Poverty is the Worst Kind of Violence
June 1, 2015 2:54 PM   Subscribe

How do they make such a decision? By engaging The American tradition of separating the poor into two, mutually exclusive categories: those who deserve to be poor, and those who don't. More here, here, and here.

Here’s the premise of the show, as Lyons explains it. A family dealing with what CBS euphemistically calls “financial setbacks” is given a briefcase full of $101,000. They are then shown another “financial setbacks”-plagued family and are told they must decide how much of the cash to share — if any. Unbeknownst to either family, this alienating setup is presented to both. Lyons writes that in the early episodes sent to critics, the families find their responsibility to be so great as to cause one woman to vomit and “several” to say it’s “the hardest decision they’ve ever made.”
posted by 4ster (74 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know, at some point, I looked around at the state of reality TV and I was like 'I can't even hate-watch this shit any more.'

I think it was around the second season of MTV's The Real World.
posted by box at 2:57 PM on June 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


I would say CBS should be ashamed but that ship has sailed round about CSI Cyberwar
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:59 PM on June 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


CBS?

Home of 60 Minutes?

I'm not surprised.

If any Mefites have the stomach to watch and write down the advertisers, $20 from me to a charity of your choice.
posted by ocschwar at 3:00 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Will not click the Breitbart link; the URL alone is enough to make me want to punch something. Or puke. Or both.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:04 PM on June 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


I have an idea for a new reality show. A random person gets a button. Push the button and a TV executive gets punched in the balls over and over again until they pass out. They have 45 minutes to decide whether or not they want to pu..

Okay, that was fast. I figured they'd agonize over it a little more.

No, just one push. Pushing it again doesn't do anything.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:05 PM on June 1, 2015 [107 favorites]


Well, the whole reason to have a neverending war on poor people is because poor people can't fight back. There's nothing satisfying in a war against a real enemy.
posted by Frowner at 3:07 PM on June 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


In our 21st Century World, poverty is no longer the worst kind of violence... Reality TV is.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:07 PM on June 1, 2015


Even the BBC are getting in on the act. It's nothing short of disgusting. Poverty porn at the BBC.
posted by Jakey at 3:18 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I want to hear more about this cockpunching proposal.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:21 PM on June 1, 2015 [36 favorites]


Just when I think that I could not be any more disgusted at "reality TV". Just when the fire has faded and I think I have no more angry vitriol. They manage to wring more from my dessicated core. They surprise me, and not in a good way. Not the surprise of finding a $20 bill in a dry cleaned jacket. More like the surprise of stepping in warm dog shit with bare feet, in the dark.
posted by Splunge at 3:24 PM on June 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm sorry to even read about this. Lately, I've had far too much evidence that people can be just vile.
posted by theora55 at 3:29 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Banks said it best. Currency signifies a poor civilization, either resource poor or morality poor.

We built a lot of yachts this year.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:31 PM on June 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't understand the kind of person who could wake up one day and think "I'm going to make this fucking disgusting show." You can't think of anything less shameful to do with your time and money?

I used to think Craig Ferguson was kidding when he'd occasionally remark to a guest that he was pretty sure CBS didn't know what he was doing with TLLS. But now I'm beginning to think he was only seeming like he was kidding, and probably realized that Les Moonves is deserving of a cockpunch or two.
posted by axiom at 3:31 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can anyone who read the articles tell me what the show's participants got, if anything, besides being tortured? Did they get any money? Just reading the summary is too much for me right now.
posted by Mavri at 3:32 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to work as an animator for a big console game developer/publisher, with headquarters in San Jose. One day I overheard the director of R&D talking to another middle management specimen as they were returning from lunch. He was saying that he was supposed to be processing the payroll and cutting everybody their checks; he said, "We should just write one big check, and throw it out into the middle of the floor and let them fight over it." They both had a chuckle over his Clever Witticism.

I bet someday there'll be reality TV where they just throw some money on the floor and have poor people fight for it. It wouldn't even have to be very much money; the show would be cheap to produce. If the last person to leave Western Civilization could turn the lights out, that'd be great.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 3:32 PM on June 1, 2015 [26 favorites]


There are days when I just want to give up on what's left of civilization. This is one of them. If I had the big red button, I'd be pressing the damned thing hard, hard, hard.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:37 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]



I bet someday there'll be reality TV where they just throw some money on the floor and have poor people fight for it. It wouldn't even have to be very much money; the show would be cheap to produce. If the last person to leave Western Civilization could turn the lights out, that'd be great.


