French Contestants Give Electric Shocks To Each Other On TV
Game show ‘contestants’ blindly obeyed orders to torture and kill each other in a bizarre experiment to show the power of television.
Contestants on a new French game show torture fellow players with electric shocks - zapping one man until he cries for mercy and apparently drops dead - in a controversial programme that has drawn comparisons with Nazi atrocities.
The shocking TV show broadcast on Wednesday night is called ‘The Game of Death’. It shows that participants in reality TV shows are prepared to go to do almost anything they’re told to do, including inflicting severe pain on others.
The French television experiment where unwitting contestants were encouraged to torture an actor has drawn comparisons with the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
Out of 80 players, all but 16 shocked the 'player' until he appeared to die
Like any traditional quiz show, "Le jeu de la mort" (The Game of Death) has a lively audience, a glamorous hostess, and a list of trivia questions for contestants.
However, unlike typical game shows, punishment for wrong answers is a 460-volt electric shock. To chants of "punishment" from the studio audience, contestants zap their victims who scream in agony and eventually appear to die.
The aim of the experiment - to be aired as a documentary on France 2 TV on Wednesday evening - is to show how the manipulative power of television can push people to ever more outrageous limits.
What the game really is?
Well, candidate “A” answers a series of questions while sitting in a chair while candidate “B” is told to inflict pain on candidate “A” should he get an answer wrong. The pain inflicted is increased as the show progresses, all in the name of television and all with the jovial approval of the show’s presenter who urges candidate “B” to keep increasing the level of pain meted out.
But there is a twist: candidate “A” is in fact an actor. “B” doesn’t know this however and believes that the injuries being suffered are real… disturbing stuff.
What the show claims to prove is that reality television has rendered human degradation and humiliation normal and acceptable. It also shows how obedient one can be to an authority figure, in this case the television presenter. All in all, it’s a damning indictment of the misuse of television’s power and influence.
The notion behind this program is not new. It is based on the “Stanley Milgram Experiment”, a study called after an American social scientist who wanted to test obedience to authority figures, in particular to see where the terrible obedience to the Nazis in Germany is a general phenomenon or not. “Le jeu de la mort” seems to confirm this disturbing dark side of human nature.
A team of psychologists recruited 80 volunteers, telling them they were taking part in a pilot for a new television show.
They were instructed to pose questions to another "player", and punish him with up to 460 volts of electricity when he got answers wrong. Not knowing that the screaming victim was really an actor, the apparently reluctant contestants yielded to the orders of the presenter and audience, who also believed the game was real.
The show's producer, Christophe Nick, said of the 80 participants who agreed to take part in the "game show", only 16 refused to obey orders to inflict pain.
Psychologists said the blind obedience seen on the show was the same as that seen among German soldiers ordered to commit atrocities in the Nazi death camps.
The experiment was modelled on a famous study conducted at Yale University in the 1960s, which used similar methods to examine how obedient citizens could be driven to take part in mass murder. Jacques Semelin, a psychologist who took part in the documentary, said the participants were made to sign a contract obliging them to obey the presenter's instructions.
"They are obedient, but it's more than mere obedience, because there is also the pressure of the audience and cameras everywhere."
One contestant said after filming that taking part had helped her to understand why her own Jewish grandparents had been tortured by the Nazis. She said: "Since I was a little girl, I have always asked myself why the Nazis did it and how they could obey such orders? And then there I was, obeying them myself."I was worried about the contestant, but at the same time, I was afraid to spoil the programme."
The Game Of Death had all the trappings of a traditional television quiz show, with a roaring crowd and a glamorous and well-known hostess. But contestants on the show did not realise they were taking part in an experiment to find out whether television could push them to outrageous lengths.
The game involved contestants posing questions to another 'player', who was actually an actor, and punishing him with 460 volts of electricity when he answered incorrectly.
Eventually the man's cries of "Let me go!" fell silent, and he appeared to have died.
Not knowing that their screaming victim was an actor, the apparently reluctant contestants followed the orders of the presenter, as well as chants of "Punishment!" from a studio audience who also believed the game was real.
The programme's producer and a team of psychologists recruited 80 volunteers, telling them they were taking part in a pilot for a new television show.
Producer Christophe Nick said 80% of contestants went all the way, shocking the victim with the maximum 460 volts until he appeared to die.
Some observers were sceptical of the manipulative way the participants were handled."There are elements of manipulation from the start," said Jacques Semelin, a psychologist and historian who studies genocide and totalitarianism.
"They are obedient, but it's more than mere obedience - there is the audience, and the cameras everywhere."But for the film makers, the manipulative power of television was exactly the point. "The questioners are in the grip of the authority of television," said Jean-Leon Beauvois, a psychologist who took part in the documentary.