Netflix's new show tries to manipulate people into committing murder

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By VT

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Reality TV has never been the most moral of pursuits. From using extensive plastic surgery to transform a group of "ugly" women to convincing people they were fighting for the affections of a fake prince, producers must think about ratings rather than morals.

The Push, which is designed to explore how social pressures and authority figures can be used to pressure a person into committing murder, sees psychological illusionist Derren Brown use a team of actors fashion a "web of lies" to convince business owner Chris Kingston into pushing a man off a building. The audience will watch as the unwitting Kingston becomes involved in trying to help an elderly man who collapses at an event. The situation escalates until he is eventually left faced with the moral dilemma of either pushing a man to his death from a building or being sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.

"I need him to feel like there's only one way out when he's told to commit murder," Brown claims in the official trailer. "The question we're asking is simple: Can we be manipulated through social pressure to commit murder?"

[[youtubewidget||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doFpACkiZ2Q]]

In their official description about the show, Netflix explains the concept by stating: "In The Push, Brown exposes the psychological secrets of obedience and social compliance. He expertly lifts the lid on the terrifying truth that, when confronted with authority, our natural instinct is to unflinchingly obey without question—to such an extent that even the most moral people can be made to commit the most horrendous acts, simply because they are told to do so."

Although the show is yet to hit US screens, it is already spurring outrage among people who insist that, rather than being an intriguing psychological experiment, the show is cruel, "too far" and "deeply troubling".

[[twitterwidget||https://twitter.com/aepeso/status/966985037362221056]]
[[twitterwidget||https://twitter.com/BabyD2034/status/966760142594338818]]
[[twitterwidget||https://twitter.com/BethElderkin/status/966006452090556420]]
[[twitterwidget||https://twitter.com/im_adam_barrett/status/965985384424341509]]

Perhaps the angriest response came from Laura Hudson, a writer for The Verge, who expressed pure disgust at the show's concept and insisted that we as a society are already well aware of the fact that people do awful things when they are put under pressure. She wrote: “That’s an interesting use of the word ‘need,’ since I’m not sure that anyone actually ‘needs’ to see a real person pushed to the most debased extremes. The show audaciously claims that this is some sort of valuable sociological experiment, one designed to explore whether or not human beings are willing to commit terrible acts when they are told that they have no other choice."

Whether you love or hate the show's concept, it's certainly true that the idea of good people doing bad things while under pressure from authority figures has already been explored. Namely, by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram who performed an infamous social psychology experiment based around the idea of obedience.

In the wake of the Holocaust, Nazi SS lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann was famously depicted as the embodiment of the banality of evil when he was put on trial for crimes against humanity. But, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of his horrifying war crimes, Eichmann claimed that he was simply following orders in a totalitarian Führerprinzip system and shouldn't be held accountable for his actions.

[[heroimage||http://cdn.junglecreations.com/wp/junglecms/2018/02/derren-brown-compressor.jpg||image]]

Fascinated with the idea that ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities, in 1961 Milgram recruited pairs of volunteers to take part in a "memory test" where one person was given the role of the "teacher" and the other the "learner". The learner was put in an electric chair and the teacher instructed to give the learner an electric shock each time the learner gave an incorrect answer on the memory test and to increase the voltage with every error, not learning until afterwards was that the learner and experimenter were actors and the machine was a prop. Shockingly, two-thirds of the participants were willing to administer a potentially fatal dose of electricity to the victim - who was screaming in pain and begging to be released - just because "scientists" told them to.

More recently, in 2016, researchers from Spain found that humans are predisposed to solving situations with violence and killing due to their forebearers. Looking back at evolutionary history, the tendency to murder members of the same species and settle situations using force gradually became more and more common among primates, with the impact of society greatly modifying how aggressive humans are,

"Lethal violence is part of our evolutionary history but not carved in stone in ‘our genes’," said José María Gómez, first author of the study from the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (EEZA) in Spain. "At least to some extent, the way humans organise in societies influences our levels of lethal violence."

So, to a certain extent, Hudson is right. We do already know that decent people do awful things all the time. But does this make the show, which originally aired on the UK's Channel 4 as Pushed To The Edge back in 2016, completely futile? Or is it an insightful experiment that will be assessed for years to come?

Although there have been numerous investigations into exactly why good people do bad things, it appears that we've never fully gotten to the bottom of the matter. Are humans predisposed to do awful things, the capacity for evil always lurking somewhere in their hearts? Or are we thrust towards bad things, our conscience screaming the whole way? Ultimately, it seems that every case is unique in its own way, but it's always fascinating to be privy to another one, watching in horror and fascination as it takes shape.

One thing is for sure though: Netflix users will be keen to tune in to see if the business owner does commit the ultimate crime under intense pressure. Whatever you think of Brown's experiment, it's a fact that producers and network officials have been going for the shock value factor for years now - and it's pretty much worked every time. Because with reality TV, people can talk about how cruel and unnecessary it is all day, but they're ready and waiting for the next episode.

