Friday 2 November 2012

Derren Brown- Apocalypse

Part 1 of Apocalypse can be watched here:

Derren Brown is famous media illusionist and hypnotist, and I’ve written and spoken about him before , eg: I also recently read his book Tricks of the Mind, see: Brown is a curious individual who along with his mentalist skills is also something of a hero in the Skeptisphere because he exposes… allegedly… psychics and Spiritualists as fakes. I dispute that psychics and Spiritualists are all fakes for the reasons I state in the linked article above and also here: and: Brown is one of those whom I would nominate as a latent Skeptocrat; he is somebody who would probably support a political move to outlaw psychics by force and possibly lock them in jail if they disobeyed. The politics of the Paranormal is a neglected field of study which I intend to redeem, but that’s a story for another time. Derren Brown is well known for designing very sophisticated psychological and hypnotic experiments which involve placing ordinary people in very unusual situations using his hypnotic powers and cleverly designed stagecraft. These experiments have been made into very popular stage shows and televsision programmes like The Heist, see: and Messiah, see: In 2010 he was investigated by Ofcom for a stunt carried out in one of his shows, see: I’ve a feeling Ofcom will be after him again soon because his most recent programme is the most extreme and ambitious yet, Apocalypse. Here’s the official trailer:

Apocalypse is a strange blend of The Truman Show, a George Romero film and Jeremy Kyle. All Brown’s shows attempt to hook onto the slipstream of Reality TV, but this one goes way further than any other. It is so excessive that it may well turn out to become a seminal programme that gives birth to a new generic style. In this programme Brown attempts to convince a man that the world has ended in a scenario common to many dystopian horror films: a giant meteorite hits the Earth and does widespread damage. Most of the survivors are struck down by a virus that turns them into zombies resulting in the collapse of human civilization. To select his…er… “contestant”, Brown held an audition of volunteers, however the winner was chosen secretly and all the hopefuls were told that they’d failed. Brown then enlisted the help of the family and friends of the chosen one, a young man called Steve Brosnan from Buckinghamshire. Over a two month period all the people in Brosnan’s life agreed to collaborate in a conspiracy to lay the background for what was to come. They fed him fake news stories by hacking into his TV set and mobile phone, planted actors who struck up conversations about “an approaching meteor shower” and even had celebrity experts like Professor Brian Cox and Danny Wallace make false Tweets and radio broadcasts. The reason Brown selected Brosnan for the programme was because he felt that he was the right psychological “type”; and also that he was living a thoughtless existence without caring for the people around him. Brown also described him as a very unambitious, dispassionate, slothful and immature person, an “overgrown teenager” who didn’t clean up his room and made his mother do all his washing and cooking for him. He had trouble keeping a job and spent all his free time down the pub. Brown hoped that by losing everything he took for granted Brosnan would discover a new lease of life and develop courage, compassion and decisiveness. Brown hoped that by the end of his experience Seven Brosnan would be a man changed for the better.

With the mental seeds planted over a two month period it was ready to trigger Armageddon! Brosnan takes a chartered coach with his friend, an accomplice in the conspiracy, to a rock concert and then explosions are set off, the people on board start screaming in fear; they are all actors with earpieces, taking instructions from the director’s gallery. Brown, up till then an incognito fellow passenger on the coach, puts Brosnan into a hypnotic trance. He’s then led to a huge studio made up to look like an abandoned military hospital. There Brosnan is left alone to wake up. He emerges into a devastated world. The country is under martial law, the infrastructure is shattered and flesh-eating cannibalistic zombies roam the streets. He meets a young girl in the hospital whom Brown hopes will appeal to his submerged protective and compassionate nature and together they fall in with a gang of survivors; like all Brosnan’s companions they are actors. Gradually the plot develops to test his leadership qualities, conscience and sense of responsibility.

