Press "Enter" to skip to content

Mendocino County Today: Sunday, July 13, 2014

* * *

THE FULL MOON Saturday may seem huge, but it's just an illusion caused by its position in the sky. Two other supermoons will come later this summer on Aug. 10 and Sept. 9.

* * *

SUPERVISOR JOHN PINCHES offered this assessment of the Eel River and its tributaries last Tuesday at the July 8, 2014, Board meeting:

“I got a call about 6:30 this morning from my neighbor to the north making me aware of something. He said: John, the Eel River is going dry. That was not news to me because it's dry wherever it goes these days. It's not news to me also because I see what's going to happen. It's interesting that the state is taking away these post-1914 water rights and suspending their usage. But there's still no concentrated effort regarding the tributaries that go into the Eel. Most of them are already dry right now because of illegal — or perhaps some of them are legal probably — but we all know what crop they are watering. It's a massive amount of water. The City of Rio Dell is on the cutback list. So is the town of Scotia. When they have their water usage curtailed they are going to blame it all on the Potter Valley Project. They will say that the reason they are drying up is from the water going through the tunnel. So that will put further pressure to curtail or maybe eliminate the Potter Valley diversion of water. That doesn't need to happen. At some point in time someone has to get interested in all this massive amount of water that is diverted to the marijuana industry. When you have entire towns being curtailed like the city of Rio Dell or the town of Scotia, the towns get curtailed but yet a person can put in 600,000 or 800,000 marijuana plants and nobody seems to do anything about it. It's upside down. It's over the top. All these years I've been very supportive of mom-and-pop growers, but it's out of hand now, especially in the Eel River watershed. I don't know what will happen. The water board said they are afraid to do anything. But they are not afraid to curtail towns like Rio Dell or Scotia. That seems to happen. It's seems like the people who try to comply get hammered and the people who don't comply get away with everything. And we seem to be getting worse in that direction. The fact of the matter is the main stem of the Eel River will no longer be called a River, it will be called a dry rock bed in a couple of months because it is going dry, and I mean dry.”

Supervisor Carre Brown: “This was a discussion item with the State Water Resources Control Board about enforcement. We are taking away water rights from individuals but yet not doing enforcement on illegal diversion of those who do not have a right. We are very concerned about that, just as you expressed. I don't really know how they are going to handle it, but it was a hot topic sir, in our discussion. It was also indicated that any municipality like the city of Willits or Brooktrails, Lake Pillsbury, the water stored there in each of those, will not be impacted by these curtailment notices because that water was stored before the curtailment. But if we get a summer rain, let's say an inch, they cannot allow that to stay in storage. That will have to be, I guess you would say, let go from those storage facilities. Brooktrails indicated to us that as long as their water conservation sticks they should have a good water source supply up until February of 2015. I think the city of Willis will go longer. As far as Lake Pillsbury and the diversion, PG&E has a right to that storm water to use through the Hydro Plant. Once it goes through the Hydro Plant, Potter Valley Irrigation has a water right. The farmers in Potter Valley are being very careful. They want to see as much as possible go into Lake Mendocino to help their neighbors and friends out. But with the temporary change petition by Sonoma County Water Agency expired and it was not carried forth, that means right now there is 10 cubic feet per second going through going down the Eel and there are 75 cubic feet per second going out of our Lake. You can see that it is going down very quickly because I drive by it twice a day. The Sheriff's department did a huge marijuana bust in the Eel River watershed recently. I believe there was an illegal water diversion. I don't know how you handle that. Maybe the Sheriff would like to address that.”

Sheriff Tom Allman: “You may say that nobody is doing anything about the illegal diversions. I rarely correct you, Supervisor Pinches, but I will today. Our deputy sheriffs are taking this extremely seriously. In the last seven days —”

Pinches: “It's not just Mendocino County.”

Allman: “Let me talk about Mendocino County though. In the last seven days our deputies have arrested two marijuana growers for illegally diverting water. We arrested one man for filling his water tank and his water truck three times and selling the water. We have working relationships with every water District in the county. We are getting information and our deputies understand the need for enforcement of the theft of natural resources. I have been in contact with Sheriff Heaney from Trinity County and Sheriff Downey from Humboldt County and the three sheriffs are working together to pool our moneys together to have aerial surveillance in all three counties for illegal water diversion. I think what you are going to see at the state level is the Emerald triangle and their three sheriffs working together in ways that the rest of the state is not. I am really proud of what the deputies are doing. I'm not correcting you in saying that — you said on purpose that you were not aware of what we are doing. But we have increased our night shift patrols for the purpose of water theft and our aerial patrol for water diversion. I'm very happy with the tactics and the results we are getting.”