This is pretty much how the republican primary is working.
posted by srboisvert at 3:44 PM on June 1, 2015 [16 favorites]


The American tradition of separating the poor into two, mutually exclusive categories

It's older than America - in history we were taught that it was a tenet of Henry VIII's social welfare policies (given that there was a lot of post-monastery unemployment and veterans of his vanity wars were milling around causing trouble) that the poor were divided into the deserving poor and "sturdy beggars" who were to be punished. The same dichotomy underlay all social policy in the UK until the mid-twentieth century when we became civilised. That's what we were told in 1980. Of course, it's all regressed to barbarism again now.
posted by Grangousier at 3:50 PM on June 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


I look forward to the apparently inevitable show,"Prisoner's Dilemma."
posted by gingerest at 4:03 PM on June 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


I believe we ought to revise, or at least categorize, the notion of evolution. Biologically speaking we seem to be carrying a lot of less than optimal genes.

10,000,000 years from now intelligent rats, examining human ruins, will look for celestial answers to our great extinction event. (They had neat machines and could do incredible things with tinker-toys. It just had to be a comet or something that wiped them out.)

We're running on empty.
posted by mule98J at 4:05 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are days when I just want to give up on what's left of civilization. This is one of them. If I had the big red button, I'd be pressing the damned thing hard, hard, hard.

Next season on CBS: Big Red Button Showdown
posted by Edgewise at 4:13 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


This kind of makes me think of Golden Balls, which I heard about through Radiolab. Except this being CBS is a thousand times more twisted and deranged.
posted by erratic meatsack at 4:26 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the payout is structured taking taxes into account? Does it get taxed as income, a gift or something else? If they wanted to sink most of it into debt abatement can that be done on their behalf to avoid it being taxed? It would be pretty awful if after all of that agonizing they find out that after taxes the payout doesn't actually cover what they need it to. I mean, it's already pretty awful but that would be even more awful.
posted by metaphorever at 4:27 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Banks said it best. Currency signifies a poor civilization, either resource poor or morality poor.

The pet gerbils and hamsters I had when I was a kid never had to give a damn about a greenback dollar either.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:30 PM on June 1, 2015


That BBC show gave me an idea. We take highly-compensated CEOs and make them do real work, in this case the job of the lowest paid person who works for them (making sure to cut through the bullshit of 1099 and subcontracting so that they can't cheat). Then we all see how well they can hold up doing that job and living on that paycheck.

There is no actual show and they don't get to go back. The assets of their old lives are sold off and the proceeds given to charity.
posted by ckape at 4:34 PM on June 1, 2015 [80 favorites]


No seriously, you can stop pushing the button now.
posted by fullerine at 4:48 PM on June 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'll stop pushing that button when they stop giving me reasons to.
posted by chaosys at 5:01 PM on June 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


The show's creator and executive producer has been spending a lot of time on Twitter insisting that none of these families are "poor."
posted by Charity Garfein at 5:08 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Surprise! The briefcase is actually packed full of angry weasels!
posted by sexyrobot at 5:20 PM on June 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


A couple of years ago, CBS hemmed and hawed on an episodic pilot that tested well and was liked by the creative execs, all because the ad guys said it would be impossible to sell a show to their desired advertisers because it was about poor people. CBS eventually passed on the project.

So now it seems that you can sell a reality show about poor people, provided you victimize and judge them. CBS knows its demographic well -- perhaps this is what the 75+ crowd wants to watch?
posted by grounded at 5:24 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Relevant Stewart Lee:

In the 1980’s - the Labour party believed that the poor, who did not deserve to be poor, should be helped by the rich. Who did not deserve to be rich. Meanwhile, the Conservatives thought that the poor, who deserved to be poor, should not be helped by the rich, who deserved to be rich. And that is the 1980’s explained. It’s very different today. Today, both the main parties believe that the poor should be tied up in a binbag and thrown into a canal.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:25 PM on June 1, 2015 [56 favorites]


Oh wow, that twitter feed: "Do u actually think CBS would make trash?"
posted by metaphorever at 5:31 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ok so what do we do?

This shit makes me sick to my fucking stomach. I'm so angry. But I mean, I'm already not watching this. I'm already coming to places like here and talking about how angry it makes me.

