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October 24th, 2008


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09:43 pm - Video Disgust
I really enjoy watching Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel. I enjoy the science, the engineering, and especially the explosions. I enjoy watching fire and explosions a whole heck of a lot. However, not if people are getting hurt. I was disgusted and appalled that after Mythbusters they now have some twisted grand guignol extravaganza called Destroyed in Seconds, where viewers are treated to film footage of actual destruction. From the ads and brief clips, it looked like much of this involves destruction where people were badly injured or killed - helicopter and plane crashes, explosions in populated areas, and similar horrors. Words cannot express my disgust and my anger at showing that sort of thing on TV. Are there really that many borderline psychopaths around that such a show will get good-sized viewing audience? Are most people who watch the fun safe pyromania on Mythbusters also willing to happily watch events where people actually died. Who considered this sort of thing entertainment? This isn't fiction, it's images of events that actually killed people. Such a show seems like it is both based on a callous disregard for the suffering of others and is also something that actively helps fuel that disregard. I'm somewhat doubtful about arguments about fictional violence & death promoting a tolerance for violence, but I'm far less doubtful if people are watching what they know to be actual violence & death. I'm once again disturbingly reminded of various Robert Silverberg short stories from the 1970s, where people in the 21st century watched TV shows of people dueling to the death or being operated on w/o anesthetic.

I wonder if people in more civilized nations are also willing to watch such horrors, or if the existence of this show is yet another example of how deeply messed up and utterly inhumane this nation is.
Current Mood: indescribableindescribable

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[User Picture]
From:frater_treinta
Date:October 25th, 2008 05:33 am (UTC)
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The Romans didn't consider the coliseum mindless entertainment, they considered it moral education.

At a certain time, a civilization begins to develop "clean hands." Bacon starts to come from Styrofoam trays. "Beef" is an option at a Taco Bell. Lethal injections start with swabbing the site with alcohol, and "witnesses" watch through a window.

Something in us knows its wrong, and that it's making us sick. Coddling higher-brain function is turning our baser natures against themselves, and causing them to manifest in darker, twisted, but more "acceptable" ways.

Chevy wants to tell us we're safe on the highways. Spike wants to remind us we aren't. Prudential wants to tell us we need to plan for the future. America's Most Wanted wants to remind us we may not have one.

Rick Warren wants to tell us our life has value. Jigsaw wants to see exactly how much value we place on it.

We're a sick society, but not because of what we watch. Dehydrated people crave soda and ice cream. Denied reptile brains crave Hostel and Turistas.

I study and love all Martial Arts and have devoted years of my life to the study of how to commit physical injury to another human being very, very efficiently. I detest so called "torture porn," like Saw. Ted Nugent has a well-developed philosophy surrounding killing and eating other animals, but is filled with joy as he takes people on tours of his ranch, officially the world's only privately-owned international wildlife preserve.

His kids get death threats. Saw is getting a roller-coaster.

I'm starting to wonder if watching people *actually* get hurt may be all that can save us.

:(
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:19 am (UTC)
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The Romans didn't consider the coliseum mindless entertainment, they considered it moral education.

Rome was a deeply sick society - it was supported by slaves and had levels of everyday brutality that would sicken most inhabitants of the first world. I studied classics for many years and one of the most important lessons I learned was that even the most allegedly civilized pre-modern states were vile horrors, especially when compared to modern first world nations. The less we are like Rome the better. The most important gift of the industrial revolution was that abundance no longer need be built off of the suffering and deprivation of others. It still sometimes is, but overall (even when you look at the entire planet) the level of this is down and the overall abundance is up.

I'm not certain at the entire thrust of your argument, but I'm fairly certain that I disagree vehemently with you on this point. From everything I've read, violence (at least real violence) damages people who experience it. Seeing people hurt makes people more callous to the fates and lives of others.

Similarly, all evidence I've read is that dealing with the "harsh realities of life" makes people more callous, more stressed and considerably more prone to despair and depression. All evidence from a variety of psych studies that I've seen is that the best way to have a healthy, well adjusted, humane, and happy populace (which from my PoV, is should be the primary goal of any moral government) is to reduce the emotional and physical stress on the members.

Look at the changes in the last 100-200 years. Our food industry is vile, but people are demanding better (as with the proposition on the ballot in CA). Food animals were also treated horribly 150 years ago, and back then no one cared at all, instead people watched public hangings with glee and the middle class ignored the plight of the poor, watching them starve and die on the street with little or no compassion.

The US remains an aberration in this regard, but in actual civilized nations, the suffering of other human beings is of major concern to both the society (and government) and too many individuals. From the POV of life anywhere 100 years ago, or sadly, from the PoV of the modern US, life in most of Western Europe could be considered "coddled", but all evidence shows us that these people are more compassionate, healthier, and overall happier than people have been (as a whole) ever in the history of humanity.

Having people suffer is horrible, and using actual human suffering as entertainment is not only repugnant, it also teaches a disregard for the well-being of others. I find Saw horrific, but I think that shows like Destroyed in Seconds and Americas Most Wanted are even worse, because I'm fairly certain that most people can tell the difference between fiction and reality. Shows like those two promote fear and callousness.