Pinches: “That's good to hear. The main point I am trying to make is that the Eel River dries up, then the pressure from the downstream users like Trinity County and Humboldt County and towns like Rio Dell and Scotia and areas like that, there will be more pressure to blame it all on the diversion, the Potter Valley diversion going through the tunnel. That's not the problem here. But everything is going to point to that and people will say if we stop that diversion that will solve the issues in the Eel River. That's the real issue. It's a political problem we have in Mendocino County because the position of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors for years has been to do away with that diversion anyway. So it just gives them more credence in the argument of doing away with it and blaming us. But this county cannot survive without that water coming through the tunnel. We have a real problem and we have a real political problem facing us here.”

Brown: “We are all doing the best job possible in educating others about the importance of water storage facilities, reservoirs. Humboldt County is very aware that without Lake Pillsbury there would be no water going down at all. That's why I'm looking at water bonds to give us additional reservoirs that need to be put in all over our county so we can take advantage of winter rainfall and use it for the dry periods. I do think these droughts are going to continue so we have got to do the planning. But we don’t have the money to do those plans, and we do not want to pass the expense on to ratepayers, but we will take advantage of these bonds. Our staff should work with the Sheriff and put pressure on the State Water Control Board to get some funding to us so we can do a better job than they are doing with enforcement.”

* * *

LAST MONTH, the San Francisco Giants called one of their ethnic cash-ins “Native American Heritage Night” during which a Native American woman named April Negrette spotted a white man wearing a headdress. She rightly objected, a scuffle broke out and Ms. Negrette was escorted out of the ballpark.

ONE OF THE TRULY great men of Mendocino County is a forgotten man called Steve Knight. Many of his descendants live in the County today not that our local historical societies seem aware of him. Knight, a smart, articulate man represented local Indians in Washington. It was his persistance that won the tribal recognitions for many Mendo and HumCo tribes. Without him, many Norcal Indians today would be landless.

I INVOKE STEVE KNIGHT in the context of Native American Night at the ballpark because he, too, objected to Native Americans appearing in headdresses during negotiations with the federal government, arguing that headdresses reinforced primitive stereotypes. White men in headdresses, of course, is doubly insulting.

STEVE KNIGHT was one of the founders of the California Indian Brotherhood whose first meeting was convened in Ukiah in the winter of 1926. His was among the most articulate voices in summarizing the transition from Mexican to American rule as it affected Mendocino County Indians. In his words, and they are the truest words we have, in capsule form, of Indian life in Mendocino County before the great murder:

“Mexican people built no missions up here, so the Indians were allowed to live pretty much as they had been before and after the Mexicans came, and the Indians were given certain areas of land to use to grow things for themselves. They built brush fences around them, had their homes there, planted gardens, had corn and everything they needed to eat on these places. When the Americans superseded the Mexicans the Indians were aware of the change — they seem to have known there was a change — they didn't resent the Americans coming in where there was just a few came in, but finally then the miners came in by the hundreds and by the thousands, then trouble arose between the Indians and the whites. Then the American government sent agents among the Indians to make treaties with them in order to get the Indians on reservations where they might be protected, but mostly to forestall Indian uprisings. These agents came out, made treaties with the Indians, promising them certain reservations. The Indians signed these treaties in good faith. They thought these treaties were final when they signed their name to them — they did not know it had to have the approval of the Senate of the United States, so the Indians were expecting to be moved onto the new reservations, but these new promised reservations were being filled up by white settlers. Then those Indians realized that they had been fooled. But the old people up to very recent times [the 1920s] believed that the government would make some other settlement with them. These treaties were pigeon-holed in the archives of the United States Senate for 50 years. No one ever saw them until after the 50 year term had expired. Someone then dug them up and made a few copies of some of the treaties. When these old Indians were told about the treaties having been recovered from the archives they became very much interested and told the younger Indians about how these treaties were made, by whom signed.”

