What Would You Do?: A Television Show that Reveals Human Nature
There are more good people in the world than many anarchy-skeptics would have you believe, the ABC television series “What Would You Do?” shows.
“In the series, actors act out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings while hidden cameras videotape the scene, and the focus is on whether or not bystanders intervene, and how. Variations are also usually included, such as changing the genders, the races or the clothing of the actors performing the scene, to see if bystanders react differently. Quiñones appears at the end to interview the bystanders about their reactions.”
A few weeks ago I discovered this fascinating show on YouTube and have already watched a significant portion of the episodes.
Many of the people on hidden cameras who witness the scenarios the actors act out are revealed to be mean, vicious, racist, sexist, ignorant, or intolerant people, while others are revealed to be very kind, caring, generous, and loving people.
Sometimes we observe the bystander effect, but on other occasions we witness people go out of their way to selflessly help strangers in need.
Since the producers of the show act out each scenario several times over the course of one or a few days of filming and yet only select a few of these run-throughs to be included in the show, we viewers cannot always gather accurate information about how most people respond to each scenario.
However, the show host usually fills us in on how people tended to react, often with specific numbers: “Of the 22 shoppers we confronted, Chris is the only one who really questioned our authority figure.“
This means that in addition to providing proof that there are some good people in the world, the television show also provides us with evidence that a large number of people are not the evil selfish kind of people that Thomas Hobbes believed would fight against each other in a war of all-against-all were it not for the “common Power [state] to keep them all in awe.”
Over the last few years I have talked with many people with a pessimistic view on human nature who support allowing governments to perform various aggressive acts because they believe that if nobody performed these aggressive acts then bad things would happen.
For example, several people have told me that they believe that if the government did not tax people to fund schools, then many people, especially children from poor families would not have the opportunity to be educated.
Whenever I suggest the possibility that many wealthier people would charitably donate some of their income to causes such as the education of poor children, they usually say that not nearly enough money would be voluntarily donated to educate all poor children, due to the fact that most people are (allegedly) very selfish.
The approach that I usually take to try to dissuade them from their belief that taxation is necessary to fund the education of the poor begins with me pointing out that not all children–not even all American children–are educated today, even with the funding provided by taxation. I further point out that the quality of the “education” that many children receive in the American government school system is rather poor and argue that surely the same levels of education can be attained at a fraction of the cost of the expensive inefficient government school system.
Having shown them that the goal posts are farther apart than they believed, if they still don’t believe that a voluntary ball would make it through them, I usually try providing evidence to the contrary. Specifically, I try to show that the amount that people can be expected to voluntarily pay and donate towards education in the absence of a government school system, although perhaps less than the cost of the government school system today, is sufficient to provide the imperfect level of education that is achieved currently.
Perhaps a more effective way to persuade people that their consequentialist reasons for supporting taxation are poor–especially given the fact that most people don’t come to hold their political views due to careful rational thought about them–is to change their view on human nature by appealing to their emotions with the television show “What Would You Do?”
What Would You Do?: A Fed Up Mother Abandons Her Children
Oh, yes, I almost forgot. This blog post is not only about how the television show “What Would You Do?” could affect one’s views on human nature. It’s also about copyright and how intellectual property laws, in addition to being unjust, are also destructive.
YouTube is not legally allowed to host videos if they infringe on someone’s copyright privileges and if that person or organization tells them to take the videos down. So unfortunately you cannot watch the above episode unless you find someone else who uploaded it.
(Luckily someone else did upload it: here. I think this may be the same person who uploaded the version that was removed. I’ll mention him again at the end of this post when I explain how what he is doing is a great example of agorism.)
A brief summary of the above episode titled “A Fed Up Mother Abandons Her Children” is that an actress playing the role of a mother is yelling at her two kids (also actors) to behave. They are on a boardwalk by the beach. She then gets fed up and says she is leaving. She storms away abandoning her kids. With the hidden cameras rolling, many bystanders notice the two abandoned children. Some of them react.
In one run-through of the scenario two women go to the kids and ask for their mother’s cell phone number. They call her and she comes back. A man who was watching the scene play out from afar approaches and gives the kids a very authoritarian lecture. The top comment on the removed-version of the video with 47 thumbs up and no thumbs down was “Much respect to the man that gave the kids a lecture.”
Here’s a transcript of his lecture:
Kid: “We were being brats.“
Man: “I know. I heard your mother say that. But guess what, when you guys misbehave and you get on your mother’s nerves; you pushed her buttons to the limit; this is what she did. You have to remember your mother is a person too. Treat other people the way you want to be treated.“
This doesn’t seem too bad, in my opinion. The only criticism of it that I can think of is that the child could interpret it as meaning that he is to blame for the mother abandoning him. The host even narrates that, “It seems like there is enough blame for everyone,” so apparently the man really is blaming the child.
