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Overcoming EvilGenocide, Violent Conflict, and Terrorism$
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Ervin Staub

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195382044

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195382044.001.0001

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Internal and External Bystanders

Internal and External Bystanders

Their Passivity, Complicity, and Role in the Evolution of Violence

(p.195) 7 Internal and External Bystanders
Overcoming Evil

Ervin Staub

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the role of internal and external bystanders in the evolution of mass violence. In the face of escalating violence, witnesses or bystanders usually remain passive, due to past devaluation of the victims, pluralistic ignorance, diffusion of responsibility, the definition of the meaning of events by leaders and the media, and feelings of powerlessness and fear. The passivity and often at least some degree of complicity of bystanders make the perpetrators of violence believe that what they are doing is right. External bystanders, outside nations and groups, also usually remain passive. Internal and external bystanders are often complicit, continuing with business as usual. Sometimes external bystanders actively support perpetrating governments. Positive, constructive actions by bystanders are crucial in the prevention of group violence.

Keywords:   group violence, mass violence, witnesses, passive bystanders, United States

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