Media Violence Debates The issue of media violence just doesn't go away. The debate raged when the Reagan administration deregulated children's television in the United States, and was revisited after the Montreal massacre on December 6, 1989. And the rash of high school shootings in North America and Europe at the end of the century has fuelled the debate anew. Many pundits argue that media violence is at least partly to blame for the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, Taber, Alberta and Erfurt, Germany. Ex-army psychologist Dave Grossman, a leading American activist, points the finger squarely at movies and video games. He argues that Hollywood films have desensitized kids to the consequences of violence, and video games have taught them how to handle a gun. But others, like psychiatrist Serge Tisseron, maintain, "just because a film has a murder scene doesn't mean people are going to commit the act... That overstates the power of the image and under-estimates the role of parents." It is important to recognize that the discussion is not a purely scientific one. Social scientists have been unable to establish clearly that media violence causes real-life aggression. As early as 1985, Anthony Smith noted that the demand for "evidence" was driven more by the intensity of the debate than the desire to find definitive answers: "Social science has gotten itself into something of a scrape in the matter of television, especially in the area of violence; none of the various sides of the argument about violence will permit social science to depart the field." (For a review of the scientific literature, see Research on the Effects of Media Violence in the menu below.) Media Violence as a Public Health Issue On the other hand, many social scientists have concluded that there is a weak correlation between watching media violence and real life aggression²enough to convince organizations like the Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Medical Association that media violence is a public health issue. After all, governments don't wait for scientific certainty before they act to protect the public from smoking or drinking; all that's required is proof of a risk. If there is evidence that an activity or substance will increase the probability of negative effects, then the state is justified in intervening. Media Violence as Artistic Expression However, others maintain that the crusade against media violence is a form of censorship that, if successful, would seriously hamper artistic expression. Researchers R. Hodge and D. Tripp, for example, argue that, "Media violence is qualitatively different from real violence: it is a natural signifier of conflict and difference, and without representations of conflict, art of the past and present would be seriously impoverished."

Identification with a rebellious. "integrating the scariest." Pullitzer-Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes says that video game violence enables young people to safely challenge their feelings of powerlessness. power-hunger. Children need violent entertainment in order to explore the inescapable feelings that they've been taught to deny. Violent that we try not to experience in our lives but often want. books and films banned in the past are considered classics today it's up to individuals and not governments to decide what's appropriate for themselves and their children The Québec Writers Union (l'Union des écrivaines et écrivains québecois. even destructive. music and comic books enable people to pull themselves out of emotional traps. more complex. from artists to film makers to historians. legislation restricting the production or importing of literature is part of a larger structure favouring censorship. greed. and to reintegrate those feelings into a more whole. agree. most fervently denied fragments of their psyches into fuller sense of selfhood through fantasies of superhuman combat and destruction. 2000) need. rage: these are aspects of our selves (Source: Gerard Jones." Media Violence as Free Speech The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression lists a number of reasons to protect media violence as a form of free expression: y y y y censorship won't solve the root causes of violence in society deciding what is "acceptable" content is necessarily a subjective exercise many of the plays.Many commentators. movies. Comic-book creator Gerard Jones contends that violent video games.. hero helps children learn to push back against a modern culture that cultivates fear and teaches dependency. even Media is Good for Kids. to experience vicariously through stories of others. Psychologist Melanie Moore concludes: We've found that every aspect of even the trashiest pop-culture story can have its own developmental function.. or l'Uneq) makes the same argument in its publication Liberté d'expression: guide d'utilisation. . "Fear. more resilient selfhood. For l'Uneq.

That environment of violence. "There is little political will for a war on poverty. 2002) The repercussions aren't limited to a potential increase in aggressive behaviour.. This is largely a feel-good exercise. in contrast.. so they could moderate the content and teach life lessons: "Children today. According to CMPA. and Québec activist René Caron remind us that the air waves are a public utility. "from a social viewpoint." As journalist Scott Stossel notes. in Gerbner's words. media violence can be compelling social commentary. "violence has been used by the industry to capture the attention of boys. and those who control their access and distribution must do so in ways that represent the best interests of all Canadians. it's part of the "psychic air" that children and young people constantly breathe. that. And the crusade costs nothing. like George Gerbner and Joanne Cantor." in effect delivering our "cultural environment to a marketing operation. past president of Canada's Media Watch. we are offered instead a crusade against media violence. the most violent film in 1999 was Saving Private Ryan. grow up in a cultural environment that is designed to the specifications of a marketing strategy. in some sense. a moral panic substituting for practicality. from a moral viewpoint. However. (Source: Center for Media and Public Affairs. Caron states. they question whose rights are protected when governments give. Many commentators worry that media violence has become embedded in the cultural environment. so is the problem. or family breakdown . profanity. crudeness." Although this strategy may be profitable." Shari Graydon. agree that censorship is not the answer. . a fictionalized account of the D-Day invasion of Normandy which has been critically acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of the horrors of war. (Source: Joanne Cantor. guns. this approach has had abominable repercussions.And." Media Violence and The Uncivil Society The frequent and graphic violence in [the] critically acclaimed film [Saving Private Ryan] is a reminder that the portrayal of violent behavior can serve artistic and moral purposes. to captivate them and manipulate them. But the pattern here is that [the right to free speech] is aggressively used to protect commercial interests at the same time that the free speech rights of child advocates are stifled." "To be loathsome. Many media critics. 1999) Censorship is not the answer.. He argues that media violence is a red herring that allows politicians to divert attention away from very real social problems. a "virtual commercial monopoly over the public's airwaves. Todd Gitlin goes further. Whose Freedom of Speech is It Anyway?. parents used to tell children scary stories face-to-face. as the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) noted in its 1999 study of entertainment violence. It appeals to an American propensity that sociologist Philip Slater called the Toilet Assumption: once the appearance of a social problem is swept out of sight.. and meanness may erode civility in society by demeaning and displacing positive social values. He writes.

