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In 2011, British Illusionist Derren Brown conducted an experiment that I have never forgotten. In Remote Control, audience members for a game show are asked to wear anonymous masks and dictate the ongoing fate of an unsuspecting, secretly filmed member of the public. The show takes a look at the horror that emerges when people are allowed to make anonymous decisions as part of a crowd.

It caused a degree of shock and horror at the time and was designed to show us how being anonymous in a crowd can, in his words, “turn perfectly nice people into internet bullies, or rioters, or hooligans”.

gameshow

The members of the audience were told that they were participating in a new interactive game show in which the fate of a member of the public was placed completely in their hands.

" The ‘target’ was a young man who was out for a drink with some friends.  Along with various actors, the man’s friends were in on the plan and were in contact with the studio via hidden earpieces.

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Throughout the show, the audience were presented with a choice between two scenarios (one positive and one negative) for the man. The severity of the negative outcomes increased throughout the episode, and ranged from being mistakenly charged for an extra round of drinks, to being kidnapped by a ‘gang of thugs’.  The audience chose the scenario with a negative outcome each time, and for Derren Brown, this was evidence of the moral depravity that inevitably follows anonymity in crowds. "

source: normukta.com

I rewatched the episode this morning and it struck me that this social experiment may have been somewhat far fetched or even  misleading 9 years ago. The concept that wearing a mask could create a mob mentality that over rode the normal decisions an individual would make was bizarre and foreign in the pre Covid world. 

But now, where masked rioters are kicking and stomping their way through cities across the world, I have to say that this experiment seems more plausible today than it did back in 2011. 

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The global move to compulsory wearing of face masks seems to have a chilling potential of negative impact on human behaviour. 

Facial recognition is part of our DNA - it is an instinctive human defence mechanism.  I have always removed my sunglasses if I am meeting someone outside. I believe it is important to engage with my face completely visible so as to put the other person at ease. 

Many of us have a repulsion of the burka - the idea that a fellow human being is covered so that only the eyes are visible is abhorrent to me on a social and human rights level. 

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I appreciate that medical staff in a hospital setting are not subject to the same socially acceptable norms, but they are hardly in a social setting. Even they, in some places, wear a photograph of the person behind the " mask ". 

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When I observe these brutes from Antifa or BLM acting or reacting in ways that violate every code of socially acceptable behaviour, I must question how much of it is being part of a crowd and how much of it is negative behaviour encouraged by the mask of anonymity.

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After all, crowds have sung praises to God in Churches and Cathedrals for centuries. People mass to cheer on their favourite sports team or at a Trump Rally - yet no one turns in to a monster.

I confess to a personal belief that the combination of social distancing, isolation and an encouragement of distrust of our fellow human being is bad enough. Adding a mask to people, already socially traumatised, is quite another. 

It is my opinion that masks will lead to a dangerous shift in socially acceptable behaviour and one that will be extremely difficult to reverse.

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