I'm waiting-waiting for that phone call from a radio station inviting me to participate in an on-air discussion about media violence. This time it will be about the news item in yesterday's Sunday Herald Sun newspaper (24 October 1999) entitled 'Video Stabbing Boys Guilty' which briefly reports on the trial and sentencing of Daniel Gill (14) and Robert Fuller (15) in Yorkshire, England. Apparently, although we have heard little about the case here in Australia, the two attacked their 'friend' with a knife 'only hours after watching the horror film' Scream at the 'home of a convicted drug dealer'. Because that would seem to be about all that the Sunday Herald Sun has on the case, the author of the article pads it out by recycling an earlier story in the same newspaper ('Girl Trapped in Evil Video', Sunday Herald Sun, 26 September 1999). This second story is about a 10-year-old Australian girl who, after watching Scream at a friend's birthday party, had to spend almost two weeks on a psychiatric ward, so disturbed was she by the experience. This newspaper article thus typifies a classic move in the media violence debate: the juxtaposition of unrelated incidents connected only by a tenuous link to a particular media product.
And I'm wondering, as I wait for the inevitable call, how will I tackle it this time? Will I be up against a well meaning but mis-directed spokesperson from some society for the protection of the family? Or a psychologist with the evidence of 'thousands of clinical trials' at hand? Or an insidiously reasonable interviewer who will sweetly and deviously offer a 'common sense' interpretation, implying that my academic approach is out of touch with the community and its values? All I can be sure of is that the whole exercise will probably render me angry and frustrated with a desire to kick something inanimate, prompting the inevitable conclusion that there's nothing quite