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62 responses to “Lessons from My Lai”

  1. MEgami

    Interesting post, but have you ever observed groups of girls, especially teenagers? This fear of ostracism that pushes people to act against their own better judgement is in no way a male-related phenomenon.

  2. Kim

    At work, so not much time to comment. Just wanted to mention quickly that Seymour Hersh was the reporter who broke the My Lai story. The beginning of a long career of service to the public reporting what others won’t.

  3. wbb

    What can people generally be doing to raise young men (and women too) to be Thompsons instead of Calleys?

    It’s a tough question. All I know is that there will always be more Calleys than Thompsons in this world. The courage to stand up to and outside of our pack is a rare attribute.

  4. Katz

    Why is that ostracism such a strong tool in so many male relationships, especially amongst groups of men who are not close friends, or who may not even know each others’ names?

    In the light of Megami’s astute observations about girls, I guess the critical issue is “men who are not close friends, or who may not even know each others’ names”.

    Are women less subject to these informal pressures?

    Perhaps women are less likely than men to find themselves in stressful situations with lots of strangers of their own gender.

    However, it is perhaps also true to say that girls at a rock concert are more likely to adhere to more ritualised emotionally demonstrative patterns of behaviour than boys.

    I’m not sure that Tigtog has made a case for a great difference between males and females in analogous social settings.

  5. tigtog

    I’m not sure that Tigtog has made a case for a great difference between males and females in analogous social settings.

    I didn’t want to make too dense an argument in order to leave something for commenters to say. It looks like I misjudged and trod too lightly, failing to make my points clearly.

    I agree that female homosocialisation uses ostracism heavily, yet it has a different flavour. Little girls make each other miserable with games of “you’re not my friend anymore” while little boys make each other miserable with “what are ya?” followed by a thumping. Girls also notoriously make up with yesterday’s bitter enemy at the drop of a hat, whereas boys don’t seem to do that.

    In adulthood, female ostracism is largely the cold shoulder, male ostracism comes with the implicit threat of violent bullying. Both are manipulative and emotionally destructive behaviours, and I know that some teen girls engage in violence as well, but generally women’s ostracism is purely verbal. Is that why women leave the terror of ostracism, particularly from female strangers, behind a little more easily once they’re adults? Or do you disagree that adult women fear homosocial ostracism less than adult men?

  6. Graham Bell

    Tigtog:
    Good one.

    Thompson and his crew were true heroes. They upheld the honour of their unit and of the whole United States at grave risk of their own lives. Why does nobody ever mention that when Thompson had his helicopter’s guns trained on Americans who were committing such an appalling war crime, any one of those same renegade American soldiers – who were armed to the teeth – could have turned that helicopter into a smoking inferno in a second with a short burst of automatic fire or an M79 grenade …. and then called in a replacement helicopter with, perhaps, a less courageous and upright crew? Thompson and his crew should each have been given the Congressional Medal Of Honor, nothing less.

    What can YOU do? Lots!

    First, You can tell Hollywood and the TV networks to go to hell. All Hollywood and TV shows can do is teach impressionable young American soldiers to become Nazi-style torturers and murderers ….. and eventually become corpses themselves [an issue that has been alarming real American combat soldiers and intelligence officers in recent weeks]. Don’t patronize their lying movies, don’t watch their pervert shows. Easy.

    Second, You can tell the story of those brave and honourable souls, again and again. True heroes. Ones who can be spoken of in the same breath as Leonidas and Bayard, as Grace Darling and Father Damien, as the defenders of Rorke’s Drift and the diggers on the Kokoda Track. If you tell only a dozen, then that’s a dozen people who will be sceptical of any US military whitewash of evildoing; if they are young Australians then you will inspire them to have the moral courage to stand firm if even all those around them turn collapse into cowardice and brutality.

    Honour, courage and steadfastness always endure and triumph ….. though it may take a very long time……

  7. Katz

    … generally women’s ostracism is purely verbal. Is that why women leave the terror of ostracism, particularly from female strangers, behind a little more easily once they’re adults? Or do you disagree that adult women fear homosocial ostracism less than adult men?

