Being disturbed: by Derren Brown's Waking Dead

Derren Brown is an English hypnotist/magician/showman who has made a number of tv specials in the last few years that revolve around "magic" and trickery, with a heavy emphasis on messing with people's minds with suggestion and misdirection.

(Whether it's the audience or the people involved in the shows themselves that are messed with remains to be seen - although the showman aspect suggests that it's the former)

He achieved notoriety with a show he did in 2003 called Derren Brown plays Russian Roulette live, which was touted before broadcast as being the real deal but later revealed to be set up.

This video comes from a show that he did in 2005 and involves an apparent hypnotism exercise on a random man in a pub playing a zombie shoot-em-up games machine.

Debate rages as to how genuine this is - my personal feeling is that it's all a set up (as otherwise there are some massively unethical and possibly immoral activities going on here).

Some of the issues that raise immediate questions for me are:
  • how could a games cabinet induce this kind of state?

  • why would his friends act so blase?

  • what if something went wrong - guy flips out - massive liability issues

  • what about long term psych damage?

  • how does Derren put the guy back to sleep in the game building?

There have certainly been a number of scientific studies done over the years that show that people can easily be convinced to do things that they wouldn't normally do by the presence of authority figures - the Milgram experiment in the 1960s in which volunteers were convinced to administer potentially deadly electric shocks on the orders of man in a lab coat - and so it's not out of the question that the "friends" may have been convinced on this basis.

If you accept the premise however that this was a completely unscripted event, there would have been no imperative whatsoever for the "friends" to have any concern other than for the wellbeing of their mate.

It's an interesting piece of video for discussing what's ethical and what's not in science/entertainment - but overall, just a little more disturbing that I like.

(I think the whole hidden-camera/reality/documentary feel of the thing added a lot to this and it would be interesting to go over the script for the voiceover and see what kinds of neuro-linguistic programming techniques might have been used on the viewer to create certain expectations.)

This video demonstrates the use of neuro-linguistic programming - interesting that it's an actor.