Text size

It's not that we aren't aware that there are manipulations on television. Of course we know. Come on now, we aren't retarded. But apparently we are.

At the end of last week, we learned that the participants in the "Big Brother" reality show were stuffed with psychiatric drugs by the production team's psychiatrist and with the production team's knowledge - pills that merely helped to intensify the crazy manipulation of the contestants so as to make them behave according to the desires of the program. This is what six of the participants revealed in an investigative report by Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth that was backed up by recordings.

This is a matter that goes far beyond the injustice that was done to the specific participants. The point here is the injustice that was done to us, the viewers, the 40 percent of Israeli citizens who are exposed to this at least four hours every week, those of us for whom "it is clear" that the manipulation we are talking about includes "only" locking people up in the house and tendentious editing.

It is the lie according to which there is free choice - people want to go there, no one is forcing them. After all, Keshet's deputy director of content said once again in response that "people watch 'Big Brother' and they know what they are letting themselves in for."

That is precisely the point. People think that they are joining in an innocuous game with a chance of winning money and an excellent chance of fame, even if it is temporary. They don't imagine that they are going to a place where their bodies, souls and minds will become the materials that the owners of the program and the channel are going to play around with. They become the woman over whom Big Brother stands and says: "You've got 10 minutes to play with my cock between your tits," and then gets a prize in the form of a big comeback.

This is exactly how a false consciousness is created. We are sure that all the senseless and crazy things that we see them doing there are done by them of their own free will. Yes, yes - a false consciousness.

There is a reason why there is a psychiatrist involved. Just as in the program, "24/7," in which they locked 15 young women in a house with one young man so that he could choose from among them after he tasted any of them that he wanted - there was a psychiatrist who turned this distorted situation into a normal one by talking to the participants, hiding the huge gap in the balance of powers between the participants and the channel, and once again creating the false awareness of personal responsibility, of supposedly free choice.

This is how the scale is tipped for us too; this is how we lose our ability to judge what it is possible and impossible to do with us, how we are expected to behave, how we are expected to look. This is how it seems to us more and more reasonable that someone above us will fix arbitrary rules for us that we don't have the means of appealing; that if someone tries to appeal, he is instantly punished and we are helpless subjects - the kind that six months after the big protest are being punished with rising gasoline prices and reminders of Auschwitz.

This is exactly how a program that drugged participants (Keshet doesn't deny this but merely attributes responsibility for the actions to the psychiatrist ) is depicted here mainly as yet another battle between the real owners. "The main battle here is the battle between Yedioth and Keshet," a senior figure in the publicity business explained to me on Sunday. "All the others are supporting actors."

The "battle" is over the publicity cake. It was not without reason that the owner of the biggest advertising agency said immediately to me that the publicity of "Big Brother" would not be affected. Because, after all, the entire screen is meant to be suitable for the advertisements broadcast by the sponsors and their PR offices, and all of them need this cow to go on milking and bring in tons of money - from us.

"All the others," the supporting actors, are the drugged participants, and the men and women who see the program or, if you wish, the ones who will buy. But the truth is that we are not even supporting actors. We are pawns on the chessboard of some people who abuse us through the too-great power they have in their hands. Anyone who wishes to continue thinking that there is a "free market" or democracy in an age when so few people have so little money should read the descriptions of the manipulations suffered by the participants in "Big Brother."

Read this article in Hebrew