And what’s crucial is that dissent without disobedience had no value for the victim.
Dissent is not the same as disobedience, as a person may voice protest with an authority but still obey. People who are capable of dissent but incapable of disobedience are often uncomfortable challenging the very legitimacy of that authority to wield power. In contrast, genuine anti-authoritarians are comfortable with both dissent and disobedience when they deem authority to be illegitimate.
Dissent alone may be effective in a genuinely democratic society, but authoritarians—be they Milgram’s experimenter authority or U.S. corporatist government—ignore dissent. Authoritarians realize that simply ignoring dissent is often an effective way to marginalize it, even when that dissent comes from the majority of the people.
As I describe in Resisting Illegitimate Authority, within the human family there are anti-authoritarians-people comfortable resisting illegitimate authority; but at present, for reasons that I discuss, there are not enough of them.
Democracy requires active work. Every generation has to reclaim it. Educators have a critical function, at a moment when we live in filter bubbles and echo chambers, to create safe spaces and facilitate points of confrontation to break single identities. If we are serious about democracy, it is about how we teach. It is about living democracy in the classroom. It might be timely for teachers to consider whether they model authoritarian leaders, how they might support curricula disobedience and academic freedom, and what their professional code of ethics is.