In 1961, the Jewish psychologist Stanley Milgram began conducting his now renowned experiment on obedience to authority. The experiment included two test subjects, the Teacher and the Learner. The Teacher was instructed to give the Learner information and then test the Learner’s recall of the information by asking questions. Every time the Learner answered a question incorrectly, the Teacher was required to give an electric shock to the Learner, increasing the voltage after every incorrect answer.
The participants were informed that this was a study in how punishment affects learning, but the true purpose of the study was to find out how far the Teacher would go in administering punishments. The only actual test subject in the experiment was the Teacher. The person designated as the Learner was an actor who would cry out in pain even though he was not actually being shocked.
Milgram’s study found that the majority of the test subjects would continue to administer punishment even as the Learner screamed and begged to be released from the study. The test subjects were not sadistic, but they felt compelled to continue because they were instructed to do so by the conductor of the experiment. Milgram concluded that when people submit to authority they are willing to do things that they would otherwise consider to be reprehensible. It’s a familiar study that most people have heard about at one time or another, yet few have heard the name Stanley Milgram. Now, a recent film entitled Experimenter provides an artistic dramatization of the experiment and its aftermath.
The film begins by depicting the experiment. The fact that the Learner is an actor is not disclosed, so anyone in the audience not familiar with the study might think that his cries of pain are genuine as the Teacher punishes him repeatedly. Stanley Milgram, played by Peter Sarsgaard, watches from behind a one-way mirror taking notes. He turns to the camera, breaking the “fourth wall” and begins to narrate the story. Through a montage of different test subjects the true nature of the experiment is revealed. It is clear that the test subjects do not want to continue administering punishments. They agonize over the decision to continue and some complain that they want to stop. But they go on when they are told that they must, with the assurance that they will not be held responsible for whatever happens to the Learner.
Most of the plotline in Experimenter is presented in a loosely chronological but non-linear format that is held together by Milgram’s narration. The plot mainly focuses on Milgram’s life after the experiment was over. Many regarded the findings of the Obedience to Authority study as important and groundbreaking, but the methods utilized were widely criticized for breaching ethical standards. The test subjects were clearly deceived and potentially coerced into a stressful situation where they believed they were being required to inflict harm on another person. The film takes Milgram’s side by showing that each participant in the experiment had the option to leave without consequence to themselves. Some did leave, but most stayed believing that once they had committed to volunteering for this important research it was their duty to finish.
Milgram was inspired to create this experiment after hearing Adolf Eichmann’s defense when on trial for his actions in the Second World War. Eichmann stated that he was just following orders and therefore he could not be held culpable for what he did. Milgram wanted to know if he could convince the average citizen to harm others by simply ordering them to do so. His findings suggest that people tend to submit to authority and follow authoritative instructions despite their personal misgivings. This fact is often considered to be profoundly disturbing. It inspires a call to action: Something must be done! We must change human nature!
Many readers of Counter-Currents will recognize that Milgram’s research and findings have been utilized for the same aims as the work of the Frankfurt School and other Jewish intellectuals who took control of academia in the 20th century. The result, as evidenced from the history of the 1950s and onward, was the undermining of authority in European societies. Rebellion and nonconformity were promoted as superior to obedience and made the basis upon which people should construct their identity. Traditional forms of identity such race, nationality, and family, were cast as authoritative and therefore oppressive and potentially dangerous.
The cultural revolution of the last century is now complete. What is clearly observable is that authority was not abolished, but rather shifted hands to a new set of masters who are not related by the old bonds of loyalty to kin and duty to community. Instead, the voice of authority pronounces a new set of ideas to be the highest good. These include personal freedom (selfishness) and rights (material comfort), augmented by diversity and equality, which serve to undermine the old bonds of loyalty and duty. Conformity to these ideas gives a sense of status and moral superiority to anyone who is willing to sever their ties to Tradition and actively fight against those who wish to preserve traditional forms of identity.
The result is a situation in which Jews, who maintain their tribal identity, have thrived as well as a select few race traitors who know how to work the system to their advantage. Meanwhile, the majority of people have not benefited from this shift in moral consensus, especially white people, but any opposition to the new order is forbidden. Punishments for dissenters typically involve social ostracism, but sometimes they are more severe. All of the disturbing aspects of human nature that were exposed in Milgram’s obedience study remain intact. People still blindly follow authority and are willing to harm others when the master commands.
Some might argue that the findings of Milgram’s study were distorted, and that the participants in the study were psychologically coerced to the point where they believed they had no other choice but to continue administering punishment. This line of thinking suggests that Milgram deliberately manipulated the results in order to forward specific Jewish aims. But even casual observation of how society functions reveals that the findings are true. People really do conform to the group norms. So it is not that these findings were manipulated, but rather they were framed in a way that served Jewish purposes. In the film, one of Milgram’s critics asks the question, “What’s so bad about obedience anyway?” But this question never gets examined beyond the implication that obedience leads to Nazis and death camps.
