Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Economy, Musings, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology, Thoughts on Economics > The Ubiquity of the “Nuremberg Defense” in Contemporary Society

The Ubiquity of the “Nuremberg Defense” in Contemporary Society

We often tend to believe that something labelled ‘evil’ is somehow fundamentally different from what is widely considered to be ‘good’. However categorization based on widespread social beliefs rather than rationality result in a lot of cognitive dissonance. I will highlight this with by looking at the ubiquity of the “Nuremberg Defense” (Superior Orders) in contemporary society.

Superior orders (often known as the Nuremberg defense or lawful orders) is a plea in a court of law that a soldier not be held guilty for actions which were ordered by a superior office. The superior orders plea is similar to the doctrine of respondeat superior in tort law where a superior is held liable for the actions of a subordinate, and the subordinate may escape liability.

So how widespread is this issue in contemporary society? Let me give you a few examples..

1. Consider the ‘war on drugs’. As some of you might know, it is not really about drugs or protecting society but a white reaction to civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s. Today it supports a huge ‘justice-prison-police-legalized thuggery’ complex which has revenues in the hundreds of billions and probably employs a few percent of the American population. To the rational outsider and many insiders it is obvious that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed to reduce either the availability, cost or quality of drugs. But have you ever wondered how those who benefit from this futile and misguided war perceive it or, more importantly, themselves?

The vast majority of those who are employed in the ‘justice-prison-police-legalized thuggery’ complex see it as just another job REGARDLESS of the negative impact on the lives of others. They see quite happy and enthusiastic to accidentally kill innocent people, entrap people, treat non-whites like crap, destroy their lives and otherwise act in a manner that is functionally equivalent to those who served the Third Reich.

“but is all right because we are just doing a good job by following orders from above”.

2. A lot of white westerners poke fun at or condemn the efforts of “foreign tyrants” to encourage personality cults to control their populations. They frequently criticize people in the educational system of those countries as weak-willed, lame or stupid. Meanwhile the educational systems of western countries are now full of legislation against behaviors which were once considered normal to the extent that normal childhood has been criminalized. Then there is the issue of whether these systems teach anything of value to kids.

Once again, it is obvious to rational observers that the educational system of western countries have fundamentally failed those they were supposed to help, those who benefit from its existence see it differently. They frequently advertise themselves as decent hardworking people who are selflessly working in best interest of kids. Apparently the ongoing massive increase in childhood problems such as poor literacy, obesity, ADHD and a myriad of diagnosed mental issues are not their fault.. because they are always right. Have you ever wondered about what is going through their little heads as they make those claims in the face of evidence to the contrary?

“but is all right because we are just doing a good job by following orders from above.”

I could give you many more examples using occupations ranging from physicians and professors to soldiers or average government employee. But it is always the same..

“we are just doing a good job by following orders from above.”

What do you think? Comments?

  1. Columnist
    March 11, 2012 at 1:18 am

    Again, powerful analysis. As regards the War on Drugs, study Critical Race Theory.


  2. Columnist
    March 11, 2012 at 1:19 am

    Pervasiveness of racism: First, CRT takes as a given -as its first premise -that racism infects every aspect of American law and American life. That racism is deep and pervasive -some would go so far as to say inevitable and permanent.
    “Neutral” law as mechanism of racial subordination: Second, CRT attempts to show that the claims of the legal system to neutrality, to impartiality, and to objectivity are false claims. CRT attempts to show that the law -even when it seems neutral and even-handed -in fact works in the interest of dominant groups in American society and particularly in the interest of dominant racial groups. CRT attempts to show that the so-called “logic of the law,” that so-called “neutral principles” are a sort of cover for a deeply ingrained system of racial domination.

    Critical of civil rights strategies: Third, CRT generally is extremely critical of the activity -the strategy and even the goals -of the traditional civil rights movement. The thinking here is that the traditional civil rights movement believed that all that needed to be done was to make the laws neutral -to end legal segregation in the schools, for example -in order to achieve racial equality in America. But such reforms, critical race theorists say, were ineffectual, and necessarily so -because they ignored the way even neutral laws could effect racial subordination. In addition, it might be said that critical race theorists see the civil rights movement as too “reformist,” too “gradualist,” not sufficiently committed to the broad-scale social transformations necessary to achieve racial equality.

    Insistence on incorporation of minority perspectives and use of stories: Fourth, and relatedly, critical race theory insists that the law -legal doctrines of all sorts -be reformulated, fundamentally altered, to reflect and incorporate the perspectives and experiences of so-called “outsider groups,” who have known racism and racial subordination at first hand. Critical race theorists often write not in traditional, lawyerly terms, but with parables, and stories, and dialogues. The thinking is that these techniques can better demonstrate the actual experiences of members of minority group -experiences which should be accepted by and incorporated in the law. In addition, the decision to spurn traditional techniques of legal argument reflects the belief that these apparently neutral techniques are not neutral at all -that they have been the means of promoting not some objective system of truth and justice, but instead a system based on racial power.

  1. March 18, 2012 at 1:01 am

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