Media Violence

Media Violence

A Chapter by Debbie Barry
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An essay on the influence of media violence on society, with references. Written for ENG 1111: Composition 1.

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Media Violence


November 25, 2008

 


          Although media violence is certainly a contributing factor in the spread of violence in today’s world, it is not the sole cause of world violence.  As Marilyn Manson noted in his article: “Times have not become more violent.  They have just become more televised,” (Manson, pars. 3).  Interpersonal violence has existed in the world since humans first existed, and violence does not depend on television, films, video games, or any other modern media for its continued existence.

          Violence existed when the only medium available to capture and report it was primitive cave painting and stories passed from tribal storyteller to tribal storyteller.  If the Bible is to be believed " as a history of the Jews, even if not as a holy text " the first violence between humans was the murder of Abel by Cain, the first human offspring in the world.  Certainly, there can be no reasonable argument that the numerous and almost innumerable wars throughout history were not violent, and neither were they caused by violent television and films.  The Spanish Inquisition was a time of atrocious violence, but it was not predicated on children playing violent video games.  To paraphrase Manson, the Civil War was hardly civil (Manson, pars. 3).

          It is not unusual for us as a society to use modern media as scapegoats for the violence which surrounds us, especially when that violence is perpetrated on or by children.  We blame the most heinous acts of violence on television and video games, because we do not want to accept that it is our fault that the violence has occurred. I say “we,” and include myself in this condemnation, because it is necessary to acknowledge that every person is responsible to some extent for the prevalence of violent behavior.  It is not enough for the person who perpetrates violent behavior to take on this responsibility alone; those who stood back and watched the violence, those who encouraged the violence, and those who did nothing to prevent or to stop the violence bear equal responsibility for the violence.  Manson expressed it well when he said: “When it comes down to who’s to blame …, throw a rock and you’ll hit someone who’s guilty,” (Manson, pars. 4).  He was referring to the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, but he could just as easily have been speaking of any violent act, anywhere in the world.

          Psychologists and sociologists use studies and statistics to try to prove that exposure to media violence causes children to grow up to be violent adults, but they fail to consider the children who are not exposed to a lot of violent television or video games, or to consider the home and social environments of the children who are included in the studies.  A fifteen-year longitudinal study of 557 children from the Chicago area, which began in 1977, is one such study:

Psychologists L. Rowell Huesmann, Ph.D., Jessica Moise-Titus, Ph.D., Cheryl-Lynn Podolski, M.A., and Leonard D. Eron, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan undertook the study as a follow-up of a 1977 longitudinal study of 557 children, ages 6 " 10, growing up in the Chicago area.  In that study, children identified which violent TV shows they watched most, whether they identified with the aggressive characters and whether they thought the violent situations were realistic.  Some examples of shows rated as very violent were Starsky and Hutch, The Six Million Dollar Man and Roadrunner cartoons. (“Childhood Exposure”, pars. 2).

The report on the study identified the children as being from the Chicago area, but did not identify the children’s home neighborhoods.  Neighborhoods in Chicago range widely from affluent, safe neighborhoods to impoverished, dangerous neighborhoods, in a relatively compact geographical area.  In addition, the study made no mention of the family dynamics of the children who were studied, to identify whether the children came from stable, loving homes, from abusive or neglectful homes, or from some style of home-life between those extremes.  Finally, the study dealt with only 557 children, which seems to be too small a sampling to be representative of children in Illinois, much less a representative sampling of children in the United States or in the world.

          I would not attempt to argue that media violence is not a contributing factor in the spread of violent behavior in the world.  To do so would be foolish to the point of being delusional.  No one can reasonably argue that modern media does not glorify violence, when almost every news broadcast shows images of bombings, murders, riots, road rage, child abuse, and an almost endless catalog of vicious, violent activity.  It is possible, however, to reduce the influence of media violence on children:

Research has shown that parental co-viewing of and commenting on the programs seems to reduce the effects of TV violence on children, probably because it reduces the child’s identification with the person committing the violent act, reduces the child’s perception that the violence is real and reduces the likelihood that the child will act out the violent act in fantasy or play immediately after seeing it on TV.  (“Childhood Exposure”, pars. 7).

What the research does not tell us is what effect a lack of violent television has on the developing behavior of children.  It does not tell us how many children who do not watch violent programming grow up to be non-violent adults or, conversely, how many children who do not watch violent programming grow up to be aggressive or violent adults.  The research also does not tell us how many children grow up identifying with violent characters in their real lives, such as abusive relatives and friends.  It does not tell us how many children grow up not just perceiving the violence in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods as real, but knowing that it is real and immediate in their lives.  It does not tell us for how many children violence is neither fantasy nor play, or how many of those children carry that violence into their adult lives regardless of the type or amount of television and other electronic entertainment they experienced as children.

          It is wise and necessary to recognize that violence is a growing problem in the world.  It is important to identify those experiences and activities which may increase children’s likelihood of growing up to be violent adults, and to reduce children’s exposure to those harmful influences.  It is reasonable to include media violence " both real and fictional " in the list of experiences which increase that likelihood.  However, it is foolish and dangerous to choose one harmful influence and make it the scapegoat for all of the violence in the world.  It is necessary to recognize and acknowledge that the violence has always been there, in the human psyche, and will always be there, and that we are all equally responsible for perpetuating violence in our societies.  Media violence does contribute to violence in the world, but it is certainly not the one, ultimate cause of that violence.  The ultimate cause is the human condition, from which no amount of rationalizing and blaming will ever let us escape.

 

 

Works Cited

“Childhood Exposure to Media Violence Predicts Young Adult Aggressive Behavior,       According to a New 15-Year Study.”  3 Nov. 2005.  <http://www.apa.org/releases/media_violence.html>.

Manson, Marilyn.  “Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?”  28 May 1999.  Rolling Stone.  3 Nov.     2005.  <http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/_/id/5923915>.




© 2017 Debbie Barry



Author's Note

Debbie Barry
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Initial reactions appreciated.....Marilyn Manson pointed a gun at his audience recently where a mass shooting occurred.

Violence has always been with us, it will always be with us as long as we're alive. It's a shameful human condition but unfortunately, it is a permanent human fault.

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

1 Week Ago

Thanks for the review. Yes, unfortunately, you're right. It was a required topic for school. With.. read more
Relic

1 Week Ago

I was thinking about it he other day and I agree violence has always been with us. When the Romans w.. read more
Debbie Barry

1 Week Ago

No, some chroniclers and poets, perhaps, but most reports were oral descriptions, as they have been .. read more



Reviews

Initial reactions appreciated.....Marilyn Manson pointed a gun at his audience recently where a mass shooting occurred.

Violence has always been with us, it will always be with us as long as we're alive. It's a shameful human condition but unfortunately, it is a permanent human fault.

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

1 Week Ago

Thanks for the review. Yes, unfortunately, you're right. It was a required topic for school. With.. read more
Relic

1 Week Ago

I was thinking about it he other day and I agree violence has always been with us. When the Romans w.. read more
Debbie Barry

1 Week Ago

No, some chroniclers and poets, perhaps, but most reports were oral descriptions, as they have been .. read more

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Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI



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I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..

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