Virtual reality, vrtual pain, real horror

The BBC has an interesting report on the things people agree to do when the cameras are rolling. A French documentary inspired by the famous Milgram experiments carried out at Yale University in 1960 decided to test how far will people go for some money, and for some fame. It turns out pretty far.

A disturbing French TV documentary has tried to demonstrate how well-meaning people can be manipulated into becoming torturers or even executioners. The hugely controversial Game of Death was broadcast in prime-time on a major terrestrial channel, France 2, on Wednesday. It showed 80 people taking part in what they thought was a game show pilot. As it was only a trial, they were told they wouldn’t win anything, but they were given a nominal 40 euro fee. Before the show, they signed contracts agreeing to inflict electric shocks on other contestants. One by one, they were put in a studio resembling the sets of popular game shows. They were then asked to zap a man they believed was another contestant whenever he failed to answer a question correctly – with increasingly powerful shocks of up to 460 volts. Read more>>

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Bottled Water. Manufactured demand?

Anni Leonard has a Chomskian, (read devilish), question. What if the bottled water you are drinking is really not healthy, I mean, health-hazard inducing unhealthy?

Imagine I was trying to sell you a sandwich. It’s shrink wrapped
in plastic that may leach toxic chemicals, but don’t worry about
that. Mine’s still healthier than a sandwich you could make at home,
what with all those impurities in your fridge. Now, I’ve got no proof
of that, and actually, some people have tested my sandwiches and
found that sometimes they have more bad stuff in them than the ones
from your own kitchen. But never mind that. Mine’s more convenient.
Tastes better too. I swear.

So here you go: one plastic-wrapped, waste-producing sandwich that
isn’t any healthier and doesn’t taste any better than the one from
your own kitchen. That’ll be $10,000, please.

That preposterous pitch is the truth behind the marketing
campaigns that turned bottled water into a $5 billion-a-year industry
in the United States alone. Today is World Water Day–a good day to
pause and consider the insanity of a global economy where 1 billion
people lack access to safe drinking water while other people spend
billions on a bottled product that’s no cleaner, harms people and the
environment and costs up to 2,000 times the price of tap water. Read more>>

Historiographic perversion

Just began reading Marc Nichanian’s “Historiographic Perversion,” a collection of philosophical reflections by the French-Armenian philosopher and a former longtime professor of Armenian studies at Columbia University. The book begins by Nichanian’s powerful first salvo:

“Genocide is not a fact (Le genocide n’est pas un fait).

Genocide is not a fact because it is the very destruction of the fact, of the notion of fact, of the factuality of fact.”

I think I am going to like this book already.

Meanwhile it is available through the Columbia UP website with a 50% discount.

From the publisher’s release:

Genocide is a matter of law. It is also a matter of history. Engaging some of the most disturbing responses to the Armenian genocide, Marc Nichanian strikingly reveals the complex role played by law and history in making this and other genocides endure as contentious events.

Nichanian’s book argues that both law and history fail to contend with the very nature of events for which there is no archive (no documents, no witnesses). Both history and law fail to address the modern reality that events can be—and are now being—perpetrated that depend upon the destruction of the archive, turning monstrous deeds into nonevents. Genocide, this book makes us see, is in one sense the destruction of the archive. It relies on the historiographic perversion.

no he didn’t … yes he did

Slate has run down on the mechanics of the passage of the health care reform:

No matter what happens next, passage of this legislation is a turning point in the Obama presidency. This is his project. Unlike the bailout of the auto companies or the stimulus package, health care reform was not a response to an emergency. Whether the Obama presidency is a diptych, triptych, or something even more complex, the first hinge will mark the time before health care and the time after health care.

Obama didn’t just work harder to clear this hurdle. He worked deeper, making his final pitch to provide insurance to 32 million people on moral grounds in a more focused way than he has in the last year of debate. Twice this past week he went to the presidential library for moral ballast. On Friday he quoted Teddy Roosevelt: “Aggressively fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.” On Saturday he built his speech to House Democrats around a quote from Lincoln that touched on the same sentiment—doing the right thing despite the odds. “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.” Read more>>