Magazine article Variety

"The Most Problematic Violence Was Overly Gratuitous, Lacked Consequences and Went Unpunished"

Magazine article Variety

"The Most Problematic Violence Was Overly Gratuitous, Lacked Consequences and Went Unpunished"

Article excerpt

In looking for answers following 2012's horrific shootings in Aurora and especially Newtown, we try to find a place to fix blame.

The use of guns, whether as a cause of the violence or as an enabler of the socially misfit or mentally ill, will be debated with more ferocity than we have seen in the past 20 years. And once again, the role of the mass media in creating scenes of violence that can be linked to actual violence will be just as vigorously examined.

While there are violent lyrics in some popular music, most attention has been focused on violence on television and, to a lesser extent, motion pictures. The simple question has been, does violence on screen lead to actual violence in society? The best answer is sometimes it does, but it is nearly impossible to substantiate a link between specific acts of media violence and actual acts of violence.

We know that a criminal can learn a technique or a method of committing violence from watching, but the propensity to violence is usually already there.

So the best answer to whether violence on television and in movies causes real crime is that in some cases with certain individuals it may, but usually only when some other source of frustration (depression or mental illness, financial or relationship stress, powerlessness) is already in play. It is clear that the vast majority of viewers who witness the same acts of violence that could provoke a few to actual violence bear no ill effects or lasting impact whatsoever.

The reason it has been so difficult to regulate media violence is because such links are not possible to establish. Efforts to provide some information for parents coming out of the 1990s, such as a V-Chip or content ratings, have proved largely invisible and ineffective, especially in television.

But while television violence is the most studied issue in social science, videogame violence has barely been examined.

Games are the most important way that media violence has changed in the past 20 years.

Unscientifically speaking, military or assault videogames seem to closely resemble the acts of violence that give us such concern. The repetitive acts of shooting may not only increase a shooter's accuracy with weapons, it may desensitize the shooter as well. The U.S. military uses shooter videogames to recruit enlistees to the armed forces and to train them afterward. …

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