    I’m not sure that fear of violence is more persuasive in normal, civilian social settings. From my experience, which is no more reliable than the experience of anyone, men tend to be more confrontational in their language, which may in some circumstances ramp up to actual physical violence. The “Extras” episode you referred to didn’t involve any particularly violent behaviour. Rather Gervase felt shamed that his adult behaviour (an actor playing a homosexual) would be seen to underline his lowly position on the social totem pole of his school days. (FWIW, I thought that the motivation was quite weak.)

    The My Lai situation is anything but a normal civilian setting. How would a platoon of females have behaved? I don’t know. Lindy England a Abu Ghraib may provide a little clue.

    Do women fear homosocial ostracism less than men? I have no idea about how to measure such a thing.

  8. Steph

    Fascinating post. What can we do? Raise the issue, educate people, lead by example, write posts like that etc. As for the why, in short females males alike are subject to the patriarchy. The worst thing you can do is be different you will be punished accordingly.

  9. wbb

    It’s not so much about the patriarchy. It’s really about the (genderless) tribe and the self-sufficiency of the mob. Most often the mob behaves well, and so it’s a handy fact that it takes some gumption on the part of an individual to cross the line.

    The downside of flock dynamics is that when the group is delinquent it takes a truly courageous act of dissent to resist it. And so is rare.

    Petro Georgiou is a good, if less earth-shattering, example at the moment.

  10. derrida derider

    Girls also notoriously make up with yesterday’s bitter enemy at the drop of a hat, whereas boys don’t seem to do that.
    But the stereotype is the direct opposite – boys giving each other a black eye and then shaking hands, while girls continue bitchy little cliques forever. And on conformism, the stereotype is that mean are the rugged individualists (“a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”), while women adhere to their social groups’ norms.

    Which just goes to show how useless stereotypes are – as in so many things, the variation between individual men and individual women is far, far greater than the difference between the ‘average’ man and the ‘average’ woman. I think you’re drawing a bit of a long bow to make this a gender thing.

    And tigtog, I too have a son with Asperger’s. It really made me understand that different ways of seeing the world can be delightful, and that far from there being ‘something wrong’ with such kids it’s as least as likely that there’s something wrong with the rest of us. He’s an adult now, still seen as a bit eccentric by other people (mainly because he insists on what he calls ‘logic’ in social relations). But he’s learned to live with his differences and (best of all) to like himself.

  11. Fiasco da Gama

    At the risk of complicating the argument, let me add a 1 to Katz’s statement

    The My Lai situation is anything but a normal civilian setting.

    The dominant peer-pressure in that situation wasn’t to gender or nation, it was to the military unit, something to which all soldiers are very deliberately trained. It’s supposed to instil interdependence and trust, but as you’ve pointed out, tigtog, it also makes internal dissent difficult and dangerous—especially under situations of high stress. Thompson was more relatively free to challenge the crimes he witnessed because he wasn’t a part of Charlie Company, had relatively high status both in rank and specialist pilot training, and had not been a part of Calley’s unit for the stressful months leading up to the raids on ‘Pinkville’.
    What happened at My Lai was something quite, quite different from ordinary homosociality. You can’t compare childrens’ mutual bullying or adults’ peer pressure with atrocities committed under orders in an unfree military hierarchy.
    And Graham, the soldiers involved in the killings were certainly not ‘renegades’. Quite the opposite, they were acting exactly as their commander expected.

    Medina [the company commander] later said that his objective that night was to “fire them up and get them ready to go in there; I did not give any instructions as to what to do with women and children in the village.” Although some soldiers agreed with that recollection of Medina’s, others clearly thought that he had ordered them to kill every person in My Lai 4. Perhaps his orders were intentionally vague. What seems likely is that Medina intentionally gave the impression that everyone in My Lai would be their enemy.

  12. BK

    I’m going to take issue here.

    From http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mylai/Eckhardt.html :

    Large numbers of men did not shoot. Large numbers of men simply put their guns down and just did nothing.

    That gives the lie to the peer pressure argument. It implies that many of those kids actually did what was right.

  13. tigtog

    Interesting, BK. A slightly fuller quote:

    But I am going to hone it right now on the unresisting noncombatants, the people. Everyone said there was a pep talk, but strangely enough the more I looked, only those who said they received a specific order were the ones who killed. Large numbers of men did not shoot. Large numbers of men simply put their guns down and just did nothing.