Americas Most Wanted merely teaches fear, and fear does nothing except make people passive and afraid. It's an awesome tool for control and for making people feel helpless. Sufficiently amounts of fear produces more violence, but does nothing remotely useful.

Also, I think Ted Nugent is both a fascinating & a deeply disturbed individual.
[User Picture]
From:frater_treinta
Date:October 25th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC)
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Eh, I was a bit rambly. Rome didn't start sick, but it sure ended that way. Watching people get seriously injured isn't healthy, and compassion for others is a great thing that helps make us human. I only used "coddled" to refer to our habit of refusing to connect bacon and Wilbur in our cognitive process.

I don't think our lower intelligence can determine between fiction and fact, it just sees what it does.

I'm not suggesting that actual violence is the cure, it didn't work for the Romans. But I am pointing out that you will never see anyone nicer than farm folk, and they live a life filled to the brim with reproduction and blood. Actually getting into the life cycle, apparently, is good for us.

So, I say turn off the TV and plant a Garden. Currently, I'm working on getting a fishtank going, and that will teach you everything you need to know about the joy and fragility of life.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm not suggesting that actual violence is the cure, it didn't work for the Romans. But I am pointing out that you will never see anyone nicer than farm folk, and they live a life filled to the brim with reproduction and blood. Actually getting into the life cycle, apparently, is good for us.

Fair enough. I don't disagree with the above statement nearly as strongly, but I still disagree. I see a lot more compassion among modern urbanites (at least nations other than the post Reagan US, which on some levels attempts to stomp compassion out of everyone). I'm all for separating people from the life cycle, at least in that it involves killing animals. I've never met someone raised on a farm who had anywhere near the compassion towards animals that a humane urban pet owner does, and that difference makes sense. Then again, while I have no interest in giving up meat, I'm also very much looking forward to it being grown in vats.
[User Picture]
From:xi_o_teaz
Date:October 26th, 2008 07:48 am (UTC)
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I rarely disagree with you, so I feel I must comment ;-)

but I still disagree. I see a lot more compassion among modern urbanites...I'm all for separating people from the life cycle

I think this is part of the problem. Only by being an active part of the full Life & Death Cycle can individuals truly appreciate both Life & Death.

I've never met someone raised on a farm who had anywhere near the compassion towards animals that a humane urban pet owner does

Whilst I agree with this observation, I think that the urban pet owners who haven't directly experienced the Life & Death cycle have an incomplete (immature?) and false Compassion. I don't know how to phrase this, but I don't thinks it is as genuine or "Real(TM)".

My two rubles worth.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 26th, 2008 08:22 am (UTC)
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the Life & Death cycle have an incomplete (immature?) and false Compassion. I don't know how to phrase this, but I don't thinks it is as genuine or "Real(TM)".

I can see what you mean, but the reality or not of the compassion matters far less to me than its existence. From my PoV, there is almost no situation where more compassion is a bad thing (with the note that being compasionate /= being stupid or careless).
[User Picture]
From:xi_o_teaz
Date:October 27th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
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And again we are in agreement. Increasing Compassion is never a bad thing.
[User Picture]
From:mindstalk
Date:October 25th, 2008 05:47 am (UTC)
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I'm reading Rome and Jerusalem. Roman relative + points: healthy sex and body attitudes. Law as pragmatic man-made construct. Extension of citizenship. - points: having people kill each other for fun, or even burning some alive.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:23 am (UTC)
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See my comments about Rome above. One of the key problems with pre-industrial existence is that civilization and any sort of humane decency could not coexist. Far too much of pre-industrial life was effectively a zero-sum game, and so people learned to stop seeing and caring about others in a way that is rare even in the US (but is still common in the worst portions of the modern third world). Both the Romans and the Persians did better than many civilizations, but were unavoidably horrific because of the basic limitations on their existence. Unfortunately, that basic level of inhumanity made people sufficiently callous that such inhumanity could easily spread.
[User Picture]
From:qos
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:20 am (UTC)
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I watched one episode of Destroyed in Seconds. Like you, I had seen the commercials and been appalled. I hadn't planned to watch it, but came into the living room and found Wolfling watching.

I still don't like the overall sensationalist tone, but in the episode we watched, the narrator assured the viewers that even though it looked bad, the people involved in the destrudtion had walked away, or escaped with relatively minor injuries.

Whether or not a) they are flat lying about the actual consequences, or b) other events which they've shown actually did result in serious injury or death, I have no idea. We haven't watched it again.

Your primary point stands, however. It's deeply distressing that people want to watch this kind of thing. I agree with frater_treinta about torture porn, and am troubled by the fact that people go see movies like "Saw" and buy videos sold on television that do state they show fatal accidents.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:27 am (UTC)
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in the episode we watched, the narrator assured the viewers that even though it looked bad, the people involved in the destrudtion had walked away, or escaped with relatively minor injuries.

