Some Thoughts on ‘Reality’ TV
A long time ago (years ago now) I wrote a blog post on something like a ‘review’ of one of the popular survival shows, and I kinda “crushed” that show because it was full of techniques that looked cool on TV but will get you killed in reality. Later I decided that I will not do anything like “show reviews” because it is industry that you cannot beat, that said, I have to say my piece again…!
I read a few days ago (maybe some of you read it too?) about the newest survival show that supposed to start. This time in Russia.
It is gonna be placed “on a large island in the Ob River, the seventh longest in the world, chasing a 100 million rouble ($1.7 million) prize on a nine month survival mission in winter temperatures as low as minus 50C.”
And he continues:” “Everything is allowed. Fighting, alcohol, murder, rape, smoking, anything.”
And: “The survival race on the island will be filmed and broadcast 24 hours a day on an internet TV channel, Pyatkovsky said.”
While I do understand how survival shows attract attention and earn good money, simply because they are interesting (I guess) to average folks who do not have chance to test there survival skills, I still do not understand amount of stupidity in majority of them and lack of common sense.
Does anyone have the thought that people are gonna die because they learned something the wrong way from those survival shows?
This newest Russian show I think beats them all, do they think it is game? Rape? Have we gone so deep down as a society and humanity that we throw in rape as an option in survival show? And we put it down in same level of “wrong” as an alcohol and smoking? (“Everything is allowed. Fighting, alcohol, murder, rape, smoking, anything.”)
Anyway I do not have high hopes in survival shows when it comes to learning something, from the whole bunch of shows there is couple of shows that are usable, and people in those shows do not run, jump too much, or do things the ‘hard way’ (when there is an clearly easier way).
People in good shows usually showing good survival techniques for survival, not fancy and dangerous that attract views and numbers (and earn a lot of money)
Also, “real survival shows” that are recorded and broadcasted all over the internet live are not real, people usually do not act real when they live all over internet. It is pure show, not survival, folks somehow tend to forget that.
One more interesting thing about this Russian survival show is that one of the possible contestant says:” I want to do something so mad and unforgettable so that people later say “do you remember that girl”… we only live once and we must make the best of our lives. I am ready”
Mad and unforgettable? Best of your lives? you are ready?
Some things can not be part of the game, not even in hints…
My friend told me a story long time ago, he was a part of small squad unit who gets ambushed in street and shelled with mortars.
House wall collapsed on him and he lost conciseness.
He woke up in the middle of the night, under the rubble of wall, alone if you do not count his fellow next to him- his buddy that had only torso, everything under his belly was gone ,he was dead of course.
Everything was peaceful, nobody else was there, his comrades from the squad were not to seen or heard.
He started to try and dig himself out of the rubble when he heard noises of people approaching.
Group of some 20 enemy men, together with 5-6 women approached and entered house across the ruined house where he was lying.
Only thing that separated him not to be seen is partially destroyed wall with window opening on it and the fact that it was night.
Behind that opening he was lying under the rubble.
He said that armed men together with imprisoned women entered house leaving one guy in front of the house.
After some 20 minutes screams started from the house, together with laugh of the men, it was clear that they were torturing and raping women inside the house.
My friend said he heard comments like “bring her here” or “move her on table” and stuff like that, and then a few gunshots.
It continued like that for couple of hours. My friend tried to remove dirt and rubble from him, but it was impossible, piece of concrete wall was on his legs, and he was afraid to death to make too much noise, guy on guard in front of the house was standing maybe 10 -15 meters from him.
His mouth were full of pieces of dirt from wall and broken teeth, and he said that night he suddenly become man of faith-he prayed so hard not to cough, not to be heard, because he knows he would be shot to death-maybe tortured before.
Out of the couple of women he remembers one of them refused to “cooperate”, they gave extra attention to her, he said probably with a knife…
He had rifle next to him, and he said that he started to pray to God to give him a strength to shoot himself because he could not stand it anymore. But he did not have courage for that.
