In the name of the law…

A brief change of pace…

We’re all familiar with the scenario: a representative from law enforcement appears at a door and flashes a badge or an ID. It’s in most of the police movies. A gaggle of people in official-looking uniforms. One of them pulls out a warrant, and they make their way into the residence. You still with me?

Here’s the rub? How does one know with any degree of certainty higher than blind faith?

Do you know what an ‘official’ badge or ID looks like? How do you know it’s not counterfeit? 

Do you even know what a search warrant looks like? It’s signed, do you know the person it’s signed by? Perhaps it’s a judge. Is the warrant real or fake? What about the uniforms or official-looking vehicles? 

Indoctrination and cognitive dissonance are key factors

The answer is most people would have no idea. Indoctrination and cognitive dissonance are key factors. In movies, apart from the documentation, there’s the intimidation factor. And maybe guns for full effect.

To be sure, people have performed variations of this script, and they’ve been punked. So, the question remains: How can one tell? And when does when get to call bullshit?

And what are the down sides?  If these cats are legit, and after the bullying and indignity, you’ll probably be facing accusations of obstruction or resisting. Of course, you’ll be justified, but justification is asymmetrical and out of your favour. The house holds the advantage, and you aren’t the house.

But let’s pretend that justice is symmetrical and does have meaning beyond its application as a power tool, how far would one need to go to be sure?

Take the case of the warrant signed by a judge. S/he shows up in person and says, ‘Yup. I signed that warrant’. Has that gotten you anywhere? Probably not. You don’t know this person, and you have no way of evaluating the authenticity of the claim. Does it take the governor? The president? The head of the UN? 

And even if you trust the entire process thus far, what say do you have in justifying the merit of issuance of the warrant? 

Well, that was something…

Unintentional Indoctrination

Fiction in the form of film, television, and books has an insidious propaganda effect. This effect is not necessarily conscious or intentional. In practice, it may simply be a meme as a result of prior programming.

I don’t tend to engage with much fiction, though I have in the past. I hadn’t really considered the indoctrination effects at the time. Lately, on account of my significant other, I’ve been consuming fiction via Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Starz, and the like. It’s mostly drivel, in my opinion, but I like to spend time with her, and we can connect discussing plot lines and such over a shared experience.

I find the repetition of facile but culturally prevailing themes such as right and wrong, good and evil, heroes and villains, the power of community and the detriment of the individual, except for the rugged individual, who prevails against all odd.  

These shows propagate pop-psychology beliefs and over-simplify complexity to create a digestible narrative, but which is the equivalent of eating refined white bread instead of whole grains.

My point is not that the writers are seeking to influence the masses, it’s just to point out that this is the case. People view this, and use it to calibrate their own believe systems, but it’s a recursive, self-referential model—an echo chamber. I haven’t done any investigation or research into whether people have already made this connection. I will if I get the time.

One might argue that a counter model would not be well-received, and a goal of most fiction is to gain an audience and earn some money, so give the people what they are asking for and don’t make them think about their worldview. Besides, a single film or series is likely to challenge ones prevailing filters anyway. Even if someone were to create an anti-theme, cognitive dissonance may just rationalise it as a statement, so satire rather than objective criticism.

We do have Absurdist authors, like Franz Kafka, Donald Barthelme, or even Kurt Vonnegut, who rather point out absurd situations in life and some possible speculative fictions, but these Post-Modern writers are accepted, though arguably not widely consumed, save for intellectuals and their quasi-counterparts.

If I had more time, I’d document a few examples, but these shows are typically difficult to sit through once casually let alone carefully dissect. Perhaps, I’ll do this for the sake of science.