    Obviously it was a very confused and confusing situation, but it appears that those who considered that they’d received orders to kill obeyed the hierarchy and did so. Then you have a great many who refused to join in once these others started the slaughter. But they still “went along”, turned a blind eye, in terms of not trying to stop the others.

    Only Thompson and his crew refused to turn that blind eye and take action to stop the killing.

  14. wbb

    That gives the lie to the peer pressure argument. It implies that many of those kids actually did what was right.

    They did right? Then how do you characterise what Thompson did, BK?

  15. Fiasco da Gama

    Tigtog, whatever the rights and wrongs of the non-shooters’ actions, there are no significant lessons in the episode for parents engaged in child-rearing. Homosocial peer pressure is one thing, explicit quasi-battlefield orders from a military superior are quite, quite another: every human is likely to experience the former every day of their life, the latter, thankfully, not so often.

  16. tigtog

    I do see your point about a distinction existing, Fiasco.

    However, distinctionss exist between all everyday choices regarding right courses of action and the heroic models from whom we are taught to draw lessons during our acculturation to [insert religious/cultural tradition here]. They’re called heroic myths for a reason: their departure from the everyday is precisely the point.

    Why is there suddenly not a lesson that can be drawn from the My Lai heroism? Just because it happened relatively recently?

  17. BK

    I have an M16 in my hands, and it’s set to fully automatic. You — in a hostile country, aged 19, terrified out of your pants — how are you going to stop me from shooting people with it?

    It’s a bloody difficult situation for anyone to be in. It’s easy for us to say what they should have done. In those circumstances, refusing to fire was probably the best anyone on the ground could do. Thompson probably considered what he was doing was ‘right’ – as he pointed out, he had a helicopter and air support. For a lot of them it wasn’t a question of peer pressure, but being scared for their own lives. And it takes a lot to put strangers’ lives before your own.

    And tig, I suspect (warning: Armchair psychology!) that those who did fire justified it to themselves after the event by saying they thought those were the orders. It’s easiest to lie to oneself, and then everything else follows.

  18. tigtog

    It’s a bloody difficult situation for anyone to be in.

    Of course it is. But isn’t that exactly the sort of thing parents ought to discuss with their children to promote an ethical worldview? Difficult horrible situations where a noble few did right, and examine what they did/thought differently from those who did wrong and from those who stood by impotently?

    It’s easiest to lie to oneself, and then everything else follows.

    There’s another one that needs to be discussed between parents and kids.

  19. Ngoc Hung

    Good arguement,

    I am a Vietnamese reporter, who wrote one articles about My Lai in 2005.

    I believe there are more Thompsons than Kellys in this small world. I was in My Lai in 2005 and met a Vietnam Veteran by chance. The American man was there to lay 504 roses for those Vietnamese civilians who died in the rampant killing. He himself was not involved in the event but returns to My Lai every year to lay the roses.

    Be optimistic because the good is always around.

  20. Tony

    I tend to agree with Fiasco, but bloody interesting question nonetheless.

    Glass half full? There ARE Thompsons – there are, and maybe more than we all think. Maybe there’s a little of him in many people, given the right circumstances to bring it out….

    Both my daugthers and sons show some pack-bonding behavior – but also just enough “screw them” feelings to let my mind sit more easily.

  21. Enemy Combatant

    tigtog, an anniversary of heroism and bloodlust, indeed. Agonising enough having a family member fighting in another bullshit overseas war like Vietnam or Iraq, let alone worrying how one could steer young men early towards a Thompson rather than a Calley character-type.

    Graham makes two great positive points.
    1)Boycott and pillory the product.
    2)The stories of heroes like Thompson need appleseeding into the minds of our children on a regular basis.

    Lest we forget, it was Colonel Colin Powell, of the 7th Americal Division stationed at Da Nang who kept the lid on the My Lai massacre for a almost a year till Sy Hersh dropped his media daisy-cutter. That’s the same Colin Powell who sold the phoney casus belli of Iraq having WMD to the UN et al. with his 2003 slide show and verbal tap dance. Lessons learnt as a professional military liar over 35 long years, sure came in handy.

  22. tigtog

    Good point about Powell, and also Graham’s positive points.

