Is societies violence the media?s fault? This is the question that has been asked since before television was in every American?s house. Of course there are the different types of media today ranging from newspapers, to on-line reports and stories. There have been arguments upon arguments about this issue, and over 3,000 studies conducted. Unfortunately there isn?t one single result, there is only an array of supposed answers to this undying question.
CBS president, Howard Stringer is pointing to a different scapegoat for society?s violence. "I come from a country ? that puts a lot of American movies on and has more graphic violence within it?s live drama on the BBC than anywhere else, and there is a lot less violence in the United Kingdom than there is here. There are 200 million guns in America, and that has a lot to do with violence." He feels it has to do with gun control, which others have suggested. But there are so many violent acts, that one can?t focus on the guns, just like one can?t focus on the media. David Phillips, one of the men we discuss later put it perfectly, "It?s like watching rain fall on a pond and trying to figure out which drop causes which ripple."
There have been many studies conducted on the effects of violence on children, and on the effects on society as a whole. There have been about 3,000 studies performed on this topic. Two of the most prolific studies were the UCLA Television Violence Monitoring Report, and the Mediascope, Inc. test sponsored by the National Cable Television Association. Of course there were many other studies done, but these made headlines because of their results.
The UCLA study focused on all of the television media, and discovered some interesting facts from their study. Prime Time Series raised the least concern. Theatrical films raised more concern and had a lot more violence. The Saturday morning cartoons had mixed reviews. 23% of the cartoons raised concern, but that was only rating the most popular cartoons: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, X-Men, etc. They termed the action in cartoons as "Sinister Combat Violence" which basically means the whole story line leads to violence.
Mediascope, Inc. focused on the amount and context on cable, effectiveness of rating systems and parental advisories, and the success of anti-violent messages. They found that perpetrators go unpunished in 73% of all violent scenes, one out of four violent interactions involved the use of handguns, and premium cable channels present the highest percentage of violent programs (85%). There was more to their findings, but these were the more prevalent findings.
University of Michigan psychologists Dr. Leonard Eron and Dr. Rowell Huesmann conducted a study, which continued for decades. This was conducted beginning in 1960. They took 800 eight-year-olds and found that children who watched many hours of violent television tended to be more aggressive in the playground and the classroom. They checked back with these kids 11 and 22 years later. They found the aggressive eight-year-olds grew up to become even more aggressive. They testified before congress in 1992 stating, "Television violence affects youngsters of all ages, of both genders, at all socioeconomic levels and all levels of intelligence. The effect is not limited to children who are already disposed to being aggressive and is not restricted to this country."
David Phillips, a scientist at the University of California in San Diego conducted a study on prizefights on television. He thought of this topic, because he felt there wasn?t enough research being conducted on the copycat violence. He found that after prize fights on television, there would be about a 10 percent increase in murders for a few days afterwards. He quoted, "It also seems to be the case that the kind of person killed just after the prizefight is similar to the person beaten in the prize fight."
There are four major theories of television violence. The "arousal" theory, the "social learning" theory, the "disinhibition hypothesis," and the "catharsis hypothesis." These four hypothesis/theories are old and new conclusions to the question at hand. It is notable to see that some of these theories were stated as early as 1961. Most would have to disagree with these theories just because of the age of their births, but to most people?s surprise they still hold in the 21st century.
The arousal theory is basically self-explanatory. This was theorized by P.H. Tannenbaum in 1975. He said exposure to television violence increases aggression because violence increases excitation, or "arouses" viewers (Tannenbaum & Zillman, 1975). This is also being found in the recent studies, which shows the progression in the media?s will to change.
The "social learning" theory was described by Dr. Bandura. This theory says ways of behaving are learned by observing others, and that this is a major means by which children acquire unfamiliar behavior, although performance of acquired behavior will depend at least in part on factors other than acquisition (Bandura, 1973). A perfect example of this theory was when the murders occurred after the prizefights.
The "disinhibition hypothesis" was L. Berkowitz?s investigation. This hypothesis explains that television violence in certain circumstances will result in increased interpersonal aggression because it weakens inhibitions against such behavior (Berkowitz, 1962).
