Would you give a dangerous driver a licence? Would you let him pass his driving test if you knew there was a risk he could run over and kill a child just because the minister asked you to? If, utterly disgusted, you’ve answered “certainly not”, think again.
Most of us would obey the minister and pass that driver; 65% would obey him even if we knew that driver would kill a pedestrian.
Stanley Milgram, a Yale University psychologist, showed in 1961 that most people would obey an authority figure even if they knew it would potentially kill another human being.
Milgram was following the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. He simply couldn’t understand how the German people, a highly educated, religious nation, could have committed genocide.
Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? So, Milgram set up his famous shock experiment to explain the psychology of genocide.
A number of volunteers were recruited for the experiment. An authority figure dressed in a white coat would order each volunteer to deliver electric shocks to a learner strapped in an electric chair in the adjacent room whenever the learner got a question wrong.
The volunteers couldn’t see the learner but could hear his cries of pain every time they pulled the lever to deliver the shock. The power of the electric shock increased steadily until it reached 300V, which was potentially harmful, and then 450V – potentially fatal.
The volunteer knew exactly the power of the shock, and the lever indicated its strength, ranging from “slight shock” to “danger: severe shock”.
In reality, there were no shocks, and the cries of pain were simulated, but the volunteers didn’t know that. The learner fell silent when the 450V shock was administered, suggesting he was dead.
The volunteers could stop the experiment whenever they wanted. The authority figure, however, urged them to “please go on”, or “the experiment requires you to continue”, or “you must go on”.
Despite having the opportunity to stop and being reminded they could withdraw their participation without giving a reason, two-thirds went on to inflict the “fatal” voltage. All of them were ready to go up to 300V despite the screams of pain.
That experiment was repeated multiple times all over the world. It was never conducted in Malta, but there’s nothing to suggest Maltese would behave any differently.
So it’s no surprise that when ministers, chiefs of staff, customer care officers and party officials ordered Transport Malta personnel to pass incompetent candidates, they complied. Even though they knew those dangerous drivers could kill one of us, TM officials still passed most of them.
The theory of conformism holds that a person with neither the ability nor expertise to make decisions, especially in a crisis, will leave the decision-making to the group and its hierarchy. That group is the Labour Party, and at the top of its hierarchy sits the prime minister. Labour ministers and officials made the ‘requests’, Transport Malta officials obeyed.
Those TM officials embodied the essence of obedience – individuals who viewed themselves as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes. They ceased to see themselves as responsible for their actions.
That was Adolf Eichmann’s defence – he was doing his duty. Six decades later, Robert Abela is using the same excuse. His minister, Ian Borg, and his customer care army “were doing their duty”; giving incompetent drivers a licence to drive was giving them a licence to kill. But for Abela, it was “just their job”.
Eichmann made the same claim – he was doing his job, he was obeying orders even though it involved exterminating fellow citizens of Jewish descent.
The Degiorgio brothers admitted to coldly assassinating Daphne Caruana Galizia and claimed: “It was business as usual”. They, too, were just doing their job somebody else paid them to do, but a mother, a sister, a daughter paid the ultimate price.
Most of the country is shocked and outraged at the well-oiled cheating machine organised by Labour. Most are appalled at the nonchalance with which dangerous drivers were given their licence. “If the vehicle isn’t splattered with blood, the candidate passes”, one Transport Malta official ordered.
But one man isn’t appalled. One man isn’t dismayed. That man is Robert Abela. Instead, he’s proudly insisting they just did their job.
That’s utterly revolting but only half as revolting as the response of his cabinet ministers. They’ve all rallied around Abela’s disturbing defence.
No single minister or MP had the courage and decency to stand up to Abela. Not one had the moral fibre to state – no, this is wrong, this should never have happened, this is inexcusable, this is reckless.
In another classic experiment, social psychologist Solomon Asch showed that the great majority of individuals tested would give the manifestly wrong answer to a simple question simply because all those around them gave that answer. Only 24% constantly defied the majority opinion and stuck to the right answer even when all the rest disagreed.
Asch was stunned. “That intelligent, well-meaning, young people are willing to call black white is a matter of grave concern,” he said.
That’s exactly what all of Labour’s ministers and MPs did. Their willingness to conform publicly to Abela’s iniquity to attain their rewards and avoid ostracisation is ominous. They echo Abela’s devious defence to avoid criticism.
They’ve done it before. They defended Joseph Muscat’s vile protection of Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, and we all know how that ended.
But Labour never learns.
Labour engineered a process of depersonalisation where all party members defend the leader’s perverted views. Clint Mansueto provides a chilling portrayal of what Labour created. Standing at the dock facing serious accusations, he shields those who got him there.
He’d rather serve jail time than utter a word to incriminate his minders. He’ll choose prison rather than reveal the truth.
This is Abela’s monstrosity – calling black white and making his followers do likewise, urging them, “You must go on”.