My Lai: the struggle over outrage
The 1968 My Lai massacre, during the Vietnam War, and its aftermath can be conceptualized as a struggle over outrage. Examination of the events reveals that the perpetrators and their commanders took various actions that inhibited outrage over the unprovoked killing of civilians. These actions can be classified into five methods: covering up evidence; devaluing the victims; reinterpreting the episode as a military victory; setting up superficial investigations that gave the appearance of justice; and intimidating those who might speak out. These are the same five methods regularly used by perpetrators to inhibit outrage about other types of injustices. This case gives guidance on the sorts of techniques needed to raise concern about human rights violations during wartime.
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