BY 1850, the criminal drifters who had not struck it rich in the goldfields began wandering through Mendocino County's untouched magnitudes, much of it perfect country for the raising of sheep and cattle. Its seemingly empty solitude surprised these first white men. The rest of the state was already mostly claimed. The first permanent white residents of the remote mountains and canyons of the Northcoast were killers and outlaws, many of them on the run from the settled areas of the country. The law was a late arrival to Northern California and, I would say from my experience, never has fully prevailed. As the relentless sons of Missouri staked out Mendocino County's myriad, well-watered little valleys, they shot Indian men where they found them, helped themselves to Indian women, sold Indian children into slavery, rez-ed the Indians they hadn't managed to kill, indentured them, and segregated them for the next one hundred years.

UKIAH'S SCHOOLS were only integrated in 1924. Aggressively opposed by a majority of white residents, the Ukiah schools were finally pried open by court order in 1923 with Steve Knight leading the charge. The rest of the town remained segregated up through the 1950s with a nastiness as mean and low-down as the segregated American South. Indian women could not get their hair done in the town's beauty parlors, Indians were not allowed to try on clothes, let alone purchase them, in the shops of the county seat, Indians could eat only in one Chinese-owned restaurant, and Indians were allowed in one Indian-only section of the Ukiah Theater.

TWO DECORATED Indian veterans of World War Two were denied breakfast at the Blue Bird Cafe when they got off a northbound Greyhound. Ukiah wouldn’t get all the way colorblind until deep into the 1960s.

* * *


MAUREEN ‘MO’ MULHEREN, 35, has announced she will run for a seat on the Ukiah City Council. The candidate's father, James Mulheren, has also run unsuccessfully for the Council, his loss at least partially attributed to questions about his true address. Did he live inside the city limits or outside?

LITTLE BENJ THOMAS and Mary Anne Landis are not running for re-election. Only Phil ‘Red Phil’ Baldwin has said he will give it another go. Ms. Mulheren is a partner with Jennifer Bazzani in JLB Insurance.

SHE IS QUOTED in the Ukiah Daily Journal saying, “As a business owner, I see there are people [on the council] that aren't business owners making decisions for people trying to run businesses that they don't necessarily understand.”


KEVIN DOBLE, presently a member of the Ukiah City Planning Commission, has also announced that he will run for a Council seat. Doble enjoys a reputation as a solid, level headed guy. "Miss M.," a Council-watcher says, "would probably be the most conservative council member in some time, other than Crane, but she commands more than a room temp IQ and will possibly be willing to form her own opinion as opposed to accepting her weekly download from the City Manager like Rodin, Landis and Thomas always have."

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, July 12, 2014

Bennett-K, Bennett-T, Biord, Cranford, Dickson, Graham-Stevens
Bennett-K, Bennett-T, Biord, Cranford, Dickson, Graham-Stevens

KENNETH BENNETT, Willits. Probation revoked.

TIMOTHY BENNETT, Laytonville. Probation revoked.

CHRISTOPHER BIORD, Fort Bragg. Public intoxication. (Frequent flier.)

CORY CRANFORD, Willits. Felony failure to appear, five counts (!).

WESLEY DICKSON, Calpella. Petty theft, probation revoked.

RYAN GRAHAM-STEVENS, Mendocino. Battery.

Hensley, Oliver, Ott, Owings, Pitcher, Smith
Hensley, Oliver, Ott, Owings, Pitcher, Smith

CHARLES HENSLEY, Ukiah. Public intoxication, probation revoked. (Frequent flier.)

FORD OLIVER, Covelo. DUI (both alcohol and drugs).

LORNA OTT, Ukiah. Felony domestic violence.

JANICE OWINGS, Fort Bragg. Fighting, trespassing, obstructing an officer. (Frequent flier.)

RAYMOND PITCHER, Fort Bragg. Felony domestic violence, felony death threat, felony witness intimidation.

NIA SMITH, Mendocino. Probation revoked. (Frequent flier.)

RYAN STEVENS, Mendocino. Misdemeanor battery.  (Picture not available.)

JOHN WATKINS, Forest Lake, Minnesota. Obstructing an officer. (Picture not available.)

