As police in New York continue to round up young men suspected of
harassing and groping almost 50 women near Central Park, Carl Taylor
is horrified, but not surprised by the base and indecent mob
Professor Taylor, who has studied everything from the street drug
culture in Detroit to female gangs, believes the attacks were the
inevitable result of a commercial culture that has normalized
ignorance and violence. And one of the greatest victims, he says, is
respect for women.
"There are no rules anymore," he says. "You constantly see it
through the media. Women are routinely cast as sex symbols with men
doing sometimes vulgar things to them - and it's the norm on things
Taylor's confident assessment remains controversial, particularly
among supporters of the entertainment industry. And many people who
witnessed the melee after the Puerto Rican Day parade also blame
alcohol, marijuana, hot weather, and police indifference.
But an increasing number of psychologists, sociologists, media
experts, and parents have come to agree with Taylor about the
effects of mass media - fueling a growing movement determined to
find a way to rein in video violence.
So far, however, such concerns are running into the same obstacle
- the First Amendment and freedom of expression.
Industry representatives insist they're doing more than many
others to address the problem, such as instituting rating systems
and calling for voluntary restraints on the part of producers.
"We are the first industry to voluntarily institute any kind of a
parental guidance system of ratings and the only industry that
voluntarily turns away revenues by labeling some movies inaccessible
to younger children," says Rich Taylor of the Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA). "I don't think it's incorrect to put
a good deal of the onus on parents - I don't think that's out of
Professor Taylor, who is a parent, agrees that parents and the
community have a role to play in setting healthy standards of
behavior. But he and many others are not willing to let the media
off the hook, particularly in the wake of the Central Park attacks.
"Boys from a young age are surrounded by violent entertainment, a
lot of it filled with scantily clad young women," says Myriam
Miedzian, author of "Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link between
Masculinity and Violence." "Unfortunately, it's not surprising what
happened in New York. We've created a machinery for desensitizing
boys and men."
For years, Hollywood honchos dismissed such notions and the
studies which tied increases in aggression to watching violence.
They insisted there was no direct scientific evidence linking
brutality on the silver screen to individual acts of mayhem. …