In a world in which globalization and the spread of social media has occurred, talk spreads faster than it would have before. For example, this change is evident in the difference between our two World Wars: in World War I, news was brief and limited to dinnertime discussions with not much political officials or propaganda giving statements on affairs.
By the time of World War II, however, the significant change is evident. As a nation, we had gone from the few recruitment posters from the beginning of the century to nightly fireside chats with President Roosevelt during the Second World War. The rise of propaganda gives the public opinions to feed on and changes the outlook on the war in place. It inadvertently teaches the public how to think, how to feel.
Propaganda allowed for jingoism and hatred of other countries to thrive in the past, and today social media allows for a sort of domestic jingoism, where we fear what is different and what we see as ‘Not Us’ internal enemy living among us in a manner of speaking. This ‘Us vs Them’ separation, a naturally occurring psychological phenomenon, is seen through group polarization as we see respected politicians and individuals share opinions on political matters with the public in a way where connection is immediate and news spreads like wildfire. In return, civilian’s feelings, including anger and fear, are exasperated in a way they wouldn’t have been before. Civilians see themselves as apart of the group of those who had initially instilled this fear in them. They are told that they are different from the ‘Them’ group, and their hatred toward them is more pronounced as a result than it would have been without the aid of the political agenda of those higher up. This fear mongering is a common problem that has been taken advantage of still today in society by politicians such as Donald Trump, a fact called out multiple times by many at the Democratic National Convention this past week.
This fear mongering is an empirically proven dilemma of our generation. In psychologist Stanley Milgram’s famous 1974 obedience studies, he had created an experience by where participants would either play the role of a teacher or learner, and if a learner got an incorrect response, they were supposed to get an electric shock. In reality, the learners weren’t actually participants and were confederates of the study so no one had been harmed in the experiment, but through Milgram’s experiment he had found he could decrease participant’s compliance to shock others by bringing them into closer contact with the confederates. Participants who could see the learners gave fewer shocks than participants who only hear the learners in comparison.
So what do Milgram’s obedience studies, WWII propaganda, and social media all have to do with our justice system?
In recent news, Judge Amber Wolf had discovered that a woman who had been charged for the misdemeanor of shoplifting in Louisville, Kentucky had been in jail for three days without feminine hygiene products with no excuse given as to why not.
The treatment of those in our supposed rehabilitory system is inhumane in itself, where people such as this individual in Louisville, Kentucky are overlooked and treated as animals: left to their own devices in a jail cell for days. The lack of feminine hygiene products provided is an insult to this woman’s basic human rights, being left in a state surrounded by their bodily fluids occurring due to a naturally occurring bodily function for no reason. It’s equivalence stands to being prevented access to the restroom: these bodily functions must be addressed and are degrading if not.
On our judiciary system, it reflects a disregard for the lives of humans who are at their low points. Individuals see no reason to rehabilitate when society is pitted against them and politicians cause Americans to turn on fellow Americans as they degrade them in their reputation. Politicians who commit scandals on large scales of corruption get by while allowing a cycle of recidivism to grow due to a hypocritical position of ignoring the human rights of others. The fear mongering of fellow Americans by state officials and important individuals combined with the wildfire capabilities of social media allow for an internalized hatred of fellow Americans as a result. Americans are made to dehumanize their peers and not think of them as their fellow citizens, ostracizing them in a way similar to how Milgram ostracized participants in some instances in his study by not letting them see the learner so they’d be more likely to cooperate.
This instance in Kentucky cannot be overlooked: it is a degradation and failure to meet basic human rights in this woman’s case and represents a lack of respect for her by those working in the jail allowing her to continue on in her state. When an instance such as this one is brought to light, we must understand that it is merely one of many other cases and it reflects upon the judiciary system as a whole.
To read more about the original article reporting on this woman’s case go to: