Corruption: the role of bystanders

…”My thinking on this is inspired by a recent book by eminent sociologist Stanley Cohen, States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (Polity Press, 2001). Cohen systematically analyses processes of denial by both individuals and governments. The book is impressive in its scope and insight. I can only introduce a few ideas from it here.

Cohen describes five methods of denial.

1. Deny responsibility: “I don’t know a thing about it.”

2. Deny injury: “It didn’t really cause any harm.”

3. Deny the victim: “They had it coming to them.”

4. Condemn the condemner: “They’re corrupt hypocrites.”

5. Appeal to higher loyalties: “I owe it to my mates.”… 

— Brian Martin- Bystanders. Published in The Whistle (Newsletter of Whistleblowers Australia), No. 30, July 2002, pp. 10-11.

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  12 comments for “Corruption: the role of bystanders

  1. March 29, 2015 at 9:13 am

    it is absolutely an important subject to be discussed in order to find a real solutions, previously I did not pay attention to the fact of corruption, although there were a lot of it in Syria where I was living, but after we grew and started to observe the community for example in Russia, corruption is the number one problem!! it is very sad to know that such a beautiful country is drowning into the unknown because of corruption which is unfortunately widely spread from the head of the triangle to the base, soon or later, that all will fall apart, fighting the corruption should begin with ourselves, saying No! I will not bribe nor take one..

  2. March 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Disrupted Physician.

  3. April 4, 2015 at 11:54 am

    I want to apologise for this long speech, to ask you to disregard its errors in analysis, to forgive my ignorance of the issues as applied to your struggle, and to thank you if you choose to allow me this platform.

    The sheer scope of the issue you have taken on may seem to dictate a focus on physicians alone, if only for strategic and/or logistical reasons,However, I respectfully submit that this entirely understandable approach will not expose the systemic silencing you have so clearly identified, because it ultimately emerges as a professional outrage: that is the arena within which your enemies intend to confine and reduce the battle if they cannot prevent it entirely
    That is, if the real betrayal for you is the extent to which psychiatry’s thuggish function is revealed to be employed against professional peers, the violation essentially emerges as a broken pact re.a social identity based in part on its collective exemption to psychiatry’s singular lethal power. Thus, your hard struggle will could well preserve some physican careers, and result in a few cosmetic structural changes. The former is, of course, no small feat.

    Again, with respect for your own choices, I posit that yours may well be an ideal position from which to take the radical step of aligning yourselves with the despised and discounted. By these, I refer to the mass of mere mental patients whose very claim to humanity has been ripped from them with no context other than its own meaningless and deadening one. If you stand with them, reiterating repeatedly that YOU have been similarly classified, and focus on calling other skilled, productive citizens from :”coming out” as having been silenced by psychiatry – you will erode the very concept that gives psychiatry license to so wholly deprive lives from so many. If you refuse to distance yourself from them and point instead to the common basis that was efficiently employed to silenced ALL of you, the dynamics of how bigotry keeps EVERyONE in line can be illuminated.
    Your point re psychiatry as a mechanism for social control will be so powerfully demonstrated. Legislating your exceptionally productive (and conventionally majority/”normal” brain by labelling IT defective with the ease of long practice was a huge crime. It can indeed be compared to the labeling of other kinds of brains: the kind that ultimately simply bother others- the brains for whom those evil, potent, chemical straight jackets are designed.

    This is the last civil rights struggle, Not, of course, that the others have been won. Hah!
    But until this struggle has been articulated and resisted in those specific terms, all such struggles will pay a price they don’t understand, and will remain hobbled by the impossible act of denying full humanity to all humans.

    Finally, if humans survive ourselves, there is absolutely no doubt that future generations will view current psychiatry with horrified disbelief: that we, with almost no knowledge, interfered forcefully with the most sacrosanct, wholly-owned aspect of being human:

    One another’s brains.

    At this point, two phrases just about sum up my political agenda:

    1) Yankee go home!

    2) Hands off human brains!

    Yours in struggle, hermano.

    • April 4, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      I’m just going to turn my above comment into its own post, geared to the unwashed rabble gathering at the gates.

      Thanks anyway.

      You academics reclaim your position in the social hierarchy – quickly now: EBM indicates rabble status is contagious.

      • April 4, 2015 at 10:19 pm

        Dear Claire,

        Thank you a lot for your feedback.
        I already read your comment — not once, but twice —

        I am taking some time to think about your viewpoints, for me are very interesting and I would like to discuss it further. However, I can’t understand (for now) some points in your previous comment (mostly because English is not my mother tongue) and also in the last response (e.g., the last phrase).

        Please feel always welcome to comment and discuss anything you want here in this blog (also in any post here that you would like to comment).

        My policy is that whether I agree or not with others:

        “I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” -Voltaire

        Kind regards.

      • April 5, 2015 at 12:42 am

        About the last phrase:
        – The hierarchical levels of study designs (i.e., strenght of evidence) according to EBM do not exist.
        – Now I am confused: there is also a social hierarchy which is being claimed by academics? (please check the social biases infographic in the previous comment – cheers ;) )

    • April 5, 2015 at 12:33 am

      Dear Claire,

      – Sociological levels of complexity are very difficult indeed to understand. I believe that we should try to recognize our own social biases, especially in a globalized world in which many different cultural, professional, religious, political and academic backgrounds coexist in a pattern which I believe involves chaos and order (I recently found a new word – chaordic). Please check in the following URL specific social biases that I believe should be taken into account to plan any backfire strategy aimed to overcome suppression of dissent, corruption and the injustiices of today’s world (I believe that this information becomes even more relevant today because of growing social media networks, the internet and academic databases).

      – I am not different to other persons who had also suffered forced psychiatric treatment and involuntary placement:

      – I agree with you about cooperation with other persons who had suffered these types of ill medical treatments which are named as torture by the UN and many other organizations.

      – I also agree that this type of cooperation will benefit of the individual skills of other dissenters who had experienced political abuse of psychiatry. Each and every one of these cases have their own (unique) characteristic. But I also think that there could be also simililarities in the social mechanisms of control by means of political abuse of psychiatry.

      I will address other points later, please feel welcome to comment more post or to reply to this message.

      Un abrazo amiga y de nuevo gracias por tus comentarios (aun sigo pensando – por favor mira los “social biases” del 1er enlace).


      • April 5, 2015 at 3:18 am

        Siento mucho. No soy un científico, pero tengo cabeza grande gringa. Y comprendo usted conclusiones generales Y el political application. I read a lot of your blog today and I thought your views might apply only to doctors. !Lo siento! I was wrong. I have very strong opinions and I sometimes don’t take enough time to leap to conclusions. You deserve better.
        My short sarcastic post es muy stupido. Your patience was elegante.Yo leer (I know that verb ending is wrong!) los “social biases” este noche. My friend escribo the long post en Espanol por usted. I should have been more aware of the style of language I used. Americans expect the whole world to speak English. Imperialism has made us culturally deprived. The greatest desire of my life is to become fluent in Spanish. If I could speak it as well as you speak English, I would dance for joy and not ask mi vida for anything else (!except an Internationalist Revolucion!)

      • April 5, 2015 at 5:35 pm

        Hola Claire,

        Pienso lo contrario: las ideas que expresaste en tus mensajes fueron bastante útiles, creo sinceramente que uno encuentra en mensajes con contenido critico las mejores posibilidades para mejorar los argumentos y entender mejor temas que por su misma complejidad escapan al completo entendimiento de cualquier ser humano, independientemente de sus capacidades intelectuales, su recorrido académico o experiencia previa en investigación periodistica (me encanta tu profesión entre otras cosas).

        En cuanto al Español aquí puedes practicarlo todo lo que quieras, creo que otros aspectos han tenido importancia para que la comunicación de la ciencia se transformara en un Inglés absoluto. De todas formas, otros lenguajes también juegan un papel clave en la ciencia, lo más seguro es que sigan teniendo esa importancia.

        En realidad a mi no me gusta restringirme a veces a un solo idioma para comunicar las ideas. Hay palabras que no tienen traducción literal en otros idiomas o que sencillamente se les pierde toda gracia si se traducen.

        Thank you Claire for reading my posts and sharing your thoughts, please comment anytime you like and also feel welcome if you want to practice some Spanish. :)

  4. April 5, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Reblogged this on Chaos Theory and Human Pharmacology and commented:

    “What are the implications for whistleblowers? It is important to recognise that denial of responsibility is a predictable human response. So rather than just condemning those who just sit by and do nothing to help, be prepared for this lack of response and take it into account in devising your course of action. Learn to decode the standard responses, realising that what people say is often an excuse for an instinctive avoidance of responsibility.”

    — Brian Martin- Bystanders. Published in The Whistle (Newsletter of Whistleblowers Australia), No. 30, July 2002, pp. 10-11.

    Full text available in the following URL:

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