So now what? Like, we're on the internet, I don't expect us - the commenters of this thread - to go protest on the streets instantly or anything. I just... what do I do? I already vote for the guys I think are least shitty toward the poor and disenfranchised, and the highest office in my country is held by "our" guy, and here this stupid fucking show is. My voice has been heard insofar as my government gives me a voice. My voice is as heard as the television hears anyone's voice, which is to say not at all. Hell, I used to work for the interactive (read: web) division of CBS, and I promise you that not one person in CBS would have heard anything I could ever have said about this show if I even still worked there, no matter how hard I tried.

So now what? I'm sincerely asking. I'm not judging anyone for inaction, I just actually don't know how to enact change so that media like this dies horribly and in disgrace, beyond what I'm already doing. It's not like blogging about it will accomplish anything.
posted by shmegegge at 5:33 PM on June 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


Archer: Jesus, Krieger, you're still taping bum fights?
Krieger: No, now I'm into something... darker.

Guess we found out what.
posted by um at 5:35 PM on June 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ok so what do we do?

stop watching TV
posted by pyramid termite at 5:36 PM on June 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


As ocschwar hinted way above, boycotting the advertisers would be at least a start.
posted by uosuaq at 5:39 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


CTRL+F "Hunger [Games]"
posted by aydeejones at 5:58 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Online site: ally bank, DeVry University, Time Warner, Nissan.
posted by hal9k at 5:58 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the family members is vociferously defending the show on that Twitter feed too. WE WEREN'T IN POVERTY!!!

I feel disgusted that I want to read more before forming an opinion. NO, IT'S ASS-FAIL
posted by aydeejones at 6:08 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


10,000,000 years from now intelligent rats, examining human ruins, will look for celestial answers to our great extinction event.

with enhanced hippocampi! not the planet of the apes but the secret of NIMH (or pinky and the brain ;)

separating the poor

concise history of c20th US political and geographical turnabout:
New Deal: black votes from R to D,
Civil rights: S white votes from D to R...
Banks said it best. Currency signifies a poor civilization, either resource poor or morality poor.

-Brad DeLong thinks much of what economists now do will be superseded by data scientists and historians
-21 Inc. and the Future of Bitcoin
-Going Past Capital
-Technological Underemployment: Addressing Common Objections
posted by kliuless at 6:09 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Historians already understand economic history than the economists, and have data showing that many economic theories just aren't supported (Eg market integration promotes growth).

But we're in the dusty bit of the library, and it takes so much time to put together data sets from original sources, and we tend to present graphs of what actually happened which tend to be less dramatic, so...
posted by jb at 6:38 PM on June 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


But the art direction in Orphans vs Coyotes II: Dumpster Battle was sublime!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:50 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, someone watched Peter sellers in Magic Christian and decided to bring it to life? The irony is almost too much to bear.
posted by dejah420 at 7:02 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a grimdark reboot of Queen For A Day
posted by Cookiebastard at 7:09 PM on June 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


We watched the tragedy unfold
We did as we were told
We bought and sold
It was the greatest show on earth
But then it was over
We ohhed and aahed
We drove our racing cars
We ate our last few jars of caviar
And somewhere out there in the stars
A keen-eyed look-out
Spied a flickering light
Our last hurrah
Our last hurrah

And when they found our shadows
Grouped 'round the TV sets
They ran down every lead
They repeated every test
They checked out all the data on their lists
And then, the alien anthropologists
Admitted they were still perplexed
But on eliminating every other reason
For our sad demise
They logged the only explanation left
This species has amused itself to death
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:10 PM on June 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I recall some years ago in Florida there was a company that was going around that was sponsoring fight night. Basically anyone could come forward and after a cursory medical exam fight in a ring with someone that was your "equal." Of course there was a winner and a purse of money that was awarded. And there were numerous fights in one night. The crowd loved it and went crazy when participants connected and fell. I saw it first hand. Needless to say after a number of deaths the fight nights were gone.
posted by robbyrobs at 7:20 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: “There are days when I just want to give up on what's left of civilization. This is one of them. If I had the big red button, I'd be pressing the damned thing hard, hard, hard.”
Agreed. “Let's burn this motherfker down! C'mon, Pookie!”


I'm reminded of Undercover Boss. The first few episodes of that show were amazing. The bosses realized how hard their employees worked and they had Scrooge's metanoia, trying harder to run their companies fairly. Then it inexplicably became a game show, where the rich boss pays off the "deserving, hard worker's" doctor bills or whatever. This is even worse because it preys on ordinary people's common decency.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:27 PM on June 1, 2015 [11 favorites]


Ally Bank, you say?
posted by Stu-Pendous at 7:36 PM on June 1, 2015


Ok so what do we do?