Then he wanted to use rifle to shoot the guard and to try to shoot at the others when they rush out, but he was even afraid for that because he would end up dead.
Then he cried silently.
He says he was listening to screams almost all night, he also said that he literally shit and piss in his pants out of the horror from the screams, and out of fear for his life.
Then he heard a couple more gunshots from the house. Guys went out from the house, and leave the area without noticing him.
He said everything went calm, only sound in that moment was very distant sound of jet planes very high (NATO coalition regularly had high attitude flights in order to maintain no flight zone above war territory)
Before he pass out, probably because shock and loss of blood, he said two thoughts formed in my head, first was “ I am coward” and second was “thank you God because I am alive”
He woke up couple of hours later in a British UN forces field hospital, their unit found him in the morning and took him inside an armored vehicle.
War ended, he took down his uniform and left rifle.
He married and got kid, he went through a serious drinking period, he “touched” some drugs too, he divorced, lost job. He become more or less a ‘not functional man’.
But he never forgets that night when “God gave him life again” but also when he realized that he is coward too. And what he did not say is that night actually destroyed his life.
Up to now, you probably realized that some of my articles are just memories, without clear message or point, it is up to you to draw point or see message.
It is like that with real life-often there is no sense and message, or there is different message for each one of you.
But real survival usually is not “Best of your lives” and you may conclude that you are simply not ready for some things.
Some things cannot be “played” before you experienced it in reality.
Do you think there are problems with these ‘Real’ Survival shows? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below…
Brutal article & makes for some hard realizations. Thanks for sharing your knowledge Selco, we all appreciate it.
Most of us are pretty lucky to avoid the scars and callouses on the souls of those less fortunate. The scars remind us constantly of suffering we experienced. The callouses reduce the hurt, but also diminish all other emotions, except maybe rage. Some of us have to learn to control the rage beast that comes from surviving hard times, but it never goes away.
Survival mode is not a fun nor enjoyable experience. Anyone who goes into a real survival situation thinking they will have any sort of good times is a fool and will get their heart broke, or worse. Your only agenda should be to try to get through and stay alive without so much suffering that it destroys your ability to enjoy life after SHTF.
Media does a disservice to public glamorizing SHTF. Viewers have to realize the motivation is entertainment, not information. People won’t watch participants sleeping in filth and doing very little day after day. They want spectacle, so media provides spectacle, but not reality. They are selling fantasy. Caveat Emptor!
Very good point on real survival as always from the one and only Selco.
I will say the only reality survival show I watch is ” Naked and Afraid ” They try to stick it out for 21 days in usually jungle type environments naked, with only 2 items: a knife/machete and fire starting tool. Have to forage or trap food, build shelters with only what is at hand, etc. No money as a prize, just a survival rating. Talk about tough, it is very hard. The bugs alone would drive me nuts.
Too much copying on Russian TV. Weight reduction shows, cooking shows, decorating shows and now survival. So many shows head towards the individual achievement; i.e. there has to be a winner. In survival I think you need to look for a “tribe”.
Maybe family, maybe old neighbors, from the military, fishing friends, from a sport club. Each to bring a number of skills but all depending upon one another. The shows might bring some new information but I look at Youtubes and gather what I want from them. I always wish to learn especially from history. Your experiences are terrific.
I watch all the survivor shows…. but I always question their decisions and look for mistakes in everything they do. I try and think of better ways to do things. So I do learn something on each shows….that is how we learn…. them we go on to try and improve our skills.
This article is yet another reminder to me why your memories and thoughts on survival are worth many times more than pretty much all other sources that I know, combined.
Recently there was a blog post by Max Velocity on his website about realistic tactical training.
Although the topic is different, the realism is the same.
Everyone suffers from a Dunning-Kruger effect.
Your friend was traumatized, then unfortunately kept re traumatizing himself and calling himself a coward for, essentially, refusing to commit suicide by helping a situation he really couldn’t help.
I hope he finds peace.
