Black Mirror : Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

I watched Men Against Fire for the first time last night. I wasn't impressed. From the very beginning the soldiers' mindless enthusiasm for killing these 'roaches' is stressed to the max, making the viewer suspicious about what the roaches are and what sort of war it is. We're never allowed to sympathise with the soldiers except the main character when he has the crisis of conscience, and we're never lead to believe the roaches are as dangerous as the soldiers believe them to be. And these suspicions are confirmed when we learn what the roaches are and why the soldiers want to kill them.

Also we're never told why the army in charge of the soldiers want to eliminate the roaches. If they don't want their children to inherit genetic disorders, simply don't breed with people with those genes. They had already segregated the 'roaches' and forces them to live away from the rest of society. Why not just let them be?

I know that's the point of the episode, that we're supposed to sympathise with the roaches and be outraged by the people brainwashing the soldiers to kill them. My problem with the episode is that it's too simplistic. There's no moral ambiguity. Nearly every other episode of Black Mirror has some moral ambiguity, forcing the viewer to watch it to the end and weigh up several factors before deciding who, if anyone, they can sympathise with. But in Men Against Fire there's nothing to think about. If such a war was going on today, it would be comparable to the nazi campaign against the jews. The only people who would agree with the army or see any moral ambiguity in this episode would be nazis.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

I think I understand your perspective and mostly agree. But it is still unclear to me what the difference of the roaches is supposed to be. How does the "mass" system detect them? Is it something more or less visible, that one could see without the implant system? Or to put it another way, how do the villagers know who is which?

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

That is also a very good question. I guess their genetic makeup must be different enough for the implants to detect, but it's never explained specifically what genetic traits they're trying to eliminate. And as for the villagers, I have no idea how they could tell the difference. Maybe the roaches simply didn't integrate with them or speak to them for fear of being killed, and this enforced isolationist behavior later identified them, so the villagers learnt to fear anyone who naturally shies away from people. But why the villagers would continue to fear people who look like them and are actually harmless, I have no idea.

It would have been better if there was a specific condition the implants looked for; some sort of incurable genetic mutation that gave obvious physical or mental abnormalities that we might begin to understand people wanting to rid the human race from.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

I think for the villagers, it's just the power of suggestion. I mean, it's not a stretch for whole populations of people to hate their neighbors who are "different" from them in the present day, without any manipulative software. I think garden variety old-as-the-hills hatred is enough to blind the villagers to the roaches' humanity. I'm also not sure the villagers saw them--something is sticking in my head about that from the beginning of the episode, when they're telling the soldiers about the pillaging.

Never settle with words what you can accomplish with a flamethrower.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

Sounds very naive. Every war uses these techniques. It's called propaganda.

America uses it a lot. There are people in America that believe they are fighting for democracy and freedom. They think they are the good guys... Go figure.

That's the idea of the show in my opinion. It holds up a mirror, but it isn't pretty. It's black.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

You're right, propaganda is a big factor in convincing the public that a war is justified. So the message of the episode is "War is bad, propaganda is bad." While it's certainly true, it's not really a new or thought-provoking message, in my opinion.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

It's about questioning the "official position" about putting absolute trust in authority, and about the dehumanizing of soldiers via the dehumanization of "the enemy." Freedom of choice. The power of memory. The way ease of technology will continue to aid in the ease of mental manipulation. Extreme eugenics - basic human decency.

If you don't find these elements thought provoking, I don't know why you're watching Black Mirror.

--
There's no such thing as the establishment. Everyone knows that!

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

Good analysis. I think I agree more with your post on this episode more than the others.

Taking the elements in this story to the next level of symbolism, we can see the effects of "dehumanizing" our opponents in the realm of social media and public debate. The more we focus on our differences, the easier it is to make a judgment against others. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a bleeding heart liberal when it comes to the reality that there are things like terrorism in the world. And I hate the fact that whenever people disagree politically, the first person who cries "RACIST!" wins. But every conflict that involves humans ... involves HUMANS! Humans; people who have experiences that in their minds morally justify protesting or critiquing the way people protest.

