Duncan Trussel on Schadenfreude and Visceral Reaction to Suffering

Duncan Trussel is a regular on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. He had an interesting rant about a part of the human condition (which called to mind Lester Bangs' reaction to the shooting of Andy Warhol).
It's like that South Park where the kids try to get their parents to stop watching what they call "murder porn" which is like Forensic Files and stuff where you lay in bed -- nobody's watching Forensic Files because they're like, "I really wanna gather more information about this case to see if I can solve it." Nobody's watching Nancy Grace because they're like, "I'm gonna help find this missing child." People are watching these shows because they're getting off in a deep, visceral way on other people's suffering. 
Whenever I watch Forensic Files, there's this kind of terrible pleasure that comes from realizing that this world is like that and I'm safe in this nice hotel. You watch it and you get this kind of like, WOW that's fucking crazy. For whatever reason, human beings, in the deepest part of themselves --  if you're really honest with yourself -- when you watch some awful thing on the news... It's not like your heart explodes initially with sweet compassion, you're like, "What The FUCK.. WOW, look at that explosion, that's intense!" But it's not like you're weeping, it's not like tears are falling out of your eyes. You're sort of in awe in a weirdly excited way about shit blowing up. 
This is like a bell-curve. When someone close to you is suffering. If you see an animal that's sick or something awful happened close around you, you'd be like "Fuck, that's awful," and try to help.  You wouldn't be like, "This is weird and kinda cool." But somehow this bell-curve happens, where if the very same thing is happening outside of a certain proximity to where you're at, outside your neighborhood or in another country, it goes from being a mourning horror to a weird kind of creepy enjoyment. And that's what the news is making money on. Because if people felt horrible when they watched the news, nobody would watch. They wouldn't make any money. People like to sit and stare into the apocalypse because it's entertaining.... 
Trussel goes on to discuss how the packaging of tragedy in news media is specifically designed to fit within a window of emotional tolerability.
People don't want to watch stuff that makes them sad. Like the humane society commercial, with that "arms of the angel" song, people can barely watch that because it's so sad. But somehow the anesthetized war reporting, or the foamed-down aerial shots of a fucking drone strike with that weird flash of smoke. You see shapes -- those are trucks with people with them -- but you don't see that smoldering, twitching human corps or the guy limping away with his femur jutting out and one of his eyeballs out while he's thinking about his wife and whether or not he's ever gonna see her again. All you see is like [laser sounds] -- GONE. 
When they show the drone strikes, imagine if they did start playing Sarah McLachlan! They don't want people to be like, "Hey this is terrible, let's stop that!" When I kill a bug in my house, there's more of a sadness... I feel more intense about that than when they show humans being exploded because they do it in such a quick, packaged, sweet way that we're all numbed out to it. We're all numbed out to the fact that those fucking explosions that are evaporating people are 100% being funded by the money that is siphoned off from us anytime we buy a latte or whenever we sell someone our life energy. [That money is] being converted by some invisible power into some human evaporating devices. That doesn't occur to us at all. 
Duncan goes on to agree with Joe Rogan that some of our military operations truly are important measures in defense of freedom. (And his tone reflects the frustration of emotional-ethical dialectics.) You can listen to the full podcast episode at The Joe Rogan Experience.

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