That's at least something, but either the show won't last long or they'll start lying or showing worse. Unplanned massive destruction where no one was seriously injured is simply not that common.
[User Picture]
From:aekiy
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:24 am (UTC)
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I think there's a lot to be said for participating in the event through the shock factor. A lot of people don't watch these sorts of things because they like the idea of people dying, but because it combines various elements they do like. It may combine, for instance, a like of explosions with an appreciable sense of shock over the event. People often liked to be shocked, for whatever reasons, and simply watching this kind of event is in no way an indication that they like people dying.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:28 am (UTC)
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From what I've read, watching such events will cause at least some people to care less about the suffering of others, and that is from my PoV a very bad thing indeed.
[User Picture]
From:aekiy
Date:October 25th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
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I haven't seen the show in question, so I can't really address it directly, but I can tell you that some people watch disaster recordings as a means of empathizing with the victims or familiarizing themselves with the facts and history. That will depend a lot on how it's presented, of course, on which I can't really comment.
(Deleted comment)
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From:heron61
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
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I find smash lab less well done than mythbusters, but given that not only is no one getting hurt, but the idea is creating (utterly goofy) things to avoid disasters, I find it completely different - I'd say not abhorrent at all, and rather the reverse - how to stop bad things from happening, rather than reveling in them.
[User Picture]
From:kitten_goddess
Date:October 25th, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC)
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"I wonder if people in more civilized nations are also willing to watch such horrors, or if the existence of this show is yet another example of how deeply messed up and utterly inhumane this nation is."

You're forgetting something. In "the more civilized nations," they used to have public torture of innocent people as entertainment for the citizenry. They even made the victims' children watch as they burned their mothers at the stake. I'm referring to the Inquisition.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 25th, 2008 06:58 pm (UTC)
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I agree, but I think a more accurate statistic would I think involve public execution - the last one in the US was in 1936. However, it's also very true that nation has changed a good bit since then.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:silvaerina_tael
Date:October 25th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
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I remember having a conversation years ago, and while I was still in high school (early to mid 80's) about David Cronenberg's Videodrome. Consensus was that we could actually see some of the concepts happening in the not too distant future. Rather unfortunately, it almost looks like we're there.
[User Picture]
From:xi_o_teaz
Date:October 26th, 2008 07:51 am (UTC)
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I completely agree with you on that show. I watch the Discovery channels almost exclusively, so I see lots of commercials for it. Waaay too many ads for it, in fact :-(
[User Picture]
From:rjgrady
Date:October 27th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
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I think you are probably mistaken in thinking that the main audience for such a show is people who enjoy suffering. Tragedy is fascinating, and bodily harm is educational. I can watch video of civil rights riots, and still be glad I am very, very far from that experience.

The thing that would bother me about such a show as you describe is the lack of context. Showing one or two really horrible things, with a whole show done around how it came about and the effects on the survivors, could be really fascinating. Showing simply a lot of destruction and pain bothers for me about the same reason as TV coverage of the election; viewers get the high points without any real understanding.

I think desensitization is pretty much a good thing. Children are not able to properly cope with the world as it is. It's a skill we have to learn. I live with an almost daily awareness of people dying worldwide for various reasons; to survive, I have found a level of comfort with the idea. To become hardened to such sights is not to lose compassion. Ideally, strength and understanding intertwine so that the psyche is able to both apprehened suffering and endure it, to mourn but not to be lost in sorrow.

My arguments against such a show are aesthetic and educational, not because I see anything wrong with showing others suffering as a form of poetics. As mass media entertainment, sure, but I object to essentially anything being turned into mindless "entertainment," which ought to properly called occupation, since it does little to entertain.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 27th, 2008 07:39 am (UTC)
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I think desensitization is pretty much a good thing. Children are not able to properly cope with the world as it is. It's a skill we have to learn. I live with an almost daily awareness of people dying worldwide for various reasons; to survive, I have found a level of comfort with the idea. To become hardened to such sights is not to lose compassion. Ideally, strength and understanding intertwine so that the psyche is able to both apprehened suffering and endure it, to mourn but not to be lost in sorrow.

A certain level is unavoidable, but I don't think anything more than the most minimal amount is in any way good. Desensitization allows people to not only walk past the homeless person in need of food and shelter, but to accept a society where all citizens are not guaranteed such necessities. In my ideal world, deliberately killing another person would be a vanishingly rare occurrence because almost no one would be able to turn off their awareness of other humans as people with lives and hopes sufficiently to ever do so.

From my PoV, anything that gets us closer to that goal is a good thing. For me, that's how we get peace and a humane society. We live surrounded by abundance and the primary reason that we have problems ranging from terrorism (including everyone from US abortion clinic bombers to Iraqi suicide bombers) to fear driven politics is that people feel unsafe and they live in environments that are sufficiently unstable that they turn to religious mania and ideologies based on violence and vengeance.

The first world nations have the power to stop all that. Look at Northern Ireland - you give the people hope, jobs, access to the necessities of life and some enjoyable consumer goods, and they settle down, get on about their daily lives, and stop blowing up each others' children. To me Desensitization is one of the things that is stopping the inhabitants of the wealthy first world nations from helping this be true across the planet.

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