    Again, although I pointed out Thompson’s heroism simply because it’s worth pointing out and he’s rarely remembered as he should be, what I want my children to take most from his story and use as a model to emulate is his tenacity and integrity after the massacre, in terms of pointing out injustice and pursuing justice and reparation.

  23. Tony

    Trainspotting…. obscure historical note. One of Calley’s successors in the My Lai area was Major Norman Schwarzkopf.

  24. Paulus

    This post segues from My Lai to the “homosocial phenomenon whereby men who donâ??t â??go alongâ?? with â??the blokesâ?? are ostracised”. It makes Janet Albrechtsen seem like a model of logic and intellectual rigour. Look up “non sequitur” in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of tigtog.

    Tigtog, if you want to write about “homosocial phenomena”, do so by reference to psychological or social science research, not historical anecdotes. And particularly avoid historical anecdotes involving the military in war, which is a quite unique environment. Remember that soldiers (men and women) go through an extensive and intense process to break down their individuality and make them obedient. Joe and Bill at the pub have probably not been through that training, so comparisons are tenuous, to say the least.

    What particularly bugs me is that if I wrote a post about Lindy England, and then went on to make sweeping negative generalisations about female social behaviour, people would — quite rightly — denounce me as a misogynist and an idiot. But apparently it’s fine to do this sort of thing when your target is male.

  25. suz

    As mother to a young boy, I more often find myself emphasising the positive good that can come from him connecting with other people rather than the negatives of group behaviour. Humans do a great deal of good together; certainly they also do a great deal of bad together. I think it’s only by strengthening our social ties for mutual support and care that future My Lais will be avoided (as would wars in general.)

  26. observa

    “What can people generally be doing to raise young men (and women too) to be Thompsons instead of Calleys?”
    Well you could start where you get the best return for your investment ie where the problem’s the worst
    http://www.memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=1398#
    Get the picture?

  27. wbb

    It’s impossible to watch that clip and then come back and make sensible comment.

    But yeah, there’s a place where an investment would outperform the market.

  28. Graham Bell

    FiascoDaGama:
    Those soldiers who slaughtered Vietnamese villgers were indeed renegades; they betrayed everyone else who fought against Communism in the Viet-Nam War; they betrayed the American people and everything America was supposed to stand for. These soldiers were sent to Viet-Nam to fight Communism and instead they behaved worse than the g-d m-f Commies!!! Peer pressure was no excuse for barbarity. None!!! Thank goodness some soldiers in that unit had the guts not to fire on the villagers.

    That the United States failed to promptly try, convict and execute every officer above the rank of Captain in the chain-of-command responsible for anything that led to the My~Lai massacre was a clear message to the rest of the world that the United States was no longer the most powerful and respected nation on earth. It was an episode of moral cowardice that historians will mark as the beginning of the end for the United States. And it was just that moral cowardice following the My~Lai massacre that begat the appalling situations in Abu Ghraib prison, in Guantanamo Bay and in every place where “rendition” has been committed.

    Thompson and his crew standing against evil at My~lai was no less courageous than Horatius Cocles and his two companions standing alone against the might of Lars Porsena and the whole Etruscan army

  29. wbb

    It’s tempting to see My Lai as a seminal moment in US history, Graham. But it would not be true. There is no people on earth who can choose war without inevitably losing their “humanity”.

    The US is no different from the rest of us schmucks. And never has been. Despite its delusional self-mythologising.

  30. Graham Bell

    wbb:
    It’s no worse than other “seminal moments” in US history – or world history for that matter – put up by professional historians and by highly-paid commentators. ;-)

    It is possible for people to go to war and be victorious without losing all their humanity and without committing unspeakable crimes …… but to go to war in such a way requires good training, a firm belief-system, unshakable morale, excellent leadership and a powerful determination to prevail despite all the hardships and setbacks.

    Suz:
    You are off to a good start there with your boy. Think of all the teamwork that got Tenzing Norkay and [Sir] Edmund Hilary onto the summit of Mt Everest or that which got the Socceroos so close to becoming world champions [watch out next time!] or that built the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sadly, War will never be abolished but what you are doing, as one individual on the planet, is helping reduce the posibbility that your son will have to fight a war ….I hope so anyway.

