Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Social production of moral indifference - 11b

William Golding’s widely read book, The Lord of the Flies, is supposed to be the unwitting inspiration behind a popular entertainment genre on television today: reality TV. The premise of so-called reality shows, is that human beings, when left to their own devices, behave like beasts. ‘I read and re-read Lord of the Flies,’ divulged the creator of hit series Survivor in an interview. ‘I read it first when I was about twelve, again when I was about twenty and again when I was thirty and since we did the programme as well.’

Apparently, reality shows help us to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. And 'getting  real' means to behave nastily towards each other. But behind the scenes of programmes like these, candidates are maipulated in subtle ways to bring out the worst in them. In the article, 5 Ways You Don't Realize Reality Shows Lie, one kid who paticipated in a reality show called 'Kid Nation' describes his experience.

The idea in the show was that these children would be left alone to run an abandoned town in the New Mexico desert, to hopefully disastrous results. Everyone who showed up fit into some archetype -- there were kids there who looked like they'd come from the inner city, kids with cowboy hats. 'Everybody had a broad, stereotypical role to play, and once the cameras rolled, the kids were all happy to go along with it. . . . even children know to self-censor and come up with their own bits to make themselves more interesting. We all want attention . . .'

Periodically the TV bosses would find that the kids were getting along too well, and they'd have to induce something for them to fight over. But things often did not pan out the way the makers of the show wanted despite all of the attempts at manipulation. Where most reality shows like to boil everything down to just the worst of the worst behavior, that wasn't true of the smallest children on the show who actually came off much better than the reality. Where they couldn't manufacture real conflict among the group, they would try fudge things so the 'What Happens and What Airs Are Very Different'.

You could say: What does it really matter? We all know it’s just entertainment. Stories are not something you watch and forget. When you keep watching such stories, you might forget their specifics but their basic premise of disageable humans seeps into your mind. Studies have shown that such television shows can make people more aggressive. In children, the correlation between seeing violent images and aggression in adulthood is stronger than the correlation between asbestos and cancer, or between calcium intake and bone mass.

There are two opposing forces inside us: one good and one evil. What plays a pivotal role in making us see greed and selfishness everywhere is the daily news, soaps and reality shows on TV which so many of us are addicted to. Cynical stories have a marked effect on the way we look at the world. In Britain, another study demonstrated that girls who watch more reality TV also more often say that being mean and telling lies are necessary to get ahead in life. As the journalist and documentary film maker Richard Curtis says:

‘If you make a film about a man kidnapping a woman and chaining her to a radiator for five years – something that has happened probably once in history – it’s called searingly realistic analysis of society. 

If I make a film like Love Actually, which is about people falling in love, and there are about a million people falling in love in Britain today, it’s called a sentimental presentation of an unrealistic world.

’At the heart of Lord of the Flies is a thought experiment: What are people like if you put them in a context in which civilization is stripped away, leaving them to behave in their natural state? Absent, in Golding’s terms, “the protection of parents and school and policemen and the law,” what do people do? For many, answers to such thought experiments reveal Machiavellian assumptions about human nature: that free of the structures and strictures of society, our base and violent tendencies spring forth. This is the view that T.V. programs promote. 

The real Lord of the Flies happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months on a deserted island near Tonga in 1965 with few resources and no adult supervision. It turned out very differently from William Golding’s bestseller, Lord of the Flies. It a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other. But the real-life story is forgotten while the fiction is widely read and hailed as an accurate depiction of reality.

George Orwell said, 'All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.' And where do they get their ideas from? In On killing : the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society, Dave Grossman also blames the media for perpetuating the myth of easy killing and have thereby become ‘part of society's unspoken conspiracy of deception that glorifies killing and war’. It gives very superficial insights concerning the nature of killing and war. 

Grossman points out that young people see on television or at the movies detailed, horrible suffering and killings. They are learning to associate this violence with their favorite soft drink, candy bar, and the close contact of their date. Firing ranges with pop-up targets and immediate feedback, just like those used to train soldiers, are found in interactive video games. Grossman argues that this is responsible in part for the rising rate of murder and violence, especially among the young. He writes:

We are reaching that stage of desensitization at which the infliction of pain and suffering has become a source of entertainment: vicarious pleasure rather than revulsion. We are learning to kill, and we are learning to like it.'

There is a Native American parable about a debate between two wolves that takes place inside everybody. One is evil, representing  annger, envy, greed, arrogance, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good,  representing love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth and compassion. Which wolf will win? The one you feed. The media - especially visual and social media - feed the evil wolf. By cutting off his food supply, you will use your energy and resources on thoughts, feelings, and emotions that serve you in healthy ways. 

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