* * *

ACCORDING TO CHRIS COOK of Cook and Associates, the phone of Jeff Joseph, a Louisiana man who is believed missing in the area, last pinged off a cell tower in the Bloody Camp area of Hoopa on June 21 about 11:20 a.m. Cook’s private investigations agency has been retained by Joseph’s family to help with the search. So far information that she has gathered from phone records and calls made by him on the 20th and 21st have offered some clues as to what areas of Northern California need to be checked.


Information provided by the family, Cook said, indicates that Joseph, left Southern California with the intention of heading eventually to property he leased downriver of Weitchpec. Joseph’s phone records show cell phone tower pinging that is consistent with him driving up I-5 on the 20th and apparently stopping in Sacramento for some time.

Then, later, the cell tower records show a ping from near Williams. But Cook says they don’t know what route he took from there. Cook said that Joseph made a call to an acquaintance on the East Coast about 7:30 a.m. on the 21st and shortly later texted a friend in Louisiana. The first acquaintance stated that Joseph said he driven all night from Southern California, he was in good spirits and “killing time” waiting to meet up with someone. The next ping from Joseph’s phone comes about 11:20 a.m. from the Bloody Camp Cell Tower. The cell tower is about 20 miles from Joseph’s intended destination and provides coverage for a large area.

There has been no phone activity since 11:20 on the morning of the 21st, Cook noted. But the phone records have been helpful. “It narrows down our search somewhat,” Cook explained.

So far, she said, several law enforcement agencies have helped search. “The Highway Patrol has been very helpful,” she explained. “They have searched the area more than once by plane.”

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department is also working to find Joseph, Cook explained, and interviewed several subjects known to Jeff Joseph. “My job is to make sure everyone knows what each agency is doing,” she said.

Joseph’s missing person case was originally initiated in Ventura County because his brother lives there but a case was also opened with Los Angeles Police Department because Joseph had a residence in that area so those agencies are also involved in the investigation

David Joseph, the missing man’s brother, came up to the Humboldt area for two days. “Searching those roads seems like it is a job for professionals,” he noted. People have told him that it isn’t safe for him to search the area himself. “Seems like there is a lot of tension in that area,” he said.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, he said, was supposed to have searched his brother’s place yesterday. The current tenants would not allow him to go there himself.

Cook and Joseph’s family are asking the public for help. “It would be helpful to know [Jeff Joseph’s] route,” Cook said. He wasn’t only going to his property he was intending on meeting someone in Humboldt County prior to going to his place. Cook wonders, did anyone see Joseph’s 1998 green RAV4 or did they see him? Did he drive across on Hwy 36 or 299? Did he go to the Coast first and then head back towards Weitchpec? The more we know, she said, the quicker we can zoom in on answers for Joseph’s worried family.


* * *


Winners & Losers


The same politicians who decry the inequality gap between the rich and the poor are widening it in exchange for getting re-elected.

It is quite simple and clever: They raise taxes and enact business-killing regulations for everyone under the pretense that these actions will benefit the citizens. Then, those who have the money and the connections to pressure the politicians threaten them to withhold political contributions or move their business outside the city, state or country. The politicians then give them tax breaks or exemptions so that they can prosper. Those who don't have the money or the clout suffer the consequences of higher taxes and more regulations and earn less.

There are many examples: exemptions and delays for large corporations on Obamacare, reduction in taxes for Twitter to remain in San Francisco, tax breaks for the film industry to produce movies in California. Politicians know full well how to stimulate the economy, but that is not a priority — getting re-elected is.

They pick winners and losers in order to remain in power. Unfortunately, many of us losers don't get the picture and keep re-electing them.

Claudio Mariotta, San Francisco

* * *


I want to go with the one I love.

I do not want to calculate the cost.

I do not want to think about whether it's good.

I do not want to know whether he loves me.

I want to go with whom I love.

— Brecht

* * *

“NOW I WILL TELL YOU the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

George Orwell, 1984

* * *


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire, Israel on Saturday widened its range of Gaza bombing targets to civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties and announced it would hit northern Gaza "with great force" to prevent rocket attacks from there on Israel. More than 156 Palestinians have been killed in five days of bombardment.

