interrogation techniques (Mutt & Jeff, good cop/bad cop, etc.)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Jan 11 08:53:58 UTC 2005
     City Journal, Winter 2005
     Army doctrine gives interrogators 16 "approaches" to induce
     prisoners of war to divulge critical information. Sporting
     names like "Pride and Ego Down" and "Fear Up Harsh," these
     approaches aim to exploit a detainee's self-love, allegiance to
     or resentment of comrades, or sense of futility. Applied in the
     right combination, they will work on nearly everyone, the
     intelligence soldiers had learned in their training.
     Similar restrictions — a specific finding of military necessity
     and notice to Rumsfeld — applied to other tried-and-true army
     psychological techniques. These included "Pride and Ego
     Down" — attacking a detainee's pride to goad him into revealing
     critical information — as well as "Mutt and Jeff," the classic
     good cop–bad cop routine of countless police shows.

OED3 has a first cite of 1974 for "Mutt and Jeff (routine)" in the
interrogation sense.  Proquest has it a decade earlier:

1964 _Washington Post_ 30 Aug. A13/1 An interesting sidelight on how FBI
agents operate was described to a traveler by a Philadelphia businessman.
According to his story, one of the FBI interrogation techniques is the old
"Mutt and Jeff" routine taught by Army Intelligence. It operates this way:
One agent abuses his subject, firing tough questions and snide
accusations. Then the other agent, who acts as the higher-ranking of the
two, reprimands his partner and treats his subject with kid gloves. He
might even talk about fishing and football to try to gain the subject's
confidence, and then will slip in the pertinent questions.

I don't see anything in OED or HDAS for "good cop/bad cop (routine)".
Surprisingly, I couldn't find any cites before 1973-74, in two NY Times
articles by Leslie Gelb about negotiations with Israel made by Henry
Kissinger and James Schlesinger:

1973 _New York Times_ 21 Oct. Sec. 4 (Week in Review) 1/5 Was this a bad
cop-good cop routine? Was Mr. Kissinger fixing the diplomatic deal, but
keeping Mr. Schlesinger in reserve as a threat to keep the Soviets from
taking chances?
1974 _New York Times_ 4 Aug. (Magazine) 44/4 But another version is that
the two Secretaries arranged to play a good cop-bad cop routine with the

As for "pride and ego up/down" and "fear up/down", that's Army lingo that
has only turned up in post-9/11 reporting.  This WSJ article on the Army's
interrogation school apparently first brought the terms to light:

Wall Street Journal, Apr 26, 2002, p. A1 (Proquest)

"Fear-up" employs "heavy-handed, table-banging violence," an Army field
manual says. "The interrogator behaves in a heavy, overpowering manner
with a loud and threatening voice" and may "throw objects across the room
to heighten the source's implanted feelings of fear." ... "Fear-down," in
contrast, targets terrified prisoners. Interrogators try to calm them,
asking about personal or family life, eventually interjecting the
questions they really want answered.
When all else fails, there's "pride and ego down," where interrogators
belittle a prisoner's "loyalty, intelligence, abilities, leadership
qualities, slovenly appearance or any other perceived weakness," the
manual says. ... Depending on their personality, age and physical bearing,
interrogators tend to prefer different approaches. "My favorite is 'pride
and ego up,'" says Spc. Carrie Clark, 26, of Stoneboro, Pa., because "you
have to make them feel good, that you're their best friend." In it, a
prisoner thought to have been "looked down upon for a long time" is
flattered and made to feel that by providing information, he can "show
someone that he does indeed have some 'brains,'" the manual says.

--Ben Zimmer

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