Preventing Genocide: Episodes must be exposed, documented, and punished

Donald Acheson

British Medical Journal, BMJ
British Medical Journal

I conclude that genocide is the final stage in a three stage deterioration in social relationships. . . . The resultant first stage of social deterioration is so common that few countries in the world can claim complete immunity from it. . . . The second stage involves sporadic, often cyclical, unplanned violence including shop smashing, looting, arson, and riots. . . . The final and dreadful step, which leads to attempted genocide, involves a crucial additional factor. This is the active participation, either openly or in secret, of the state itself. . . .The mass media are often a crucial factor, manipulated by politicians to inflame public opinion by, for example, fanning tribal memories of long past victories and defeats. But we must not make the mistake of placing all the blame on politicians, for no act of genocide-whether in Auschwitz or Srebrenica-has taken place without a substantial measure of public consent.

Acheson D. Preventing Genocide: Episodes must be exposed, documented, and punished. Br Med J. 1996;313(7070):1415-1417.

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