Many critics are claiming that Derren Brown has gone too far this time. This stunt is sadistic, voyeuristic and highly unethical. There are also rumours that the entire event is simply drama and that Brosnan is a stooge along with all the others, see: Brown has countered this by claiming to be able to prove that Brosnan is a real person, see: and that he had a doctor and psychologist constantly monitoring him and were willing to step in and abort the stunt if they thought his emotional or physical health was in danger. I still find this kind of television unpleasant, like I do all Reality TV. It’s getting to the point where our imaginations are so dumbed down that make-believe will no longer do. Breaching the boundaries of what was considered tasteful just a few short years ago is now routine and we shiver with opulent Schadenfreude at housemate evictions, walks-of-shame and bush-tucker challenges. Making a man think he’s in a haunted college or able to impersonate Elvis Presley is one thing; making him think his entire world is destroyed is a totally different matter. The justification for it stinks too. Brown is being very arrogant, as psychologists tend to be, in claiming that he is putting Brosnan though this horrifying ordeal “for his own good”. How does he know Brosnan will emerge a heroic intellectual giant after he comes out of the studio? What if the opposite occurs; what if he’s traumatized and incapacitated. What if he suffers a nervous breakdown? Is this thing really as safe as Brown reassures us? Although it’s true that facing adversity can be very character-building, in the long term and in retrospect; but the kind of adversity that would come from believing that the entire world as you know it has been annihilated forever could easily demolish one’s character; this could result in despair, destitution and depression. What if he kills himself on air? Has Brown thought about that? If somebody played this kind of trick on me I’d go straight to the police afterwards and report him for assault! Also it’s very judgmental to pour scorn on man just because he enjoys veging out with a tube in front of the TV and gets his mum to do a bit of his ironing. How the hell does Derren Brown know that he’s living a worthless life just because he ticks a few boxes on a bloody form!? How dare he be so presumptuous and condescending! This is once again typical pshrink megalomania. Having said all that, it could well be that Steven Brosnan is just a character played by an actor. It seems hard to believe that nobody in his life became doubtful about what they were manipulating him into. Didn’t his mother or father feel any guilt over knowing they were helping to convince their son that he was a lone survivor in a ruined world?

Another aspect of this programme disturbs me, and this is something that disturbs me about many Reality TV programmes: It presents using technology to put people under surveillance as acceptable, even glamourous! Apocalypse also introduces another element that we’ve not seen in previous programmes: gaslighting. This is a form of psychological abuse in which people whom you live with create an organized false scenario to undermine your self-confidence and to condition you into thinking and feeling, and therefore behaving, in a certain way, see: I’ve noticed that in the last few years the theme of global cataclysm and the destruction of society has strengthened in the arts of fiction and drama. Dystopian, post-apocalyptic films and books are being churned out by the score every year; old films in this genre have been remade. There is something in the air that is preparing us for the end of the world. This may be partly a natural morphic process that has developed from people’s fears about the economy, the environment and terrorism etc, but it could also be a deliberate agenda of subtle propaganda. One of the most popular ingredients in the scenarioes of these works is zombies, see: This trend has emerged, supposedly by coincidence, at the same time as news stories about government publications hinting at the presence of real zombies, see: In this case we are talking about the seeding in our media of a zombie-like zeitgeist; it’s not just a natural trend. This is being done to us by somebody enjoying an influential position in the media, in the same way that Derren Brown and his team are doing it to Steven Brosnan. Why? One theory is that the Illuminati might stage a false apocalypse in order to wipe out existing societies so that they will have a blank slate for their New World Order. In which case our whole media is acting as a giant version of a Derren Brown simulation; however this simulation will fail if we rumble it. These things only work when we’re not aware that they’re a charade.

(Edit 5/6/13) I've spoken to somebody I know who's a solicitor and he says that Apocalypse is definitely staged. This is because the ordeal Brosnan was put through constitutes kidnapping and assault. No TV production company would risk doing that.


The Truth Seeker's Guide said...

Richard D Hall has recently suggested that the stories regarding the credibilty of Brown's "skills" (and the protagonist of this piece being an actor) have been "put out there" to undermine the known practice of genuine mind control in the public consciousness.
I'm not really sure! I know there are claims of an association between Brown and British Military Intelligence but I have yet to find any substantial proof of these claims.
You're right about these "psychological pieces" though. It is amazing that so many people buy into the entertainment value of them.
All the best!
Carl (The 'Guide)

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Hi Carl. I hear that Derren Brown was involved in training people for the BBC's "Conspiracy Road Trip". I discuss Brown with Neil Sanders in the most recent programme on HPANWO Radio:

Take care.