This clip where Triumph the Insult Comic Dog stages a fake focus group in which supporters of Donald Trump are assembled to give feedback on proposed campaign ads has got wide play. The ads that the Trump supporters are shown are, of course, fake and are increasingly outrageous.
I have to admit to feelings of ambiguity about such pranks. They are undoubtedly funny but the idea of tricking ordinary people into making themselves look foolish before a potentially huge audience is problematic, especially when so much power is in the hands of the hoaxers since they have final editing control.
What puzzles me is that I am pretty sure that the people invited to be on such things have to sign waivers allowing themselves to be shown. How much are they told about what is going on? Do they sign general waivers at the beginning that prevent them from backing out when and if they find they have been tricked? Are they eventually told the truth that it was not a real focus group but agree to appear anyway because people so like to be on TV?
There is also the well-known problem of groupthink in such situations. Studies have found that people hesitate to be the first one to voice discomfort if they think that the silence of others implies agreement with what the authority figure in the room, in this case the focus group convener, is saying. It is found that if you plant just one person in the group who speaks up against the authority figure, others quickly join in. So the silence of some may not be that they agree with the speakers but that they lack the confidence to express their dissent.