This would be problematic because, of course, the child is not to blame. Even if the child does not follow the Golden Rule it is still the mother’s fault that she abandoned the child. It’s not the child’s fault.
As a wise mother of six said earlier in the episode, “They’re kids; they’re innocent.”
And as a young girl talking with the kids pointed out slightly later in the episode, the mother abandoning her children is child abuse.
So was the man definitely blaming the kid for causing his mother to abandon him? The kid actor didn’t seem at all traumatized by the fact that his mother abandoned him, so it seems one could argue that the man’s words weren’t really blaming him, but rather were just to educate him that treating people nicely is good and that the consequences of being brats can be bad.
But this argument, which is too-charitable to the man’s lecture, falls apart completely when we hear the rest of his lecture and there is no doubt left that he is blaming the kids for their mother abandoning them:
Kid: “She’s driving me crazy.“
Man: “You’re a child. She’s the adult. You do what she says. It’s that clear. Okay? When you become 18 you can do whatever you want. Until then, she brought you into this world she can take you out.“
Narrator: “And then he turns this into a teachable moment for our kids.“
Man: “You shouldn’t be proud of yourselves at all. Did you pull it together? No. You argued. Do you understand that? I need an answer. Do you understand that?“
Here is the video of the man’s lecture again.
I captured this screenshot from the first version of the video before it was removed from YouTube:
To correct my comment in the image above slightly, it’s possible that the man agrees that it is child abuse for the mother to abandon her kids. Nevertheless, rather than put all of the blame on the mother, the man undoubtedly is blaming the kids as well. This I disagree with, since, as I said, I do not believe that children have any obligation to be obedient to their parents. Parents should persuade their children to voluntarily choose to behave reasonably. They should never command their kids and demand they obey. Even when the kids are under 18 they don’t have to obey their parents’ commands.
I am yet to be a parent and am consequently yet to know how challenging it may be to be a parent without ever commanding your child. Many people who agree with the man who gave the authoritarian lecture rather than me may point to this fact to try to discredit my view. To prevent people from using this ad hominem attack (“You’ve never been a parent so I know better than you how parenting should be done”) as an excuse not to be a good peaceful parent, allow me to reference a well-known father who shares my view and is succeeding at raising a child without commanding her: Stefan Molyneux.
So rather than “Much respect to the man that gave the kids a lecture,” I would like to say, “Much respect to the wonderful mother of six who, when asked what you should do when your children get on your nerves, said to take a deep breath and remember, ‘They’re kids; they’re innocent.'”
“They’re kids; they’re innocent.” – Mother of six children
What Would You Do?: Agorism Today
The last thing I am going to talk about now regarding “What Would You Do?” is the fact that the person who keeps posting the television show on YouTube is practicing agorism.
According to Wikipedia, “Agorism is a libertarian social philosophy that advocates the goal of the bringing about of a society in which all relations between people are voluntary by means of counter-economics.”
“Counter-economics is the study or practice of all peaceful human action which is forbidden by the State.”
The state forbids using your own physical property (the only genuine kind) in certain peaceful ways useing so-called “intellectual property” laws such as copyright laws. For example, people cannot legally use their own property to host the television show “What Would You Do?” without the copyright holder’s permission.
The fact that the YouTube user mrduckbears23 posted the television show on YouTube despite these copyright laws is itself an act of agorism. A greater act of agorism is that even after his account was closed “due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement,” he re-uploaded all of the television shows again with a new account.
An even greater act of agorism is that he re-uploaded some of the television shows using an innovative method that prevents YouTube from detecting that it is a certain video that someone else has the copyright for. Specifically, he tilted the video several degrees:
Very cool! Sometimes I get sad and depressed when I see things like this because I know that they are like this only because of injustices. In a just world the video wouldn’t have to be tilted. But, at the same time, I can look at this and smile because it’s a sign that people can work around the state and prosper despite its attempts to outlaw peaceful activity.
The video is information, not a piece of property that someone has the right to conceal to prevent others from seeing it. Therefore, I completely agree with mrduckbears23; it’s unfair (and unjust) to prevent people from seeing the video.
For those of you who haven’t examined the issue of intellectual property and thus still likely believe what you’ve been taught, namely that intellectual property laws like copyright and patent are legitimate and necessary, then I highly encourage you to check out Stephan Kinsella’s monograph “Against Intellectual Property” (for the justice arguments) and Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine’s book “Against Intellectual Monopoly” (for the consequentialist arguments).
Thank you for reading one of my longest blog posts yet. I would love to hear your comments if you have any. Peace.