First, I think it's a mistake to take a single action out of context and conclude that this will do nothing. No, a single blogpost nor a single tweet will not accomplish much. But a steady, concerted, unrelenting stream of criticism - not just at the ridiculous producer but the show's sponsors - could go a very long way in shutting this down.

If you mean "what do we do about the underlying problem of the poor, working class, and struggling middle class being pitted against each other by false platitudes being flung at them by the rich and powerful hoping to divide them against each other", well, that's a whole other set of toolboxes.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:48 PM on June 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also:

The show's creator and executive producer has been spending a lot of time on Twitter insisting that none of these families are "poor."


Love how this guy is focusing on income level by itself. Yes that's certainly a factor. So is how much money you actually have left over after trying to pay down crushing debts from any number of sources to the point where you're not just spinning your wheels; you're sinking in the damn mud. Being lectured by a millionaire on the morality of money used for the greater good is like being lectured by an abusive cop on the value of keeping the peace. What a shit-heel.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:53 PM on June 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just to be clear: "Ally Bank" used to be GMAC. Top 5 corporate welfare recipient of all time
posted by yesster at 8:30 PM on June 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I bet someday there'll be reality TV where they just throw some money on the floor and have poor people fight for it.

Cf. Chapter 1 of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.
posted by scratch at 8:52 PM on June 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


some Ferengi pointed out that they never had anyone like our Hitler.

That would be the same one who objected to his own mother wanting rights that no Ferengi female had enjoyed previously to her: wearing clothes and making financial transactions. The same one who eagerly jumped into the arms dealing business, until a potential customer told him to his face exactly how many people he intended to kill with the weapons (28 million), and Dax started giving him the silent treatment. So, yeah, no one exactly like Hitler, I'm sure.

Also, WRT just wiping everything out, remember: "Yes" is the answer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:07 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Argumentum ad Ferengi is a new one on me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:58 PM on June 1, 2015 [23 favorites]


From the Breitbart link: For decades we’ve enjoyed exploitative spectacles such as The Jerry Springer Show and Ricki Lake. There’s nothing new about The Briefcase except that the whole show revolves around hard cash.

Watch where you point that "we," brother. I never watched any of that shit, either.
posted by univac at 10:13 PM on June 1, 2015 [7 favorites]



I bet someday there'll be reality TV where they just throw some money on the floor and have poor people fight for it. It wouldn't even have to be very much money; the show would be cheap to produce.


Wasn't that essentially the premise and setup behind Bumfights?
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:26 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


*pushes button again*
posted by louche mustachio at 12:40 AM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


There are days when I just want to give up on what's left of civilization. This is one of them. If I had the big red button, I'd be pressing the damned thing hard, hard, hard.

Now there's a good idea for a show -- you give people the big red button and see whether they'll press it -- but when they do, it's It's Never Lurgi's cockpunch idea.
posted by Gelatin at 3:10 AM on June 2, 2015


Why am I reminded Dan's attempt at debt relief via a betting streak in Nathan Barley?
posted by asok at 3:36 AM on June 2, 2015


1:15 Wanking for Coins
Apocalyptic fun as Roland Rivron tours the seedy backstreets of London's West End persuading the homeless to commit acts of self-degradation in exchange for pennies.
posted by Grangousier at 4:33 AM on June 2, 2015


Incidentally, TV Go Home looks quite upmarket and restrained compared to actual 2015 television.
posted by Grangousier at 4:34 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's 5:15am. I've been loopy all day, but i think i'm going to have to go to bed and see if this thread is here in the morning because this has to be a dream.

This is like, a madtv sketch that wouldn't get greenlit.