". young." (Source: Todd Gitlin. they market them to children too young to use them safely. One such tool is the V-chip. not the other way around. 1994) Gerbner warns that the search for a link between media violence and real life aggression is in itself a symptom of the problem itself. "It's like major polluters saying. not the industry. which come into our homes automatically through television.Rather than focusing on violent content. especially for white people." Gerbner worries that this sense of insecurity and powerlessness will be used to justify a weakening of democratic values. former chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Journalist Thierry Jobin writes. This is an argument that Michael Moore used in the award-winning movie. but don't worry. media violence demonstrates power: "It shows one's place in the 'pecking order' that runs society. However. Media Violence and the Inequitable Society Imagebusters: The Hollow Crusade Against TV Violence. viewing is a ritual. If you don't like television violence." Joanne Cantor criticizes the media industry for saying it's up to parents. and they try to keep parents in the dark about their effects. and victims are overwhelmingly female. calls the V-chip a "sexy.. research indicates that the popularity of a TV show depends less on content and more on scheduling. we'll also sell you gas masks to 'protect your children' and have a 'free choice!' . pushing Americans to barricade themselves in their homes." Cantor argues parents need tools to help them decide what is healthy and unhealthy for their kids. Programming needs to . the majority will be more willing to give the authorities greater power to enforce the status quo." For example... Unlike other media use." The industry has been quick to endorse V-chip technology but critics argue that its real function is to protect the industry from parents. "[Moore] denounces the way in which the government and the media foster a feeling of insecurity. then turn off the TV. a loaded 44 Magnum under their pillows.. As Gerbner points out." morally bankrupt: that it coarsens taste. He argues that by making the world look like a dangerous place. people watch by the clock and not by the program. male members of visible minorities. telegenic little gizmo that fulfills the fantasy of a magic wand. that it shrivels the capacity to feel and know the whole of human experience. they say. not selection. Gerbner states. which enables parents to program their televisions with pre-set industry ratings to screen out certain shows. 'We shall continue business as usual. For Gerbner. Gerbner's decades-long study of television violence indicates that villains are typically portrayed as poor. wasteful. Bowling for Columbine. That means it coasts on viewer inertia. Keith Spicer. to decide what their children watch: "They make harmful products. popular culture doesn't have to be murderous. Media Violence as Consumer Choice Opponents of regulation argue that it's up to the viewer to decide what to watch. Gitlin argues we should be condemning "trash on the grounds that it is stupid. violence as such is not highly rated.

K. media images "are not simple chemical agents like carcinogens that produce predictable results upon those who consume them. and representation." Violence in Media Entertainment The Business of Media Violence Research on the Effects of Media Violence Media Violence Debates Government and Industry Responses to Media Violence Media Education and Media Violence . Personal experiences affect what we watch and how we make sense of it. and our peer groups all have a role to play in how we understand violent content. admitting new entries and a greater diversity of ownership. but the media did not create the rage or generate their alienation. As Jenkins writes. not some song lyric or some sequence from a movie. They argue that rather than focusing on what media do to people. Our class position." Todd Gitlin agrees with Gerbner that the real issue is broadcaster irresponsibility²though he does endorse the V-chip because.. our level of diversified. and Henry Jenkins in the U." From this perspective. they choose which media to consume and are actively involved in determining what the meaning of the messages will be. And that process doesn't occur in a social vacuum. we are better off focusing our attention on negative social experiences and not the symbols we use to talk about those experiences. That would reduce violence to its legitimate role and frequency. not just 'rated. our family setting. but things that really happened to them. which could create a level playing field.' A better government regulation is antitrust. add another dimension to the debate. What sparked the violence was not something they saw on the internet or on television. employment. They are complex bundles of often contradictory meanings that can yield an enormous range of different responses from the people who consume them." Media Violence and Active Audiences Researchers like David Buckingham in the U. people don't just passively absorb messages transmitted through the media. "parents deserve all the technology they can get.S. If we want to do something about the problem.. Jenkins draws a different lesson from the shooting in Littleton: "Media images may have given [the Columbine shooters] symbols to express their rage and frustration. we should focus on what people do with media. our religious upbringing.

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