Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021

In the half-century since Stanley Milgram’s famed psychological experimentation on unwavering obedience to authority, it seems that little has changed about human impulses, other than the need for television cameras to go with the simulated electrocutions:

The producers of [the French television documentary] “The Game of Death,” set to air Wednesday night, wanted to examine both what they call TV’s mind-numbing power to suspend morality, and the striking human willingness to obey orders.

“Television is a power. We know it, but it’s theoretical,” producer Christophe Nick told the daily Le Parisien. “I wondered: Is it so important that it can turn us into potential executioners?”

In the end, more than four in five “players” gave the maximum jolt.

“People never would have obeyed if they didn’t have trust,” Nick was quoted as saying in the paper’s Wednesday edition. “They told themselves, ‘TV knows what it’s doing.’”

I’m a bit dumbfounded that none of the participants recognized the Milgram template, which was copied step-by-step. It should have been a dead giveaway that something fishy was going on. I consider that historic episode to be near-common knowledge to anyone who went to school in the States. Maybe it’s not as widely known in Europe? (Then again, I’m sure far too many Americans probably would whiff on this too.)

In fact, this is worse than Milgram’s experiments. Back then, the test subjects at least had anonymity to mask their actions — they could rationalize that no one outside of a Yale University lab would ever know what they had done. But adding in the modern-day convention of a (fake) reality show means that the French participants carried out their deeds knowing full well that millions would be watching. Draw your own conclusions on how that reflects current societal mores.

Despite the false-front this time around, Europeans seem to approach reality TV a bit too seriously:

In the Netherlands in 2007, a game show titled the “Big Donor Show” was branded as tasteless and unethical for offering a kidney as top prize. Its aim, to raise awareness about those awaiting for organ transplants, appeared to work: over 12,000 people registered as organ donors after the broadcast. That was at least three times the normal average - for a month.

Silly Euros! Don’t they know that true reality television, a la the American iterations, has no redeeming value? At best, it produces forgettable celebrity and even more forgettable gross-out spectacles. No additional electricity required.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/17/2010 06:37pm
Category: History, RealiTV Check, Science, Society
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