Netflix's new show tries to manipulate people into committing murder

vt-author-image

By VT

Article saved!Article saved!

Reality TV has never been the most moral of pursuits. From using extensive plastic surgery to transform a group of "ugly" women to convincing people they were fighting for the affections of a fake prince, producers must think about ratings rather than morals.

The Push, which is designed to explore how social pressures and authority figures can be used to pressure a person into committing murder, sees psychological illusionist Derren Brown use a team of actors fashion a "web of lies" to convince business owner Chris Kingston into pushing a man off a building. The audience will watch as the unwitting Kingston becomes involved in trying to help an elderly man who collapses at an event. The situation escalates until he is eventually left faced with the moral dilemma of either pushing a man to his death from a building or being sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.

"I need him to feel like there's only one way out when he's told to commit murder," Brown claims in the official trailer. "The question we're asking is simple: Can we be manipulated through social pressure to commit murder?"

[[youtubewidget||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doFpACkiZ2Q]]

In their official description about the show, Netflix explains the concept by stating: "In The Push, Brown exposes the psychological secrets of obedience and social compliance. He expertly lifts the lid on the terrifying truth that, when confronted with authority, our natural instinct is to unflinchingly obey without question—to such an extent that even the most moral people can be made to commit the most horrendous acts, simply because they are told to do so."

Although the show is yet to hit US screens, it is already spurring outrage among people who insist that, rather than being an intriguing psychological experiment, the show is cruel, "too far" and "deeply troubling".

[[twitterwidget||https://twitter.com/aepeso/status/966985037362221056]]
[[twitterwidget||https://twitter.com/BabyD2034/status/966760142594338818]]
[[twitterwidget||https://twitter.com/BethElderkin/status/966006452090556420]]
[[twitterwidget||https://twitter.com/im_adam_barrett/status/965985384424341509]]

Perhaps the angriest response came from Laura Hudson, a writer for The Verge, who expressed pure disgust at the show's concept and insisted that we as a society are already well aware of the fact that people do awful things when they are put under pressure. She wrote: “That’s an interesting use of the word ‘need,’ since I’m not sure that anyone actually ‘needs’ to see a real person pushed to the most debased extremes. The show audaciously claims that this is some sort of valuable sociological experiment, one designed to explore whether or not human beings are willing to commit terrible acts when they are told that they have no other choice."

Whether you love or hate the show's concept, it's certainly true that the idea of good people doing bad things while under pressure from authority figures has already been explored. Namely, by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram who performed an infamous social psychology experiment based around the idea of obedience.

In the wake of the Holocaust, Nazi SS lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann was famously depicted as the embodiment of the banality of evil when he was put on trial for crimes against humanity. But, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of his horrifying war crimes, Eichmann claimed that he was simply following orders in a totalitarian Führerprinzip system and shouldn't be held accountable for his actions.

[[heroimage||http://cdn.junglecreations.com/wp/junglecms/2018/02/derren-brown-compressor.jpg||image]]

Fascinated with the idea that ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities, in 1961 Milgram recruited pairs of volunteers to take part in a "memory test" where one person was given the role of the "teacher" and the other the "learner". The learner was put in an electric chair and the teacher instructed to give the learner an electric shock each time the learner gave an incorrect answer on the memory test and to increase the voltage with every error, not learning until afterwards was that the learner and experimenter were actors and the machine was a prop. Shockingly, two-thirds of the participants were willing to administer a potentially fatal dose of electricity to the victim - who was screaming in pain and begging to be released - just because "scientists" told them to.

More recently, in 2016, researchers from Spain found that humans are predisposed to solving situations with violence and killing due to their forebearers. Looking back at evolutionary history, the tendency to murder members of the same species and settle situations using force gradually became more and more common among primates, with the impact of society greatly modifying how aggressive humans are,

"Lethal violence is part of our evolutionary history but not carved in stone in ‘our genes’," said José María Gómez, first author of the study from the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (EEZA) in Spain. "At least to some extent, the way humans organise in societies influences our levels of lethal violence."

So, to a certain extent, Hudson is right. We do already know that decent people do awful things all the time. But does this make the show, which originally aired on the UK's Channel 4 as Pushed To The Edge back in 2016, completely futile? Or is it an insightful experiment that will be assessed for years to come?

Although there have been numerous investigations into exactly why good people do bad things, it appears that we've never fully gotten to the bottom of the matter. Are humans predisposed to do awful things, the capacity for evil always lurking somewhere in their hearts? Or are we thrust towards bad things, our conscience screaming the whole way? Ultimately, it seems that every case is unique in its own way, but it's always fascinating to be privy to another one, watching in horror and fascination as it takes shape.

One thing is for sure though: Netflix users will be keen to tune in to see if the business owner does commit the ultimate crime under intense pressure. Whatever you think of Brown's experiment, it's a fact that producers and network officials have been going for the shock value factor for years now - and it's pretty much worked every time. Because with reality TV, people can talk about how cruel and unnecessary it is all day, but they're ready and waiting for the next episode.