One of the Israeli strikes hit a center for the disabled where Palestinians said two patients were killed and four people seriously hurt. In a second attack, on Saturday evening, an Israeli warplane flattened the home of Gaza's police chief and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people, officials said.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council called unanimously for a cease-fire, while Britain's foreign minister said he will discuss cease-fire efforts with his American, French and German counterparts on Sunday.

So far, neither Israel nor Gaza's Hamas rulers have signaled willingness to stop.

Israel has carried out more than 1,200 air strikes this week to try to diminish Hamas' ability to fire rockets at Israel, and the chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz, said Saturday there would be more strikes, especially in northern Gaza near the Israeli border.

"We are going to attack there with great force in the next 24 hours due to a very large concentration of Hamas efforts in that area," he said. Late Saturday, the military said it was ordering Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate "for their own safety."

Gaza's Interior Ministry urged residents in the area to ignore Israel's warnings and to stay in their homes, saying the announcement was Israeli "psychological warfare" and an attempt to create confusion.

Shortly after the Israeli announcement, an Israeli warplane struck the home of the Gaza police chief, Taysir al-Batsh, killing at least 18 people and wounding 50, said Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra. He said worshippers were leaving the mosque after evening prayers at the time of the strike and that some people are believed to be trapped under the rubble.

Meanwhile, Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, has fired nearly 700 rockets and mortars at Israel this week and said it wouldn't be the first to cease fire.

In a sign that the conflict might widen, Israel fired into Lebanon late Saturday in response to two rockets fired from there at northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage, but Israel fears militant groups in Lebanon may try to open a second front.

Israel has said it's acting in self-defense against rockets that have disrupted life across much of the country. It also accuses Hamas of using Gaza's civilians as human shields by firing rockets from there.

Critics said Israel's heavy bombardment of one of the most densely populated territories in the world is itself the main factor putting civilians at risk. Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said that while using human shields violates international humanitarian law, "this does not give Israel the excuse to violate international humanitarian law as well."

The Israeli military said it has targeted sites with links to Hamas, including command centers, and that it issues early warnings before attacking. But Michaeli said civilians have been killed when Israel bombed family homes of Hamas militants or when residents were unable to leave their homes quickly enough following the Israeli warnings.

Before dawn Saturday, an Israeli missile hit the Palestine Charity, a center for the physically and mentally disabled in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, said its director, Jamila Alaiweh.

The center is home to nine patients, including four who were spending the weekend with their families away from the center, said Alaiweh. Of the remaining five, two were killed in the strike and three suffered serious burns and other injuries, the director said. A caregiver was also injured, she added.

The director said one of the women killed had cerebral palsy and the other suffered had severe mental handicaps. Among the three wounded patients were a quadriplegic, one with cerebral palsy and one with mental disabilities, she said.

The missile destroyed the bottom floor of the two-story building. Rescuers sifted through the pile of rubble, pulling out a folded-up wheelchair and a children's workbook.

An Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said he was looking into the incident.

An army statement said that from Friday morning to Saturday morning, Israel targeted 158 targets "affiliated with Hamas terrorism" in Gaza, including dozens of rocket launchers and a mosque where Hamas stored rockets and weapons.

Israel also targeted several civilian institutions with presumed ties to Hamas, widening its range of targets. Palestinian officials said this included a technical college, a media office, a small Kuwait-funded charity and a branch of an Islamic bank.

The Israeli military did not mention these institutions in its statement Saturday, saying only that in addition to the military targets, it struck "further sites."

Al-Kidra, the health official, said Israeli strikes raised the death toll there to more than 156, with over 1,060 wounded. Among the dead was a nephew of Ismail Haniyeh, a top Hamas leader, who was killed in an airstrike near his home, Hamas officials said.

Though the exact breakdown of casualties remains unclear, dozens of the dead also have been civilians. Israel has also demolished dozens of homes it says are used by Hamas for military purposes.

"Am I a terrorist? Do I make rockets and artillery?" screamed Umm Omar, a woman in the southern town of Rafah whose home was destroyed in an airstrike. It was not immediately known why the building was targeted.

At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, 4-year-old Shayma al-Masri was in stable condition Saturday with shrapnel injuries to her upper body.

Her mother, a 17-year-old brother and a 14-year-old sister were killed earlier this week when two missiles struck as the family walked in their neighborhood, said Shayma's aunt Samah. The girl is left with her father and three older brothers.

The aunt, addressing Israeli mothers, said children are precious on both sides of the conflict.

