Occasionally when I’m out and about I’ll observe a bored and dreary-eyed employee or gym goer changing the channel from some commercial-infested information program to the likes of MTV’S Ridiculousness. Simply put, the show is about a white skateboarder and his obnoxious friends watching videos of people undergoing tremendous humiliation or pain while the audience guffaws like first class circus monkeys. The worst aspect by far is co-viewer Chanel West Coast’s repugnant hyena cackle in reaction to almost anything, as though ordered by computer code. The show’s popularity has advanced so much as to spawn a knockoff in the form of the Misery Index, only this one replaces white skateboard dude with an empowered diversity pantsuit.
Some of you will quickly dismiss the programs by blaming viewers, yet I consider that to be a convenient moral cop-out. Why precisely would the entertainment industry, which loves aligning itself with feel-good propaganda and assorted emotional meandering, give platforms to these spectacles? Is there really any value to taking pleasure at the silly misfortunes of others, who in many cases will end up suffering from significant pain or physical disabilities as a result of the stunts they pulled? We must remember that context is always left out of these clippings, so if a kid was encouraged to take a risk by friends or irresponsible adults, no one will know. All that truth is drowned in audience jeers, along with general exclamations of Daaaamn.
I think the shows are put out for a more deliberate reason: they help train the public to stand by as others undergo difficulties or torturous ordeals. Since the perpetrators can be blamed for their own condition, it is easy to mock them absent hesitation. Over time of course, similar pain inflicted by the State will seem like second nature to the seal-clapping viewers and cacklers. It has already been shown without any doubt how ready average people are to scorch their fellow citizens based on nothing more than political differences. How far we are from similar types nodding in smiling approval as their opponents get done away with?
Not long off, by my estimation. The power of crowds, and indeed the shrill cries of “unity” or giggling scream queens, signal how easy it is for folks to abandon all logic and embrace the pathological determination to destroy. One merely needs to create a caricature or jester of the opposing side, and suddenly their broader humanity vanishes. What’s more, invalidating the target’s individual worth becomes a practice approved by the supreme and intellectual.
This is why we must resist the urge to oversimplify. It is grand to hold a particular political opinion, yet make an effort to speak with the other person. The internet, and safe viewing from eons away, provides a secure pod from which individuals can strip away the dignity of others without consequence. Reach past that void and remember they are a person, one party to hopes and dreams just like yourself. And think before you cackle.
2 thoughts on “The Dehumanization Chamber”
Another interesting piece, Goldberg.
I used to watch a lot of viral fail videos when I was younger, but have since drifted away from them. Your comment about Ridiculousness reminds me of the same thing I see all too often on the Reddit.com
Just recently, I saw a video posted on one of the subreddits that encourages this behavior you described about just standing by. I can’t remember which subreddit this was on, but a Five Guys manager and a customer were fighting. There was no context to the video other than just watching an employee and a customer duke it out with hits and tackles.
Due to the nature of today’s political climate, the original poster decided to title it “anti-masker and Five guys manager go at it and fight.”
The comments? Responses saying “he got owned!”, or something cheering on about the fight against anti-maskers.
But if you watch the video, you won’t get anything out of it as far as context is concerned. The most logical response in the comments gets down voted as always. That commenter was wondering what the context was behind the video, and if it was even about anti-masking at all.
I clicked to the subreddit it was on because it was linked from there, and same thing as far as responses go. “Anti-maskers suck!”, or something about the pandemic.
No context to be provided. But since the pandemic and masks have emotionally taken people, the original poster can title the video along those lines to get brownie points.. and no one will question a thing.
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I think Failblog is still funny, but I agree that any version of that sort of thing with commentary or canned laughter is cringeworthy and is a sign that people watch it because they want to feel like they’re a part of a community.
Shows like what you’re talking about remind me of the movie Sorry to Bother You where there were exaggerated forms of shows like that, as well as showing an exaggerate yet oddly believable perspective on what corrupt corporations could do to disempower people.