  31. Brendan Halfweeg

    I wonder how this story fits into your theories of homosocial behaviour.

    As for My Lai, parents have nothing to learn, although the military certainly does. That is an awful long bow to draw, “Your sons are potential war criminals unless you act now!”

  32. melaleuca

    Very interesting post, tigtog. Reminds me of the famous Milgram experiments:

    “Before the experiment was conducted Milgram polled 14 Yale senior psychology majors as to what the results would be. All respondents believed that only a sadistic few (average 1.2%) would be prepared to give the maximum voltage

    “In Milgram’s first set of experiments, 65 percent (26 out of 40)[1] of experimental participants administered the experiment’s final 450-volt shock…”

    And most depressingly of all:

    “Dr. Thomas Blass of the University of Maryland Baltimore County performed a meta-analysis on the results of repeated performances of the experiment. He found that the percentage of participants who are prepared to inflict fatal voltages remains remarkably constant, between 61% and 66%, regardless of time or location.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

    Following authority or the mob in “evil doing”- if I may use that term- may be hard-wired into us. Nonetheless I would like to think that some form of education commencing at a young age could override this innate hard-wiring in some of us, at least.

  33. melaleuca

    Oh, I almost forgot. Milgram’s experiments showed that women are just as bad as men:

    “In Experiment 8, women were used as participants (all of Milgram’s other experiments used only men). Obedience did not differ significantly, though they indicated experiencing higher levels of stress.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

    The women bitched more but behaved in exactly the same way as the men.

  34. Graham Bell

    BrendanHalfweeg:
    To the contrary, the example of courage and righteousness in a dangerous situation is an excellent emulation lesson …. and very appropriate. Thanks for that very informative link on mob behaviour.

    Melaleuca:
    Following your mention of Milgram; The “yelling-and-degradation” style of military training must be outlawed; all it does is produce a lot of corpses all round and precious few victories ….. and the lovie-dovie style of military training merely turns your own troops into moving targets.

    Both are useless.

    What is needed, especially in the situations troops often face these days, is a system of tough and thorough training that enables soldiers to make rapid and consistently reliable decisions when faced with morally-ambiguous situations, that enables them to defy a manifestly illegal order without refusing to do their duty and that enables them to cope well with both frustration and boredom. Frustration and boredom are two consistent factors in report after report of massacres .

  35. tigtog

    I wonder how this story fits into your theories of homosocial behaviour.

    Yes, girls display homosocial behaviour amongst themselves, and boys and girls together display a tandem homosocial hierarchy as well as the heterosocial hierarchy.

    Might be related to the last line of my post:

    What can people generally be doing to raise young men (and women too) to be Thompsons instead of Calleys?

  36. Graham Bell

    Everyone:
    Before anyone gets really smug and comfy about how superb we are in Australia and how terrible the Yanks are …… carrying the mongrel-dog pack mentality over from military service into civilian life may just be worse in Australia than in the United States.

    If you are looking for examples of group solidarity being perverted for the personal advantage of the top dog in a pack …. and his masters ….. take a a look at: the hysterical rage at the small number of war veterans who tried to stop commercial intrusion into the “sacred site” of ANZAC Square in Bribane a few decades back …. or …. all the dirty tricks that were used against war veterans who tried to have their exposure to hazardous chemical agents investigated ….. or the hilarious moves to prevent our national flag being changed to show our independence.

    Any mothers reading this would do well to have their children learn early the very clear difference between loyalty and group-think, between teamwork and becoming a member of a mongrel-dog pack ….. and between a duty to say “No!” when given an illegal order and the complicity of silence when a monsterous crime is committed.

  37. tigtog

    Any mothers reading this would do well to

    Fathers too?

  38. Don Arthur

    Tigtog – What an interesting post. Your description of homosocial ostracism made me think about why radical left wing politics often makes me feel so uncomfortable — particularly old fashioned labour movement radicalism.

    Your post made me think about picket lines and the treatment of scabs. The threat of violence has often been very real.

    And it seems to me that picket lines, union meetings where voting is by a show of hands, and public protests all rely on the kinds of social processes you’re discussing. All draw a hard line between between us and them. To dissent is to betray — it’s a violation of solidarity that can make you one of them.

