The Truth About Violence

The Truth About ViolenceMost people think of themselves as calm, peaceful, law-abiding creatures. But could anyone be driven to kill another person? To pull the trigger and end a life? The Truth About Violence discovers the terrifying violence that lies within everyone.

Violence is part of everyday life - from knife and gun crime to war. But surely ordinary people could never be capable of a heinous crime? Self-proclaimed calm and peaceful Michael Portillo is set to find out.

Portillo says he has never been in a fight and doesn't have a single aggressive bone in his body. "I was brought up to try to resolve all conflict peacefully. I can't associate with violence. I don't understand how any human being can take violence to the extent of taking another persons life. I want to understand what makes people violent, what drives people to do it."

The brain chemical serotonin plays a key part in people's ability to control their aggression. Low levels can cause individuals to become violent, and it's surprisingly easy for this to happen. Sleeplessness, for example, lowers a person's levels of serotonin and impairs their brain's ability to function properly, leading them to potentially commit sudden acts of violence.

Brain damage, from mild concussion routinely received in contact sports, is also a significant cause of aggression. But this isn't a minor problem affecting elite athletes. Sixty per cent of wife batterers tested by Dr Golden, from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, had brain damage - damage that could have occurred at any time, without them even knowing it.

This is just a preview.The full documentary is not available at this moment.

Ratings: 6.91/10 from 11 users.

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24 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Dr. Andreas R. Wesserle

    "First, tear the beam from your own eye ere you dare snatch the mote from your neigh-bors"- by mindlessly rehashing stereotypes about Nazi Germany - with a very definite 'Rul-ing Aim'- you jeopardize the conclusions you so studiously strove to arrive at.

  2. Wandalen

    excellent documentary
    just recognise themselves

  3. Prana

    This documentary has everything but the truth, it lacks depth and it is based on vague assumptions. So violence is in everyone of us! good, and so is peace, and so is greed.. and lust, and love, and on and on... you can take a bag put this documentary in it and throw it in the garbage, better start from zero.

  4. Ryan

    I just read a comment saying: "Kill the followers." Um...doesn't that mean you're a "follower?"

    We all have violence within us, as it has defined humanity from the beginning and will always define us. There's an ancient need within us to protect ourselves and ones we love, so in my mind, all of us can turn to violence when pushed to the limit.

    And I think we shouldn't just interpret violence just as fist fighting. Quietly accepting it as the norm, not caring or like in the test, legitimizing suffering all counts. If a person can electrocute a random person for science, what strops them from doing something horrible when the s@#$ hits the fan?

  5. Lisa O

    Excellent documentary on violence. We must understand it to be able to minimize it.

  6. iesika

    To everyone who keeps complaining about 'the followers' ... until you're in a situation like that, you're never sure what you're going to do. Everyone thinks they are the one person who would refuse to participate, but statistically, that's not true. In reality the number of people who will follow their own moral compass despite pressure from authority is very low. I'm not going to claim I know how I would respond to something like that - no one knows until it happens, which is kind of the point of this documentary.

  7. millipede

    That was definitely very interesting but sad. It explains a lot that I see first hand, not just in others but myself as well. As the man in the final experiment said, it's scary.

  8. Elixirsoo

    The thing that struck me about the final experiment, more than anything else, was the way the women carried on regardless. Seventy-five percent going all the way is absolutely terrifying, especially with the world of June 2010 being such a 'high pressure' situation. :(

  9. Lucian

    Very, very good point DaveD and I agree.

  10. deathwatch

    its the basic of all man, no matter how much education or how much peaceful you are, its in our basic man

  11. Big Ed

    I think Michael Portillo was the perfect man to follow through such a program. Through the whole program he had an open mind and he let himself convince by what he saw, despite of his strong beliefs which he made clear in the beginning of the program. It didn't seem like he was afraid of reflecting on or challenging his initial thoughts and he really wanted to get an honest answer to his questions.