I'm all for disagreeing and debates, but I think that we all need to get it out of our heads that just because someone disagrees with us, they're no longer human.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

is war and propaganda bad if it allows for the allies to take down nazi germany one or two years faster? there is your moral dilemma in applying the system.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

Switch off your ipad, phone, tv etc and look at it. That is what black mirror means....

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

While that's very clever:

Black Mirror = Dark Reflection.

It's a pretty easy metaphor.

--
There's no such thing as the establishment. Everyone knows that!

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

I agree. I'm usually a lunk when it comes to catching onto clever plots, so this one I saw miles away. It's a really tired theme anyway. Not even a sci-fi coating could make it appealing to me. This episode was purely forgettable garbage. Every single episode in the series is better than this one IMO.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

It was forgettable garbage to you because you see yourself as the soldiers and have been brainwashed to believe in war and winning and killing the enemy. I can spot it a million miles away. You're 100% conservative. You ARE the soldiers. No heart, no compassion, no empathy.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

I think it's more about the end. *spoilers*




When he gets captured they give him a choice. Probably stay locked up and relive murdering those humans daily, or have his mind wiped and go back to killing them.


We see throughout the episode the kind of glee and pride that the soldiers take in killing the roaches, under the assumption that they are contagious(?) creatures.

But then he learns, gradually that they are in reality killing genetically inferior humans.

Even when he tells his own teammates his assumptions (before the absolute reveal) they don't believe him and think he's gone 'native'.

I saw the episode as a "At what point do we stop seeimg our enemy as nonhuman/or unrelatable" and at the end a " are we willing to live with our horrors and try to change them or forget and start again".

While they were detaining him, he may still have been able to have an effect. Like the teammate that captured him start wondering why he stayed missing, or his friends/relatives looking into why he's gone. But instead of living with memories of the people he murdered, he went with them wiping his memories.

If I misinterpreted something let me know or whatnot. It's been a bit since I saw the episode and may be blurring it with another.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

There's less moral ambiguity here. However, it tells us that the result of the choices that he was given are bleak in either case?in this case the choices are a parable for living with your actions and being tortured by your conscience or to not let your conscience step in at all and to just keep business as usual. Sure someone could take the mind wipe and live their life with a clean conscience, but as shown at the end it's a lie?the propaganda of the Mass went so far as to lie about what he was even fighting for back home.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

I agree. Wasn't the best episode.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

This is one of the best episodes actually, very clear metaphor of brainwashing who the enemy is and get rid of any sympathetic feeling towards the so chosen targets.

I am utterly insane but that doesn't mean i don't sense make.

Re: Men Against Fire - Too morally simplistic

Pretty much their war is some form of eugenics, like what the Nazis did to Jewish people, gay people, black people and so on. However, I can see how the military's tactics parallel to modern armies. It's common for people in the army to adopt bigoted language depending on which populations they are fighting. So I found that to be relatable to the language used and also the eugenicist goal of the military.

I've known soldiers to intentionally plan on raping women when they enlist. Rape is considered to be a war tactic b/c it can change the gene pool of a population. Some literature has suggested that raped women are likely to become pregnant compared to women who have had consensual intercourse. In addition, some militaries will target certain populations for the sole purpose of getting rid of them. That is eugenics. Certain governments support military coups, leading to dictators taking over nations and getting tons of people killed (e.g Trujillo in the Dominican Republic).

I can see your point that just to get rid of people who carry certain genetic traits there are easier ways. For instance, several institutions will just sterilize women (e.g. in prisons, Puerto Rico, indigenous women in the US).

We aren't given much information about this world to determine why murdering these people is deemed more ethical or more convenient than sterilizing them or even putting them in internment camps/prisons. It just seems arbitrary.

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