Hello again Selco,
I think, especially here in the US, many folks confuse (or choose to confuse) ‘camping and/or hunting’ with “Survival” and therefore place too much credibility with ‘reality survival shows’.
Not that some of them don’t have good info of the basics of self-reliance, but I also think that everyone who watches those shows should also be honest enough with themselves to admit that in a real survival situation, “You can always be prepared, but you can never be ready”.
I suspect that most folks who cannot admit this to themselves, will most likely not make it long term.
I do not own a television, or a couch to plant my butt on to watch it. And I am better off without. I will catch the next topic that is more “reality” based. Couch survival at its finest, have at it.
The best wilderness survival show on TV that I have seen was the Canadian show “Survivorman.” This was done by Les Stroud, and was videotaped and done entirely by himself. He put himself in situations alone and showed success, failure, and the psychology of survival: depression, uplifts of successes, and how to keep his morale up.
I lived in the arctic for 25 years, and found it uplifting, and at the same time, potentially brutal, dealing with all kinds of ways that ma nature can kill you. You find that you must be very conservative in your activites—an injury or a dunk in the water can suddenly be a life-threatening experience. You do not take chances unless you have no choices left.
I have never been in the type of situations that Selco relates, other than being shot at a number of times and having to deal with a person that I later found out was a murderer that I got fired at a mineral exploration camp. You develop a sense of awareness and sharpening of animal instincts of survival when faced with the possibility of ambush and being killed.
I appreciate Selco relating his experiences, knowledge acquired, and hard earned wisdom to us.
Hi, if they are playing for 1,000,000 rubles, that’s only $17.5k
It’s not just thee TV shows. nearly 80% of all “survivalist” websites and forums are filled with really bad information and a bunch of fools that think they are all big and bad ass. when in reality they are all scared little kids.
Want to learn how to survive? go and actually do it. Want to learn how to survive the horrors of war and what other humans can do? go talk to a veteran. I have a friend that regularly has a pistol in his mouth ready to pull the trigger and his friend or dog stops him.
Why? because he had to shoot a 4 year old running at him crying and scared. because the scum of the earth taliban had a bomb on the kid and if he would have not shot him, 4 of his friends would be dead today.
Not one of you “big bad asses” can look down a scope at the crying face of a 4 year old and pull the trigger. and not one of you could survive the aftermath of having to do such a thing. One day, he wont survive it either, he will succeed with putting the gun in his mouth and ending his life. He sees that child’s face every time he closes his eyes.
This is reality. What Selco saw is reality. The candy-ass talk in american survival forums between 300+ pound hoarders is NOT reality.
If people didn’t make stupid, dumb, idiotic choices, most shows would only be about 5 minutes long.
In 2015 ,I had 3 different networks contact me about doing a Survival show based in the US. 1 of the companies was from the UK and 2 were from the US.
After doing pre-show films ect., all I can say is RUN. These folks have no interest in putting real information and skill sets out to the public. All they want is folks to watch the crap/drama they put on the networks. Most of the filming is fake.
RAPE, are you kidding me? These are sick folks that put this out there for folks to watch, real or not.
I think I will stick to giving my classes up here in North Idaho, better training and better students.
Another excellent reality check. Thank you, Selco.
I don’t watch TV, haven’t in years, and won’t. I seek what I need to know online and I don’t waste time on “entertainment”… it’s not teaching me anything useful.
I hope your friend that survived the night under the rubble eventually realizes that he was in no position to help those women. He could not even free himself from his “stuck” situation, so he really need not call himself a coward. He could not even get up. Even if he could have gotten up, he would be no match for 20 armed men. He should not look at himself as a coward, or the women as victims… I think the only way he can get past those memories is to focus on the “men” that did the deeds. They are below animals. He should thank God he is alive, trust that the souls of the women are with God in peace, and hope that the “men” who did those things are burning in hell now and forever. I know it’s easier said than done, but I do hope he tries. The only thing worse than going through something like that, is perpetuating it in your mind beyond the point that it happened. I hope he heals internally.
Keep up the reality-based lessons, Selco. Everything else on TV is garbage.
My girlfriend’s brother came back from Vietnam a heroin addict, he is probably dead now, He told me why he needed to use this drug because he closes his eyes some nights and sees three Viet Cong soldiers that had their faces blown off with his weapon. They had surprised him in a night watch pit and stood up to shot him and his comrade when he saw his fellow soldier die as they fired but this allowed him to return fire and kill them. In an instant four men were dead, bloody dead and he was not wounded and alive. The whole ordeal put him into an escape mode and heroin was the ticket. I knew guys who poked themselves with heroin to stay out of military service, then one who needed it after his service in hell.
Selco, life in the BIG city has been dangerous for me. I have had the dumb luck of being shot at three times on different occasions and the shooter missed me. Once while just stepping out of the business I worked at with a garbage bag full of trash for the dumpster, and a lone wolf young man leans out of a public bus window and opens fire with a small hand gun just missing my head as the bullet lodged into the wooden siding of the shop. I sorts felt time slowed down, and the bus he shot from did not race away just rumbled on. I went back in and told the shop owner and he came outside to see where the bullet landed. We looked around in board daylight and just went back inside as if nothing had happened. I didn’t even think to call the cops. I was also in a larger three -story building made of brick when on Friday afternoon I heard the window shatter about eight feet from where I was standing. This time I did call the police right away, they came and figured out the shooter was using a rifle and most likely on a roof top a block away maybe two. This is why I who don’t carry a pistol sometimes think, maybe I should, Then I think, the gun wouldn’t have helped me in any of the times I’ve been targeted. Maybe, death is just a random bitch–but I do think about a bullet proof vest for front and back at times,
Three people can live through the same experience and one can be absolutely destroyed by it, another be unaffected, while a third grows stronger because of it. The difference is that the destroyed individual was fragile, the unaffected robust and one who grew stronger was antifragile to the experience. Becoming more antifragile is one of my chief goals as a survivalist.
Selco is an example of antifragility in that he was exposed to volatility and chaos in what he refers to as his year in hell and grew stronger in many regards in response to the experience. Nobody is totally antifragile and anyone can be exposed to volatility of high enough order to kill them, but antifragility is most often found in nature or natural systems as complicated man-made systems are inherently fragile by virtue of the academic and political processes used to engineer them.
There are some excellent primitive skills educators out there and some trying to fake it til they make it. The primitive skills community in the West is really pretty small and most who know what they are doing know each other because they train and teach together at the same events. Les Stroud wasn’t all that knowledgeable starting out, but he put in the time to learn from guys who knew and has become very knowledgeable. I have enjoyed watching many follow this path.
As to the TV shows, it takes a certain personality type to seek out fame and to desire it enough to work with TV producers. Some of the channels are worse than others, but their selection criteria does not emphasis effectiveness of instruction so much as entertainment value. There is much more to survivalism than primitive skills. Primitive skills are one aspect of survivalism. Some of the shows intended to make fun of survivalists only to realize how large the market was and flip flop somewhat.
Cache says, “
“the destroyed individual was fragile, the unaffected robust and one who grew stronger was antifragile.”
Apparently there only three possible very distinct reactions to traumatic events.
Then, for each of these three possible reactions there is only one possible cause for each.
I am at a loss for words.
Sometimes you offer up a very bitter pill.
Thanks for the gut level insight..
People are so far removed from reality in everyday life that kids don’t know what meat comes from where, or how and where vegetables grow.
Its the same for survival and hardship. To most people hardship is missing or being late for dinner, getting a flat tyre, that’s if they know how to even change it, probably have to call roadside assistance anyway.
Most people would die horribly when faced with war, revolution, or even probably a sustained power outage or similar event.
I would say most of the population of most countries are so unprepared its frightening.
The term cognative dissonance comes to mind, ” it can’t happen here or to me.”
You just have to look at people when they think there’s no repercussions coming, rape, murder, torture…..
Civilisation is as they say a very thin veneer on life, take the possibility of punishment away and the nicest people become monsters because they can.
I suggest if anything ever goes on, whatever that may be if your faced with a threat to you or your family, you terminate it with extreme prejudice immediatly, no second thoughts, no wondering if really they are nice guy or girl, just hungry.
Watch as you give them food, they go away and come back tomorrow with more to kill you and take your food, rape your wife or kids. You could play it cool and pretend to be poor, hungry etc just like them I suppose, that is a strategy.
But if your walking around prepared, ie armed, they already know you thought more, prepared more and likely you have more stuff around.
I mean do you really know your neighbours? Most people will turn on one another in a heartbeat now, imagine when they’re truly desperate.
When I was a newly assigned to command a unit my top sergeant would say just let the soldiers learn by mistakes. This always angered me. Life is about always striving for continuous improvement to succeed. Best success is from being smart on what you spend training time learning, then learn to the highest difficulty level you can. The word smart fighters use now is called “resiliency”. Along with physical ability, technical skill, skill working with people, resiliency includes preparing mental toughness that can help get us through bad situations like you described here, Selco. That guy had good heart to feel sympathy for those women situation. That is a good thing. If you don’t have faith that God almighty spared you by living through that and then keep surviving after that experience, it seems you suffer much more without feeling He has more purpose left for you to do.
Selco, I think the worst TV show ever is the Survivor where they go onto tropical island and play games and vote next to camp fire. I am so grateful to you for sharing here on this blog. You keep it real. And you are saving lives by preparing us in advance. And I am sharing your work with others to help them build their resilience. No one is super man lone wolf survivor. We are building groups of skilled people.
I hope your garden did well last year. I am planting more potatoes, beets, beans, and other things this year. I am still using frozen fruit and cider from last year and planning to do even more this year. And planning to have more to give away to people with small children this year as well. I am handing out prepper lists to family and friends and telling them they should have AT LEAST four weeks of food and drinking water for each family member.
When someone then tells me they’ll just come to my place for my stuff I look into their eyes and say ‘My brother i could give you one meal of rice but if you come to take my family stuff you will not make it into my house. I will shoot you and you will lay in my yard and bleed to death. You need to take this advice seriously and stock up.”
Now is the time to help family and friends get gardens started. Even if it’s just some bean seeds stuck next to some flowers in a put so they grow together.
Later when i see them again I ask what they have done and repeat the same thing about what happens if they try to take my family stuff. I know we should maintain security on preps and I don’t tell many people But I put pressure on close friends and family. So no you won’t see this on survival or reality shows. But it is real.
I like to think that i learned from other folks mistakes, but truth is that best lessons i have learned from my own mistakes, i just had enough luck not to die while doing that mistakes.
Resilience is word that i like very much and i find it in “core” of my survival philosophy.
The “survival” shows are just that. Shows for entertainment. Their reason for existing is not to teach people how to survive, it is to make money from advertising. That is what TV shows are about. Making money. For the survival shows, Les Stroud was good but really didn’t teach you much. The same with Dual Survival, decent show but not much real knowledge for the viewer. All the rest are just total crap and are either idiotic or very dangerous to say the least. Anyone who is truly interested in survival needs to check out some of the national schools and attend them and really learn something useful.
I agree, but real problem is in fact that lot of people are”learning” from shows like that.
Maybe this guy could have stopped them. By firing a shot. By killing the man at the door. That’s why it’s traumatic. Because he will never know if he could have stopped it. Many people who threw themselves on an enemy grenade in WWII felt empty for the rest of their lives: they wanted to die saving someone, but didn’t. They regret it. There is still hope for the man in Selco’s story. He can still help women who are being raped. It’s happening all over the world in sex slavery.
The best “survival shows” are really on YouTube. Not all of the videos posted are helpful or relevant, but once in a while you get a guy who posts videos that really teach you some useful skills that you can then go and practice until you become proficient at them. The other shows on TV are mostly garbage and purely entertainment. I did like “Survivorman” a lot though.
I have two comments. First, a friend we have in the Alaskan wilderness was approached by networks to do shows about his wonderful homestead. They tried to get him to fake so much that he flatly turned them all down. He is a true old-style engineer and built a three story gorgeous log home in a prime location…the last man to file with the Homestead Act. The producers all want miserable failures and difficult staged nonsense…. Just remember that all the “surviving” takes place with a camera crew alongside. (Well maybe a sub-comment on this subject: One noted outdoor writer rented an apartment from my parents while he was in university. Had a contract with Sports Afield back then…and set out during winter break to write on the experience of winter camping. His buddy admitted to us that they only spent one night in the tent and the rest at a nearby farmhouse. So much for “experience”. Extrapolate that by 1000% for these fake shows.)
Second, a strong faith in God can help somewhat to get over trauma. I haven’t had quite the experience your friend had, but have had many very harsh ones throughout my life. Both in the US and in the Third World. Life is in His hands, and those who do evil WILL pay for it eventually. Perhaps a sense of justice can help the nightmares… I have no real answers except that God helped me through the flashbacks, even though they still recur on occasion. True peace can only be found in Christ. That is what sustains me. Even looking at the future of this world can be enough to panic anyone…
I read through every comment. James Cooper finally got to the point; $$$$.
To all the artillary falling on Selco and his friends and everyone else head to the carnage it spawned, spurred, and produced it is the same money as that of those that reap it through the televsion that is involved.
Death for dollars and as a back end kicker, “educated” (where survival is concerned) idiots produced or really created for more dollars as well as an ill informed and possibly ill prepared foe. None of this is as simple or as simplistic as one might assume on the surface. Because the endless pursuit of dollars is involved we might only at best be able to realize that. because useful idiots is always preffered in the end. Control is the endless goal.
And the endless pursiut of dollars for theses sorts knows no bounds, NONE. Selco as much as anything points that out to me. At the level of the situations described throughout his saga the minions who have various title’s ie, authorities, that is used often here, to any one you choose with a title applicable to you is all to ready, willing, and able to share in and partake of the spoils. And more than ready to partake in the sickest of them.
They already do at the lesser parasitic level and call it taxes and the rest; the soft kill.
I hear loud and clear all Selco says and writes but I dont for one minute bypass the purveyors of all the misery he and his fellows knew at there hands in the first place and why.
As for the fellow with the trauma of his survival?
HE saved himself. He was, for lack of a better word, stronge enough to do that in a situation I dare say was beyond the comprehension of all in its raw actuality until it was shared. He did this, and chose a form of resiliance to do it. Faith… ok. I did not and do not bring it up but having it being so and in response to that ideal, believing that something else saved him is his first folly. If it werent he might be sustained by it now for less hardship from it. He did and might do well to see himself as the only one responsible for being alive today. He was in control of the situation, himself, and did what he had to and did quite well at it. And obviously so. He is alive. And hope that is the way he stays.
I wish all the best in every regard.
Thank you for comment js!
What a tale Selco , stories about what women suffered specially in those wars in the Balkans are so horrible to hear but they need to be told.
I see the horror he felt afterward, remembering the women’s screams and being paralyzed with fear. It’s a Catch-22, any decent man would come to feel such intense guilt and regret — like entering a permanent smoking pit in his mind. And an uncaring, self-absorbed man would feel nothing. Yet who would choose to be the latter? Maybe the former can only realize he cannot know if his behavior was ‘cowardly’. Maybe courage in such a case would be an aberration, simply not what 99.9% of us would do. He had 3 choices: intervene, not intervene, or shoot himself. All 3 result in a horrific outcome. I hope I would have shot the guard, but I doubt I could have. If I’d had the foresight to see the endless internal hell of guilt and self-reproach, I might have shot the guard. I couldn’t be sure I’d be killed after that; maybe the men inside would have fled, leaving the women behind (unlikely, I know).
This is what makes the reality survival shows so offensive. The one thing worth looking at in such a narrative is the moral hell of facing such no-win decisions. Except that is the one thing such shows would never look at.