Interestingly, the film does seem to imply that obedience to authority is an ingrained aspect of human nature. At the end, it is noted that Milgram’s study has been replicated several times in various forms, even within the last decade. In every case the results were the same as the original study, suggesting that, even after all the “progress” we’ve made, this is not something that humans can change about themselves. Rather, the narrator concludes that people must think critically about the authorities to which they conform, reflect upon why they are conforming, and make choices based on the understanding they gain from this process. This is an approach White Nationalists can utilize when “red-pilling” others. For many of us, it is the type of process that we went through to arrive at our current opinions.
In addition to the Obedience to Authority study, Experimenter gives a brief account of some of the other experiments Milgram conducted. He is the researcher who came up with the theory that every person is separated by roughly six degrees. This is referred to as the Small World Phenomenon. The experiment that led to this conclusion involved sending packages to random people and requesting that they forward the package to an acquaintance who they thought might know a certain stockbroker in Boston, Massachusetts. Each person who received the package forwarded it to another acquaintance until it reached the stockbroker’s office. On average, the packages passed through fewer than six people’s hands before arriving at the final destination. These findings help support the idea that we’re all interconnected (so don’t you dare get any ideas about trying to separate).
In another study, stamped and sealed envelopes were left in public places. Each envelope was marked with the same P.O. Box number but with different addressees. Some were addressed to a person’s name, some were addressed to a communist organization, and some were addressed to a neo-Nazi organization. The expectation was that some individuals who came across the lost envelope might decide to mail it, as an act of kindness to whoever dropped. As would be expected, far fewer of the envelopes addressed to the contentious political organizations arrived at the P.O. Box. The experiment was replicated in the South with envelopes addressed to civil rights organizations and pro-white organizations. They were left in predominately black neighborhoods as well as predominately white ones. Again, the results were entirely predictable. Apparently a study like this demonstrates that people tend to be more helpful to their own kind, a “problem” that continues to pervade our society.
While the findings of these experiments can be viewed objectively, they can also be framed in such a way that they reinforce the moral code of the cultural revolution by emphasizing that we are all connected and therefore that we should have a universalist empathy with no preference toward one group of people. However, they are presented in the film as cool factoids with no real social implications. This serves the purpose of characterizing Milgram as playful and inquisitive, drawing attention away from the fact that his most significant work was considered to be unethical.
The treatment he received because of charges of unethical conduct is depicted as unjust. He was denied tenure at Harvard, which made his life difficult, and that just simply wasn’t fair for somebody who was clearly a genius. We also see scenes of him being shunned by peers and verbally abused by people he meets on the street who saw him on television interviews. And—horror of horrors!—in a TV movie inspired by his life, he is portrayed as a goy named Stephen Hunter because the television producers were anti-Semitic. (One wonders if Jews were upset when Jordan Belfort was portrayed as a goy in The Wolf of Wall Street. Maybe in thirty years they’ll be complaining about it.)
With regard to the charges of ethical violations, there is no small irony in the fact that a Jewish psychologist whose work has been used to destroy the fabric of European culture came to his findings through the methods involving human experimentation, particularly considering the accusations Jews have made against the Germans regarding experimentation. The irony intensifies when we realize that the film that seeks to portray human experimentation as heroic, not villainous. As such, the film is stylistically bizarre.
The first twenty to thirty minutes are relatively straightforward. This is where the Obedience to Authority study is depicted. It is presented seriously and creates the sense that there is something very wrong with this experiment. However, once the gravity of the study is made clear, the style drastically changes in ways that unravel the tension that has been building and it disarms the audience from whatever condemnation they may feel toward Milgram. The film’s cohesiveness breaks down to the point that it is almost as if each scene were made by a different director.
Many of the scenes have green screen backgrounds fixed with still photographs, giving feeling that the actors are performing in front of a backdrop. The props often look stagey and fake. It is quite distracting. The friend I saw the movie with theorized that the film exceeded its budget so they cut some corners. But my guess is this was a poorly executed attempt to make the movie seem quirky and light-hearted (as well as experimental) while downplaying the gravity of Milgram’s deeds. It is poorly executed in the sense that it is off-putting to watch, but successful as a propaganda tool. These stylistic choices, combined with the film’s portrayal of Milgram as a brilliant and sensitive man leave the audience with the impression that not only was his Obedience study completely justified, but that the public was at fault for condemning his actions.
Objectively speaking, Experimenter is not a very good movie for many reasons. In addition to the stylistic issues mentioned above there is no character development at all, and the story feels fractured and incomplete. Nevertheless, in spite of these problems, the subject matter is interesting because of the ethical and sociological themes. I think it is worth watching and if you are a White Nationalist it is a good movie to watch with those who are not. The question of why people submit to authority relates to evolutionary psychology. After seeing the movie I had a conversation with my friend about the ideas Kevin MacDonald discussed at the NPI conference last weekend, specifically what it means to live in a culture where conformity is based on consensus to a moral code rather than kinship, and the pros and cons of each. Getting people thinking about the origins of human nature is an important step in changing their minds. Additionally, it is always good to be reminded that we should reflect upon where our loyalties lie and why we conform to the things we do. It is good to remember that we can choose to not conform to ideas we know to be wrong.
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