Violence

By Berger, Arthur Asa | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

Violence


Berger, Arthur Asa, ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


WHILE VIOLENCE IS AN important element of the mass media, the actual effects this violence has on audiences has stimulated heated debate. A great deal depends upon how we define violence. If we define it broadly, and involve matters such as intent and so-called "comic" violence, we will find a lot more violence on the media than if we define it narrowly. To make sense of this matter, let us consider how we find meaning in concepts.

As Saussure noted in his Course in General Linguistics:

Concepts are purely differential and defined not by their positive content but negatively by their relations within the other terms of the system.... [The] most precise characteristic [of these concepts] is in being what the others are not.

Given this notion, we can elaborate a number of different kinds of violence and aspects of violence, as the following list shows:

1 violence we see directly           mediated violence
2 real mediated violence (wars)      violence in fictions
3 comic violence                     serious violence
4 intended violence                  actualized violence
5 violence to individuals            violence to groups
6 inferred violence                  documented violence
7 justified violence (cops)          illegal violence (robbers)
8 verbal violence                    physical violence
9 violence to humans                 violence to animals
10 "fake" violence (wrestling)       "true" violence (bar brawl)
11 violence to heroes                violence to villains
12 violence in sports                violence in everyday life
13 violence in past                  violence in future
14 violence against women            violence against men
15 human violence                    mechanical violence
16 defensive violence                offensive violence
17 violence by children              violence by adults
18 weak violence (insult)            strong violence (murder)
19 accidental violence               intentional violence
20 images of violence                prose descriptions of violence
21 violence by insane                violence by sane
22 violence as means to end          violence as end in itself
23 violence against animals          violence against vegetables
24 causes of violence                effects of violence
25 violence as action                violence as reaction, response
26 many minor incidents              one major incident
27 violence caused by fear           violence caused by hatred
28 emotional response                rational decision
29 violence against others           violence against self (suicide)
30 ordered by others                 decided by self
31 root causes of                    trigger mechanisms that generate
32 sign of depravity                 cry for help
33 institutional, social             exacerbated by the media
34 instinctive in humans             taught by society, culture
35 de-individualization              over-socialization, peer pressure

These bipolar oppositions point up the many kinds of violence, causes of violence, and perspectives on violence that can be taken. …

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