abuse is an order or orders of magnitude worse than the social disappointment that someone feels regarding their frat hazing experience (granting the possibility of a bad hazing experience). Remember, these prisoners will have known, or heard, or been told, or read somewhere that people who had resisted interrogation had DIED. In this case, putting someone on a box with electrodes and wire, is an horrifying experience, because they KNOW that this could be very real. After all, other prisoners had died in the prison at American hands.

3. Also, a prison is not a frat house. Bad things go on in prison--violence, etc, in a way that is much, much less likely in a college or university environment. Centres of higher learning are after all, places primarily for the exercise of rational functions for those who attend them. They are hopefully designed to create active bodies and minds. Prisons are not. They are designed to create docile, compliant bodies and minds. I do not have to have a multitude of deaths to make a prisoner fear this possible outcome, no matter how remote it might actually be. That is an occupational hazard of prison. We are not shocked when a prisoner dies--after all, prisons are violent places in our perceptions. We don't feel that way with universities. Violence has no place there, and we are shocked when it happens. For comparison, consider how you or I might react if we hear of a murder, robbery, or a rape in our neighbourhood. I would be edgier, even if nothing happened again for a year. Maybe lightning will strike twice...? Prisons are places where one has that sense of edginess continuously and in far greater degree than colleges, most neighbourhoods, etc.
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Thoughts on What One Experiences These Days

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Blogs I Read


Mike Spenis

Megan McArdle

Juan Cole

Joshua Micah Marshall



Emperor Misha I

Andrew Sullivan

Bob Somersby

John Quiggin

John Rogers


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