Friday, June 27, 2008


It was Monday morning at Oceanside’s El Camino High School when a uniformed officer entered a classroom to announce that several students had been killed in a drunk-driving accident. The officer offered a brief eulogy, placed a rose on a deceased student’s empty seat, and left.

This solemn scenario was repeated in twenty junior and senior classrooms. Incredibly, many of the students (and others misinformed via cell phones) were left to marinate in their grief for two hours before an assembly was held that made it clear their classmates were really alive.

In an athletic field demonstration the artificially-bloodied bodies of the presumed-dead students were pulled from a wrecked vehicle by emergency personnel. It was an ironic way of reversing the belief that their friends and acquaintances were dead.

Some students were angry at being emotionally manipulated in order to make a point about prom night safety—at being involuntarily incorporated into a dramatic scheme that makes driving-school’s “Red Asphalt” films seem tame by comparison. Others were consoled at the thought that helping just one person justifies everything. Unfortunately, adults who approved this extreme variant of the “Every 15 Minutes” program offered the same clichéd rationale—a costless benefit analysis.

On the other hand, Richard Yoast, director of the American Medical Association’s Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, claims that data for the effectiveness of this scared-straight approach is lacking—an observation conceded by the program’s national founder, Dean Wilson, who insisted that El Camino’s event was “not what we teach.”

When I read about this well-intentioned deception, it brought to mind the experiments conducted at Yale University by Stanley Milgram in the early 1960s. Milgram’s work involved tricking persons into thinking they were administering electrical shocks to individuals who were taking part in a “learning” program.

Wrong answers to questions called for ever-higher levels of electrical shocks. Things were set up so that control-board operators could hear steadily increasing cries of agony and pleas for help coming from the “learners”—followed at a certain stage by total silence.

The control-board operators didn’t know that they were, in fact, the real subjects of the experiment. Nor did they know that the “learners” were part of an elaborate ruse to see how far the volunteers would go in obeying the voice of authority.

The results of the experiment were surprising on two levels. First, two-thirds of the volunteers continued to obey the man in the white smock even when it appeared that the “learner” was being fried to death. Second, the experiment demonstrated Milgram’s own appalling willingness to manipulate human beings to gain some dissertation material on human motivation.

Today, lying for a “good cause” has become a way of life for many activists. Truth is considered of small value compared to the good that can be done by spreading lies.

To conceal the primary transmission factors in the epidemic, AIDS was declared to be an equal-opportunity disease that’s just as likely to affect heterosexuals—a lie. To promote a health-uber-alles agenda, even occasional contact with secondhand smoke was portrayed as a mortal danger—a lie. To heighten the victimization status of women and to forge a clear link between male contact sports and battery, Super Bowl Sunday was solemnly declared to be the day on which most women are beaten by their spouses—a lie. And to scare gullible lemmings into ceding control of their lives to eco-priests, head charlatan Al Gore inserts lies about twenty-foot ocean-level increases into presentations filled with distortions and speculative half-truths.

In truth, those who are willing to lie for the sake of a political agenda are also willing, for the same cause, to manipulate human beings like maze rats.

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