...right?
posted by emptythought at 5:14 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


This may be helpful: Punch 'Em in the Dick, via MeFi Music, August 2008 (with lyrics, plus official video)
posted by argonauta at 5:45 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Selected Metafilter comments re: "Punch 'Em in the Dick:")

"The maniacal, sweaty insistence with which 'punch em in the dick' is proclaimed delivers an overall sense of eagerness and self-satisfaction -- like a punch in the dick is a punch line to life "
"This song is what all music has been building up to these thousands of years."
"I was going to cry sexism, until they punched Condoleezza Rice in the dick."
"This is the song that will be played at my funeral. // And wedding."
"'Punch his ass right in the dick' is pretty brill. Thumbs up."
"Fantastic. I was looking for something to help me articulate my feelings vis-à-vis punching and dicks, and I think this will work nicely for that."
"I almost cried. This is a thing of beauty and a joy forever."
"I insist this be the theme for the MeFi 10th Anniversary Party." posted by jessamyn
posted by argonauta at 6:00 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Find out who the advertisers are. Write to them.
posted by theora55 at 6:19 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, if it's a real 100K, then it is at least, you know, better than not getting money at all, but that doesn't mean that the guy who came up with it should feel comfortable walking down dark alleys.
posted by corb at 6:37 AM on June 2, 2015




Also, does anybody remember the Community episode where Pierce does literally this exact same thing to Britta specifically to torture her?
posted by Navelgazer at 7:17 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Historians already understand economic history than the economists, and have data showing that many economic theories just aren't supported

Does that make any difference though? I think of economists as shady advisors to the king: they're always leaning over his shoulder whispering advice that nobody else would believe. It's all part of the show. Historians or others speaking unwelcome truths can just stay home, and in fact aren't welcome in the 1%.
posted by sneebler at 7:22 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I got to this part: "They [...] are told they must decide how much of the cash to share — if any." and thought, "Half? I guess? What a shitty choice to give people who need the money." Then I read the rest and kind of wanted to punch whatever TV executive came up with this in the balls until they passed out.

Here's a better idea for a show: Every week, find two families who have "financial setbacks". Give each of them $101,000 and the services of a good financial adviser. Then ignore them entirely and spend the rest of the show's time working through this post.
posted by mrgoat at 7:31 AM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


You know, at some point, I looked around at the state of reality TV and I was like 'I can't even hate-watch this shit any more.'

I think it was around the second season of MTV's The Real World.


I lasted through Season 4 (London), when something just kinda... turned for me, during the episode when Jay just happened to go to the Blues Traveler concert and got shouted out / personally advised on his career by John Popper. It was just so brazenly transparently engineered by MTV and the band's management for their mutual PR/profit-seeking goals, and even though I knew before then that there were "fake" elements in the show (scenario rigging, interview prompting, editing choices), that moment was an epiphany. Suddenly I could SEE that a cute anecdote about a celebrity in People magazine would soon just-so-coincidentally be followed by the announcement of their next movie/show/tour/fragrance. I was probably naive not to have noticed all that sooner, to have understood how all of those deals get made every time and what the motives of MTV &co. really are, but for whatever reason, that was when I grew my side-eye to the entire entertainment industry.

To The Real World's credit(?), I also think that (roughly) through that season (1995), the medium was still so new that people applying to be in the cast still had some naivete about it, and that the crassest commercial goals were not front-and-center... which can't be said for basically any reality program since. It seems crazy to think of now, but this was an era when the available media -- mostly weekly tabloids and Entertainment Tonight-type shows -- paid only the tiniest bit of attention to these people (Pedro being a notable exception in Season 3). Hell, that was still years before the Television Without Pity folks even started recapping, and more than a decade before Perez Hilton's blog became a thing -- my point being that basically NO ONE was talking about reality shows or stars in "popular culture" if you didn't watch the shows yourself, so the cogs in the giant money machine hadn't all interlocked yet. Survivor didn't start until 2000, American Idol in 2002. TV networks hadn't yet discovered how insanely cheap reality TV was to make relative to traditional scripted shows. (It seems like the 2007/8 writers' strike was an inflection point for that, too, no?)

And now, lordy, look at where it's led us.
posted by argonauta at 7:53 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Will not click the Breitbart link; the URL alone is enough to make me want to punch something. Or puke. Or both.

Likewise. Hovered over, want to punch/puke. Do I dare guess which intrepid young hair product model wrote it? Because I'm certainly not clicking it.
posted by Theta States at 8:08 AM on June 2, 2015


Here's a better idea for a show:

Here's another: After a night out to celebrate his success, the producer of this programme is set upon as he's getting into his car and beaten unconscious. He awakes, naked and concussed, in a distant town. When he eventually finds his way home, he discovers nothing but cold ashes where his house had been. His family are nowhere to be seen, and the neighbours glower fearfully at him from behind net curtains.

It's a comedy.
posted by Grangousier at 8:47 AM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


this is even worse than the shaming people the "Magic Christian" way. Making people swim in actual shit for money.
posted by Gadgetenvy at 8:47 PM on June 3, 2015


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