Warning: Disturbing content, not safe for work
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo has seen good people turn evil, and he thinks he knows why.
Zimbardo will speak Thursday afternoon at the TED conference, where he plans to illustrate his points by showing a three-minute video, obtained by Wired.com, that features many previously unseen photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (disturbing content).
In March 2006, Salon.com published 279 photos and 19 videos from Abu Ghraib, one of the most extensive documentations to date of abuse in the notorious prison. Zimbardo claims, however, that many images in his video -- which he obtained while serving as an expert witness for an Abu Ghraib defendant -- have never before been published.
The Abu Ghraib prison made international headlines in 2004 when photographs of military personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners were published around the world. Seven soldiers were convicted in courts martial and two, including Specialist Lynndie England, were sentenced to prison.
Zimbardo conducted a now-famous experiment at Stanford University in 1971, involving students who posed as prisoners and guards. Five days into the experiment, Zimbardo halted the study when the student guards began abusing the prisoners, forcing them to strip naked and simulate sex acts.
His book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, explores how a "perfect storm" of conditions can make ordinary people commit horrendous acts.
Dr. Zimbardo's interview with Wired and the video may be viewed here. Are these the freedoms--freedom to dehumanize, freedom to debase, freedom to torture and kill--that Muslims supposedly hate us for?