Men Against Fire Analysis Example

With these views held by individuals, how does a mindset like this affect them on a deeper mental level? What do they think when they have to engage the enemy on the battlefield, or in the trench, the jungle, or the ruins of a city? What would they feel when they had to battle the enemy hand to hand, fire upon them when they are defenseless, or even interact with them? The episode of Black Mirror, “Men Against Fire” addresses these ideas and concepts thoroughly through their version of a futuristic landscape and technology.

In the not too distant future when nuclear war has come and gone, civilization remains under the administrative authority of a militaristic power. Stripe, a new soldier using mind-altering technology, investigates one of the remaining human settlements the "Roaches" had scavenged. Upon experiencing several mind-altering situations, he discovers that the “Roaches” are humans. Stripe comes to realize that the villagers perceive the “Roaches” are humans, and not the monstrous creates he has seen. Even though they see them as humans, humans view them as creatures that have no place in society. By exploring the dynamic relationships between the “Roaches,” the villagers, and the soldiers, one can see how the how they function on an “Us vs. Them” relationship. Many things in society are similar to the ideas mentioned above, such as the everyday debate of which is better: Coffee with or without cream, Georgia or Florida, Democrats or Republicans, the Aryan People or the Jews and everyone else? When faced with the choice of having to choose between two or more groups, most individuals will go with their group. Several definitions from “Us vs. Them,” the Minima Group Paradigm (MGP), and the Concept of the Other can show the schisms between humanity and the “Roaches,” or any group that appears divided.

After Stripe returns to the military base, a psychologist explains to him why there is a division between humans and the “Roaches,” and why the “Roaches” are being hunted and eradicated. They were human beings, who were sick, culled from society due to their genes and social tendencies. By making the differences between the “Roaches” and the normal humans a rallying point, normal humans were able to view these sick humans as objects, “Roaches.” When Musgrove changed his opinion of the enemy soldiers and turned them into an object, he was initiating the first step of the MGP. MGP is a methodology in social psychology developed by Henri Tajifel and colleagues in the 1970s. It is a methodology used to investigate the minimal conditions required for discrimination to occur between two groups. When followers see themselves as a defined group, sharing the opinions and mentality of their leader, these members will favor their fellow members and view themselves as a collection of individuals that operate as one mind. This hive-mind mentality strengthens the idea that if someone from Group B were to threaten Group A, one of the members of Group A could take the threat as if Group B was threatening them. Similar interactions have occurred during the Second World War and the Vietnam War.

By implementing these concepts and ideas into their plans of action against, leaders, generals, or dictators can alter the view of their underlings or soldiers. Once a stable group comes together, the desire to be similar to the rest of the group sets in. Conformity becomes one of the strings that ties the group together. Studies in the 1950s by psychologist Solomon Asch showed that an intellectual group member would rather deny evidence that they have witnessed than stand out from the group. They instead say, “This sentence is five words long,” when in actuality it is six words. This conformity allows for the group’s unity to increase, having fewer members disagree with the norm, developing a stronger groupthink. Now, armed with a more effective way of pushing their idea, they can make an individual who had been friendly with his or her neighbors view them as vile individuals who do not deserve any respect.

The need to belong influences the options of individuals, intensifying their need to conform. An individual’s identity is reflective of how they perceive society’s view of them; but, when society's perspective has changed, they no longer consider themselves as the same person as before. This new identity, reinforced through social interactions, manipulates their perception of the opposition, demonizing their perception of the opposition. Such a shift in perception allows the rationalization that “we” cannot belong to any group unless “they” (other people) do not belong to “our” group. Similarly, in the Black Mirror Episode, the group in power calls the sick humans “Roaches,” enabling them to force them from society. The villagers do this to the “Roaches,” who are human and have no physical deformities. This scene is comparable to several of the "Us vs. Them" moments in history.

During the Second World War, Hitler used tactics that persuaded his followers to believe that if one was not Aryan, then that person was subhuman, similar to roaches. Whites have also used these tactics when suppressing individuals who are different in color, education, culture, religion, and socioeconomic status. By sharing their views with others who resembled them, they created multiple consequential "Us vs. Them" moments. They created propaganda in the form of discriminator posters, ads, pamphlets, and other modes of media used to manage opinions and attitudes by manipulation of social suggestion. During the Second World War, the United States printed a countless number of propaganda that depicted the enemy with distorted faces and body ratios. This type of propaganda is an example of grey propaganda, which uses inherently deceitful information to alter the social perception of a group. Such misinformation results in the demonization of a group of people, helping soldiers to distance themselves from the enemy. The more soldiers see the enemy as something, not even someone, different from themselves, the less guilt they feel if they have to take their life. Professor Muller, of York University, explains in his article, “The Psychology of Killing,” how the face plays a significant role in the trauma that individuals feel from the event. By giving the enemy a derogatory name, having them remain faceless, and taking everything that is human away from them, it makes it easier for soldiers to detach themselves from the enemy and give a reason that justifies their assault.

Disputes have existed throughout the millennia, ranging from simple, solvable questions to conflicts that result in ideological or religious wars. In these scenarios, each opposing side has individuals who share beliefs or who follow an influential leader. Musgrove says, “I only killed one human being in Vietnam… I will waste as many gooks as I can find…”, he created a dichotomy between himself and the enemy. Stripe, on the other hand, reviews his first encounters with the “Roaches” in the farmhouse and realizes they are human rather than monsters, showing how not seeing the enemy as human makes it easier to pull the trigger.

The strategy of “Us vs. Them” has a stronghold with today’s politicians, who are accentuating the differences between themselves and their opponent’s followers with libelous ads and inflammatory rhetoric. To counteract this, one must practice tolerance, emphasize similarities, and respect differences. Civil discourse and compromise can occur with the effort to understand different cultures, philosophies, religions, and political opinions. Tolerance can help heal the schisms between different groups, allowing them to connect with one another and solve problems without aggression.


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