"You can hide your children in the bomb shelters when you need them, but where do I hide her (Shayma)?" she said. "When the child comes to hide in my arms and I find the entire house falling on top of us what do I do then? Just like you fear for yourselves we fear for ourselves too. Just like you fear for your children we fear for our children too."

The "Iron Dome," a U.S.-funded, Israel-developed rocket defense system, has intercepted more than 130 incoming rockets, preventing any Israeli fatalities so far. A handful of Israelis have been wounded by rockets that slipped through.

On Saturday, air raid sirens went off in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel's two largest cities, both located nearly 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Gaza. Most of the rockets were intercepted or fell in open areas, though one landed near the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank. A house was damaged but there were no injuries.

The frequent rocket fire has disrupted daily life in Israel, particularly in southern communities that have absorbed the brunt of it. Israelis mostly have stayed close to home. Television channels air non-stop coverage of the violence and radio broadcasts are interrupted live with every air raid siren warning of incoming rockets.

The frequent airstrikes have turned bustling Gaza City into a virtual ghost town during the normally festive monthlong Ramadan holiday, emptying streets, closing shops and keeping hundreds of thousands of people close to home where they feel safest from the bombs.

The offensive marks the heaviest fighting since a similar eight-day campaign in November 2012 to stop Gaza rocket fire. The outbreak of violence follows the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, and the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack.

Israel has massed thousands of troops along the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion, with soldiers atop vehicles mobilized and ready to move if the order arrives.

At the United Nations, a Security Council statement approved by all 15 members calls for de-escalation of the violence, restoration of calm, and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution.

The statement calls for "the reinstitution of the November 2012 cease-fire," which was brokered by Egypt, but gives no time frame for when it should take effect.

The press statement, which is not legally binding but reflects international opinion, is the first response by the U.N.'s most powerful body, which has been deeply divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In London, Foreign Minister William Hague of Britain, a close Israeli ally, said he had spoken to his Israeli counterpart and called for an "immediate de-escalation" and expressed his "deep concern" about civilian casualties.

The Arab League said foreign ministers from member states will hold an emergency meeting in Cairo on Monday.

(Daraghmeh reported from Ramallah, West Bank. Karin Laub contributed from the West Bank. Edith M. Lederer contributed from the United Nations. Courtesy, Associated Press)

* * *


Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time

by Eileen Shim


In 1961, curious about a person's willingness to obey an authority figure, social psychologist Stanley Milgram began trials on his now-famous experiment. In it, he tested how far a subject would go electrically shocking a stranger (actually an actor faking the pain) simply because they were following orders. Some subjects, Milgram found, would follow directives until the person was dead.

The news: A new Milgram-like experiment published this month in the Journal of Personality has taken this idea to the next step by trying to understand which kinds of people are more or less willing to obey these kinds of orders. What researchers discovered was surprising: Those who are described as “agreeable, conscientious personalities” are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while “more contrarian, less agreeable personalities” are more likely to refuse to hurt others.

The methodology and findings: For an eight-month period, the researchers interviewed the study participants to gauge their social personality, as well as their personal history and political leanings. When they matched this data to the participants' behavior during the experiment, a distinct pattern emerged: People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn't want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves.

“The irony is that a personality disposition normally seen as antisocial — disagreeableness — may actually be linked to ‘pro-social' behavior’,” writes Psychology Today's Kenneth Worthy. “This connection seems to arise from a willingness to sacrifice one's popularity a bit to act in a moral and just way toward other people, animals or the environment at large. Popularity, in the end, may be more a sign of social graces and perhaps a desire to fit in than any kind of moral superiority.”

The study also found that people holding left-wing political views were less willing to hurt others. One particular group held steady and refused destructive orders: “women who had previously participated in rebellious political activism such as strikes or occupying a factory.”

ObedienceThe Nazi effect: The findings lend themselves even further to Milgram's original goal in the '60s: trying to understand the rise of Nazism. Milgram began his experiments in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. He believed his findings might help explain how seemingly nice people can do horrible things if they are ordered to do so.

Does that mean the Nazis were just nice people trying to follow orders and be polite? You probably wouldn't want to go that far, but suffice to say, it turns out nice people just want to appease authorities, while rebels stick to their guns.


Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *