Random Friday Question: How Much To Kill A Puppy?
How much would you pay to prevent the next 9/11? How much would it worth to you to put a major dent in the flow of illegal immigrants to this country?
How much would you pay to cut the murder rate by half? Or to be assured that every kid in town would finish high school?
These are fun parlor games but also serious policy questions. Not every social ill has a solution to which a price tag can be attached--surely, if money could fix the nation's schools problem, it would have been solved many times over by this point--but money buys a lot. That's why so many viral videos play with our sense of shame over the fact that there's a whole lot of awful stuff we would do for the right price.
This one has been kicking around the interwebs for about five years. It was one of the early viral videos and it's been outraging folks fairly consistently. For some odd reason, it's picked up a new head of steam and is zipping through the email channels, where folks pretend to be appalled that anyone would ask how much it would take for a stranger to kill a puppy with their bare hands.
"Fifty cents!" volunteers one woman in the video. "A tenner and a burrito," says some guy on one of the many message boards devoted to thrashing out the right price in this macabre transaction.
(There's nothing new under the sun: Recall the joke long attributed to George Bernard Shaw, though most likely totally apocryphal, in which he asks a woman at the dinner table whether she would sleep with him for 1,000 pounds. The appalled woman demurs. Shaw ups the ante: 10,000? 50,000? Finally, the woman pauses to calculate and Shaw pounces: "And what if I offered you five pounds?"
"What do you take me for?" the affronted woman exclaims.
"We have already established what you are," Shaw supposedly replies. "We are merely haggling over the price.")
The viral video phenomenon was still in its early phase back in 2002, when this classic of the genre first made the rounds. Back then, the Dead Puppies sketch was often referred to as just that, a sketch. But over the years, as often happens on the web, the disclaimers and underlying facts dissolve and the most outrageous bits get passed along ad infinitum.
In this case, a comedy troupe known as Olde English did this bit--it's all a spoof. But it probably wouldn't be too hard to do up this same question as a legit documentary (though the filmmaker would be taking something of a physical risk, given how heatedly some folks defend the poor animals these days.)
I showed this video to a dozen or so folks without telling them anything about its origin. Not a one doubted the veracity of the interviews. And pretty much everyone engaged in the basic exercise. I was quoted prices ranging from $400 to $1 million to take on the puppy-elimination task.
So what Shaw didn't say applies to this documentary video that didn't happen: We know what we are; we just need to come to terms on the price.
By Marc Fisher |
December 28, 2007; 7:23 AM ET
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