    Images of violence are never far away. Fists are thrust in the air, slogans are shouted in unison, and guerrilla fighters like Che are icons. Sometimes it all seems like foreplay for the coming esctasy of violent revolution. It’s hard to deny that radical left wing movements have romanticised violence. The willingness to engage in violence has often become a test of commitment.

    Of course many of the new social movements work in a very different way. Environmental movements, the women’s movement, anti-war movements (eg Greenham Common) all work very differently. And I’d have to say that most of the left lacks the kind of ‘homosocial’ tendencies I’ve described above. But it would be wrong to say it isn’t part of the left and its heritage.

    The thing that made Thomson a hero is that he pointed his guns at his own side.

  39. Katz

    Your description of homosocial ostracism made me think about why radical left wing politics often makes me feel so uncomfortable — particularly old fashioned labour movement radicalism.

    But don’t forget that these methods arose at a time and in places where there were no alternative modalities of self-expression. There was no suffrage and in many places what rule of law existed was punitive of the powerless.

    It might be argued that Gandhi and Martin Luther King provided an alternative model. But in fact their model was viable only because there existed a concerned and enfranchised population elsewhere to discipline the forces ranged against them.

    It is true that adopting Che Guevara as a model for political behaviour in a representative democracy like Australia is silly and counterproductive. Nevertheless, as an icon his fame serves a purpose. The gesture says, “We reserve the right to consider revolutionary violence.”

  40. Robert Bollard

    In light of the Calley/Thompson dichotomy – a fascinating but tragic piece on an anti-war GI killed in action in Iraq.

  41. Don Arthur

    Katz – So you’re arguing that there’s a positive side to homosocial ostracism — that it can be a valuable tool for social movements struggling against oppression?

  42. Katz

    So you’re arguing that there’s a positive side to homosocial ostracism

    I’m not arguing that it is never the lesser of two evils.

  43. Legal Eagle

    I do not think such bullying is the sole province of men; women are equally likely to participate in such tactics. The courage of people like Thompson is also interesting – to have the moral conviction and strength to stand up to horrific acts. In looking at genocide, there are always terrible stories of neighbours turning on one another, but there are also stories of heroic individuals who put themselves and their families at risk by standing up against such things.

    Anyway, have written a post inspired by this post.

  44. Bridie

    Of course it is not a gender thing, though the post overall certainly suggests that.

    Surely it is more of a group characteristic. Didn’t Freud write about this? Groups, he said, can make people more stupid, cruel, venal, act in ways that the individual might not in the same circumstances. This is because being a member of a group somehow absolves the individual of responsibility for the collective, group behavior – or so the individual rationalisation goes.

    I think the examples of labor movement “violence” – picket lines and refusing entry to scabs – are one-sided. Such tactics, which in most cases don’t involve actual physical violence, are a response, usually, to the violence of an employer, or the state, in relation to workers’ defence of their livelihoods, safety, conditions, jobs, right to a decent wage.

    A better example of groupthink and mob-like violence within and against non-conformist members of left political groups would be the Stalinist and Trotskyist political cults, remnants of which still enact their verbally violent groupthink thing over on the leftwrites site.

  45. tigtog

    Ooh, everybody should go and read Legal Eagle’s post linked to in her comment above.

    I regret any misunderstanding arising from my emphasis on male homosocialisation in this post. I had planned to blog on My Lai anyway, I saw the Extras episode this week, and something came up at my son’s school regarding groupthink bullying (of a minor sort, but insidious).

    They all came together in the same week, is all.

  46. Graham Bell

    Ngoc Hung:
    There were honourable and brave soldiers on both the Government side and the Viet-Cong side in that war too. Despite all the terrible things inflicted by both sides, especially against civilians, not everyone was brutal and cowardly.

  47. Graham Bell

    Don Arthur:
    I have always been a strong supporter of trade unions ….. mainly because the “alternative” is monsterously unjust and ultimately so inefficient it exacerbates poverty ….. but I have always loathed the “show of hands” as nothing but gutless bullying by union officials. Fair? Rubbish! The secret ballot is not only fairer but a far better reflection of a meeting’s real feelings so why are union officials, who are paid and elected by the members, so terrified of the secret ballot?