    Sadly I think the last experiment depicts humanity in a pretty accurate way, and I'm not sure I'd do things differently from the 9 out of 12.

  12. LENA88

    I actually believe with an early statement that it does matter how much control we exercise. There are many underprivileged people around the world who experience unsatisfying living situations like prolonged sleeping deprivation, alcoholism, or simply being pressured and frustrate. While some do lose it more often it seams that combination of education, cultural background and sense of responsibility will make the difference. Shock experiment, sporting events, martial arts, boxing , violent movies are acceptable to some people because they believe that those are controlled environments where participants know what they are doing and any guilt can be easily rationalized and avoided. I doubt that as many people would be calm or condone real harmful violence. And in every like any story there are idiots who just follow and went on with the experiment despite the disagreement from the other participant or reasonable doubt of possible serious damage. They probably did some light evaluating and estimated that benefits of the experiment outweigh potential problems. But what I find weird is that they were not suspicious of the scientists, even that older gentleman that quit the experiment said it reminded me of Nazi Germany, while he gets props for empathy no one was like I am confused by the ethics behind this experiment.

  13. Lee

    Oh and my first paragraph should have read-"do some damage"-as in to my property... doh!

  14. Lee

    This was very good.I think the only thing that keeps me non-violent is the good ol' cowards shakes.If I was sleep deprived,under stress and given the right circumstance,I feel I would really do some damage....not good :(

    The experiment really disappointed me,I was aware of the original but seeing it was....depressing.Its not so hard to understand how the Hitler and Bush types get the job done,a little encouragement is all it takes.

    Coward I may be....I still would NOT press that button after the subject opts out.I know this in my heart,I also knew before hand that 450v is a kill button,which would have ruined the test for me anyway.

    I see this result as - 9 out of 12 people probably dont give a toss for the suffering of others.

  15. Pacha

    I was more amazed that none of them had seen the original experiment than anything else.

  16. micha

    great doc! thanks

  17. Fight

    I just tought violence is nice because some people are good at it and so their brain rewards them for doing well in competition. So my belief is that violence on itself is not rewarding, everything you do well is be it diplomacy or violence.

  18. Kyle

    I got an Idea,Lets kill the Followers!!Ha Ha

  19. thanasos

    Th Milgram experiment is very interesting but it only measures compliance in the face of moral distaste, not violence per se. There is no aggression in pressing a button, even if it remotely causes pain. I.e. the experiment validly measures something but what it measures is not relevant to the wider points made in this otherwise very insightful documentary.

    1. Devon Griffiths

      So if I put a button on a gun rather than a trigger, and shoot you with it, it isn't violence? Absurd. Of course it is. Pushbutton violence is removed from its effects and allows the perpetrator to feel like it's not violence, but it is.

  20. Douglas Fenech

    I quite liked this documentary. Michael Portillo seems quite a conservative man but also quite approachable and likeable and actually provided answers to the questions he posed which was refreshing.

    Good work, BBC.

  21. del

    interesting doc!
    yeah i noticed the younger ones didnt have the courage to stop, maybe they see the old man in the white coat as a fatherly figure, had it been a 17yr old posing as the professor i think more people would have refused.
    it is still quite scary, but the people they used seem to be very passive (which the experiment admits) which makes it biased and not representitive of the population.
    thanks for the upload though :D

  22. DaveD

    notice how in the experiment in the end how the 'followers' included the young confident thruster, a 26 year old financial adviser, projecting confidence in his voice and manner, yet followed the man in the white coats instructions.
    Whereas, the one who didnt was an older, wiser man, a piano teacher, independant, a free thinker.
    I would like to have known more about the other people who didnt follow through with the experiment.
    I'm sure that Hitlers machine knew this stuff already, hence why artists, writers, philosophers and other professions that attract free thinkers were also victims of his aggression.

  23. esmuziq

    hahahaa thats insane

    too many followers on this planet