Sunday, April 25, 2010

DateLine Shocks: Journalistic Malpractice?

The shocking experiments of Stanley Milgram in the 1960's raised ethical questions regarding human experimentation, later reinforced by the disturbing Stanford Prison Experiment.

Journalists are apparently exempt from such standards in a race to the bottom via "reality entertainment."

France lowered the bar first with The Game of Death.
France is reeling from a documentary about a psychological experiment disguised as a game show. Researchers staged a fictitious reality show to see how far people would go in obeying authority, especially if television reinforces that authority.

The disturbing results have alarmed the French.

The fictitious game show had all the trappings of a real TV quiz show, including a beautiful and well-known hostess, and a raucous audience.

Dateline followed suit with What a Pain!

Get ready for something different from Chris Hansen. It's an all-new reality show, called "What a Pain!" - and it's totally fake! The idea is to test reality-wannabe contestants. Would they deliberately hurt someone else just because they're told do? Or, how about this: An enclosed room fills with smoke. Would people bolt for the door or sit tight? Watch clips here.

What were they not thinking? The harm of authority driven win/lose structures is well established. Why put people through damaging "entertainment," be they French or American?

Is the media's goal to desensitize the public to violence?

The French version combines Milgram's use of authority with the power of live television. He says the result in the French experiment — a higher percentage of participants willing to shock the subject — shows that the manipulative power of television further increases people's willingness to obey.

Footage (shows) Pasanau pumping 460 volts of electricity until the actor pretending to be electrocuted seems to keel over dead.

In the footage, the game show hostess yells: "And you've won!"

Who knew old movies would be so prescient? Shocking television reeks of The Running Man. News journalism is now the dark comedy of Network. Anything for a Q rating...

P.S. Where does a strong authority system intersect with a punishment and cameras? In enemy combatant detention and interrogation centers, i.e. Abu Ghraib, CIA secret prisons & Guantanamo Bay. A few loose cannons don't waterboard someone 183 times. Oddly, much of the footage went missing. Might it reappear in a reality show?

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