Jul. 4th, 2006 09:21 am
peterbirks: (Default)
There was an amusing entry in today's Salt Lake Tribune

A fire in a Salt Lake City impound lot destroyed three cars, damaged two others and has left the city's insurance with the bill. Salt Lake City police spokesman Joe Cyr said the fire began about 6am Sunday when a blaze re-ignited in a car firefighters thought they had extinguished before the car was brought into the lot, at 2150 W. 500 South.

However, this got me thinking. Suppose you arrive back at where you parked your car, with your friend, only to find that it has vanished, even though you thought that it was parked legally. Off you head with said friend to the impound lot. On arriving, you pay your fine (with some bad grace, after a considerable argument with the man at the lot, who says that you will have to take it up with the authorities).

On heading towards your car, you suddenly see it burst into flames and explode. At this point, your turn around and punch your friend very hard in the face, shattering his nose.

When you come up for trial, your defence lawyer explains that said friend really liked the TV show Punk'd and that he could be a bit of a dick. Given the train of circumstances, it was quite clear that his "friend" had organized the whole shebang, and that he, the car owner, was quite obviously the "mark" in an episode of the TV show, and that his friend had organized it. Which was why he punched him in the face.

My point here is, shows like Punk'd (or any equivalent) rely solely on the victim acting within social norms, even though the practical jokers have stepped outside those norms. The logical response (as with angle shooters in poker games) is to step outside those norms yourself. In the above case, could the guy whose nose gets smashed sue Punk'd on the grounds that he would not have been hit, had not Punk'd shown so many cases similar to the one that our car owner suffered in this case?

Shows like Punk'd damage all of us, because we can no longer rely on what used to be solid evidence. There is a higher chance that that evidence has been manufactured by a middle-class donkey producer of a TV show, looking for cheap productions. In that sense, it is not just the "victim" in the show who suffers. All of us suffer, because we can never take things at their face value. But do we, as in the case above, have the right to take a very unusual chain of events at their non-face value?

Suppose something happens to you which looks like a chance in a million. The more likely explanation at this point is that you have been set up. Many top card counters at Blackjack have come away broke from casinos and cursed a run of bad luck that was one in a hundred thousand. They blame variance. More likely is that they were cheated by the house. So, if a series of events occurs that is so unlikely as to be almost impossible, start looking for the TV cameras.

But the bad thing is that it might be like the case above. Perhaps, for once, it genuinely was random chance. Then you feel even sillier. But it isn't your fault. It's the fault of TV shows like Punk'd and its ilk.

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