  48. Legal Eagle

    Tigtog – sorry to hear about your son being bullied – can understand in that context how the male bias of your post came about. My friend’s brother also has autism, but it sounds like he’s similar to your son – he has enough understanding of social interactions to perceive the expectation that people should “fit in”, and he knows that he doesn’t always “fit”, although he’s not sure why. I’ve known this boy since childhood. Because he has had to work really hard to learn to think of the needs of others, paradoxically, he’s more thoughtful than many other boys of his age. He has grown up into a good young man.

    To be honest, as I have often said to him, I sometimes don’t understand why people have these expectations either! I like the fact that he is honest and direct, and very much his own person. But then, I often haven’t “fitted in” either.

  49. tigtog

    Thanks, Legal Eagle, although It was actually his mate (who has Asperger’s Syndrome) being bullied, not him. Aspies have more impulsiveness than high-functioning auties (HFAs), so they react more to teasing, so are targeted more.

    Because he has had to work really hard to learn to think of the needs of others, paradoxically, he’s more thoughtful than many other boys of his age. He has grown up into a good young man.

    That’s how my son is becoming as well, and his mate, which is gratifying.

  50. Fiasco da Gama

    Tigtog, to return to this post long after it’s dropped from the Magical Sidebar Of Interest, and to answer your question: I don’t believe the My Lai atrocities are free from childrearing lessons because they’re recent, but rather because they were committed within a strict hierarchy of military power.
    Surely, if you want to teach your children not to kill people, the first lesson that comes from My Lai is not to let them join organisations whose central purpose is a liberal approach to the fifth commandment (against murder). Is that so demanding a requirement? Paulus’ point:

    Remember that soldiers (men and women) go through an extensive and intense process to break down their individuality and make them obedient.

    Is spot on. Soldiers by definition are trained not to follow the rules applying to the rest of us of ‘not killing other people’, and their actions in killing or not killing has to be looked at in the context of their murderously necessary profession.
    I’m not saying there isn’t a place for heroes and heroic [spit, spit] mythology: the true story of the White Rose group is a constant inspiration to me, for instance. It’s just a simple false analogy to compare Thompson’s military gallantry to the everyday resistances ordinary citizens, like your son will be when he’s an adult, are likely to make.
    Things like refusing unpaid overtime, or speaking out against workplace/school/club/etc. bullying, or fighting the hands-in-the-air disgraces Don Arthur’s mentioned, hardly compare. They’re not less important because they’re not military, they’re just different.

  51. Graham Bell

    FiascoDaGama:
    Not picking on you but some important distinctions do need to be made.

    Soldiers of Australia, New Zealand and quite a few European nations are indeed trained to kill …. quickly, efficienctly and without hate but as a last resort, not a first, and NEVER NEVER for fun or out of boredom.

    Military operations by Australia in TimorLeste and in the Solomons were carried out with remarkably few casualties and not the deaths of thousands.
    Australians prefer to win without firing a shot than to have a massive [and sometimes self-exaggerated] “body-count”.

    That certain other armies have chosen to use brutality, murder and vandalism in an effort to achieve political objectives is monsterous ….. but they have made that clear choice and they eventually pay the terrible price for their war crimes.

  52. Brendan Halfweeg

    It is true that adopting Che Guevara as a model for political behaviour in a representative democracy like Australia is silly and counterproductive. Nevertheless, as an icon his fame serves a purpose. The gesture says, â??We reserve the right to consider revolutionary violence.â??

    …and to set up labour camps and execute young boys

    Invoking Che Guevara as anything other than a murderous criminal deflates socialist causes enormously.

  53. Katz

    Invoking Che Guevara as anything other than a murderous criminal deflates socialist causes enormously.

    Perfervid rhetoric seldom convinces.

    I would suggest that even you perceive Che Guevara as something other than a murderous criminal, for example as the writer of an entertaining travel diary, perhaps.

  54. Brendan Halfweeg

    I would suggest that even you perceive Che Guevara as something other than a murderous criminal, for example as the writer of an entertaining travel diary, perhaps.

    I’m pretty sure the legacy of The Motorcycle Diares does not outweigh his legacy as a terrorist and murderer. If he’d written a series of travel diaries, he may not have had time to commit his more bloody deeds.

