We Justify the Atrocities & Injustices We Commit

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

According to a study from Princeton University, the memories of an entire people may be altered to justify atrocities committed by their side in a war.  This includes overtly inhumane actions, like beatings, rapes, and waterboarding.  The researchers believe that people are motivated to remember information in a way that absolves them — or their side — from moral responsibility for their actions.

In this study, 72 European and Americans read four stories about soldiers committing wartime atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Each story contained some justification for the soldier’s actions.  Two of the stories were about American soldiers; two were about Afghan soldiers.  The study participants then watched a video retelling two of the four stories, but without justifications for the atrocities.  When tested, the participants were more likely to recall atrocities for both American and Afghan soldiers from the videos only.  But more often than not, they remembered the rationalisations for the American soldiers only.  Even though the videos did not include justifications for atrocities, the participants selectively retrieved those memories for their side from the stories they had read.  The researchers believe that it is important to understand how politicians and journalists may influence public behaviour, including how people vote, by justifying wartime atrocities.


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