Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Big Picture: The Human Behavior Experiment

First, Full Disclosure: I was approached by the promoters of The Big Picture by e-mail and asked to blog about it. I might have been inclined to do so anyway but I was asked. I have been offered no incentive other than having my posting appear on the CBC site devoted to the special. Nice, but not an envelope of cash under the table.

I'd previously heard about several of the social experiments and authority related incidents related in the film, dryly yet affectingly narrated by David Strathairn of Good Night and Good Luck. It's a compelling examination of how humans respond to authority. I'd read about the Milgram Experiment and the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment which eerily fore-shadowed the nightmare of Abu Ghraib and Canada's own shameful Somalia incidents.

Alan Moore mentions the Milgram Experiment in the book V for Vendetta - which is vastly superior to the competent but uninspired movie it spawned. Moore saw the lesson of the Milgram experiment, and the way normal people would commit atrocities if ordered to, as an indictment of the very concept of authority. That as an idea, authority is inherently corrosive to human empathy and spiritual growth.

Another interesting example of bizarre experiments with authority with possibly horrifying consequences later on, is Theodore Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber who was experimented on in Harvard by a researcher with ties to the CIA. The experiment involved hours of screaming verbal abuse from an authority figure and possibly the use of drugs. Family and friends have said that Kaczynski was never the same after Harvard and had a growing pathological fear and hatred for authority, with well known results.

I've addressed here before how toxic and dehumanizing authority can be, this film is an excellent over-view of the subject. The Big Picture itself looks like an interesting and more interactive companion to the Passionate Eye. If you missed it, it's re-running Sunday on Newsworld and the line up of documentaries for the show for the rest of the fall looks like the much cited but rarely real 'must see TV'.

Recommended.

3 comments:

Gazetteer said...

Hard not to check out a new project from Mr. Lewis.

Thanks Cliff.

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Andrew Meyer said...

http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~pa34/PHIL330SECONDESSAYFALL07.htm

Andrew Meyer said...

Watch the full documentary:
The Human Behavior Experiments

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