    Those t-shirts in the market aren’t about memorialising his efforts to document mid-twentieth century South American life as seen through the eyes of a idealogical young Argentinian.

    Talk about making the wrong career choice, he could have been a travel writer for Lonely Planet (or it’s equivalent back then), rather than a Marxist revolutionary guerilla.

    I won’t even mention another idealogically driven individual who wanted to be an artist but isn’t remembered for his art. Oops, I just did.

  55. Katz

    I’m pretty sure the legacy of The Motorcycle Diares does not outweigh his legacy as a terrorist and murderer.

    So you do perceive Che as something other than a terrorist (that’s a new one btw) and a mass murderer.

    Case closed.

  56. Brendan Halfweeg

    So you do perceive Che as something other than a terrorist (that’s a new one btw) and a mass murderer.

    Case closed.

    OK. If you say so. Good luck with using such an obvious tyrant as a poster boy.

    Global Warming. What would Che do?

    Kill every m— f— who disagrees with him, that’s what. Bring the revolution home. Peace, bro.

    Che is an easy target that socialists and other left wing people would be best to excommunicate from the cause. You don’t have to be idealogical to hate his crimes against humanity. Movies like The Motorcycle Diaries are good propaganda for the proletariat if you do want to claim his legacy though. A Top Gun for the masses, if you wish.

    Libertarians have the same issue with Pinochet, someone we should repudiate absolutely.

  57. Katz

    Shorter Pamela Bone: “I want to make the world a better place. But TEH LEFT is stopping me from doing it.”

    Let’s have a bit of perspective here Pamela.

    1. What has TEH LEFT done to prevent the mission to take a Beacon of Light to the Middle East?

    2. If TEH LEFT had shut up, would Bush’s Folly have been less of a fiasco?

    3. Are the Jihadists sitting in the Madrassas in Various Islamic Hell-Holes expostulating to each other: “By the Prophet’s Beard, those Infidel posters on Larvatus Prodeo have provided much assistance in bringing about the Caliphate!”

    Of course not. The very thought is utterly risible.

    Therefore, Pamela, the source of your failure is not to be found in Lefty obstruction. The source of your failure is to be found in your own ignorance, arrogance and complacency.
    ____________________-

    PS, Bonism seems to be catching. Julie Szego in the Age commits the same special pleading

  58. Fiasco da Gama

    Graham, I share your regard for the quality of the training ADF personnel receive, and their reputation for professionalism. I don’t think I said anything against them apart from pointing out that the whole function of military training is to break the otherwise fairly universal moral taboo against killing in cold blood.
    Brendan H. and Katz, as for icons whose behaviour would be worth emulating as well as screen-printing, how about the shopping bag man?
    By the way, Brendan:

    A Top Gun for the masses, if you wish.

    Um, Top Gun is Top Gun for the masses. Great movie.

  59. Brendan Halfweeg

    Um, Top Gun is Top Gun for the masses. Great movie.

    Dolt. I never thought of Top Gun as mass entertainment before, thanks for pointing out my mistake. I guess my comparison of them as having propaganda value to certain stakeholders is completely invalid. Top Gun surely didn’t make life in the Navy look romantic and exciting, and The Motorcycle Diaries surely didn’t paint the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara as a romantic young idealogue.

    [/sarcasm off]

  60. Fiasco da Gama

    Hey, Brendan, your tautology is your problem. I’m switching to guns, too close for missiles.

  61. Brendan Halfweeg

    Hey, Brendan, your tautology is your problem. I’m switching to guns, too close for missiles.

    If you need me to spell it out, I was making a glib reference to marxist-style language:

    ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’

    Although I’m sure a person of your indepth knowledge needn’t have such reference clarified.

    Top Gun is a good popcorn movie though. Apparently one of the US Navy’s requirements before giving permission to use their equipment in the film was to make Kelly McGillis’s character civilian rather than a commissioned officer, since fraternization between officers is against regulations.

  62. Nabakov

    Returning to the original post topic, can you imagine any MSM outlet now having the sheer bloody dirty provacative guts to do this.

    Uggh! Yuck! Wild! Sick! Crazy! And if that was your response to the image, imagine your response to being in that village on that day. On either end of a M16.

    And speaking of Top Gun, I’d get on Kelly’s tail anyday.