The final theory, "catharsis hypothesis" was written by S. Feshbach. This theory explains that under certain conditions exposure to television violence will reduce subsequent aggression (Feshbach, 1961). What this is saying is that if someone sees a fantasy on TV, or now with technology, entertains themselves with virtual reality, that fantasy is fulfilled, which makes them not feel they have to do that in real life.
So many people have discussed the topic of media effecting society, from Aristotle to the President of CBS. It has always been a question, but never as needy for an answer as now. Hopefully the government has some say in this soon, so the drama of centuries will finally be over. But that probably won?t occur anytime soon.
Aristotle was a big supporter of "catharsis." He believed that the audience became psychologically involved with the story on stage, even though they knew it was 100% fiction. He felt when aggression climaxed with the actors, there was a "catharsis" in the audience, which was pleasurable to experience and left the audience "cleansed, uplifted, and less likely to act violently among themselves."
Sigmund Freud also felt as Aristotle did by saying, "Unless people were allowed to express themselves aggressively, the aggressive energy would be dammed up, pressure would build, and the aggressive energy would seek an outlet, either exploding into acts of extreme violence or manifesting itself as symptoms of mental illness ?. But there is no direct evidence for this conclusion (Aronson, 1995, p. 258). President Clinton looks at it in a different light saying, "for people who have never been taught to understand the consequences of their action ? these things can unintentionally set forth a chain reaction of ever more impulsive behavior." Hollywood figures of the 21st century blame factors such as poverty, drugs and alcohol, poor schooling, lax gun control and a general breakdown of families but not screen violence.
University of Iowa professor of Journalism and Mass Communication Albert Talbott said, "In the ?30s, when I was a toddler, one of the things that concerned parents were comic books and the violence in them. As soon as the modern media started to develop, we have all kinds of things on how we are affecting people."
Technology today isn?t helping everyone to feel better about this dilemma. It is actually going to get worse before it gets better. There isn?t only movies or news reports someone can watch to see violence, but also the new video game craze. Video games have become an enormous industry in the past decade. People from 4 years old to 70 years old own their own Sega Genesis or Nintendo Play Station.
Of course there is a number of games to choose from?but what is the highest wanted game? None other then Mortal Combat. The name speaks for itself. Just for the record, this game consists of choosing a character, a weapon and then fighting another character until one is dead. It also is equipped with sound effects for when someone is punched or stabbed, and also shows the blood flying from the body when hit.
So many studies have been done on the affects of media violence on children. Most are concerned with the results, especially parents. If the government, parents or others are so concerned with the effect of their child seeing violence on the television, maybe they should practice what they preach when Christmas rolls around. They should think twice before buying that Mortal combat III for their son. This is where it gets sticky. Parents need to draw the line between appropriate and not appropriate. It would be a nice convenience to have a rating system on the television, but parents should be aware enough of what their children are doing and watching that they are the rating system themselves.
The question now is what is happening to help this situation currently? The answer is quite relieving. All of the networks are on their "tippy toes" so they won?t get a bad name. The Entertainment Industries council, which distributes suggestions to the writers and producers of network shows and TV movies on social issues, is now meeting with writers to develop ways for dramatizing conflict without violence and showing the consequences of violence. MTV is the most risqué station on cable right now. It shows a good amount of sex and violence everyday. Usually more sex then violence, but there is a good amount of both. But at MTV, almost one out of three music videos submitted is being ruled inappropriate for broadcast.
The V-Chip is another work in progress for parents. This device will be in all televisions within 5 years. It is a rating system for parents, and they can program it to cut off shows with violence or nudity, etc. This will help parents regulate what their children will watch, even when they aren?t around. It will be like on-line shopping, a convenience, but you still have to choose what you want to buy.
Film director Oliver Stone says, "Films have become more sanitized. We?re moving away from reality. We?re in the grip of a political correctness that?s bothersome." Obviously there will be some who are concerned with the action government is taking, because media should be realistic and educating, even if it is gruesome. Some would disagree with that statement, and those are the ones taking action now. Photojournalist Assistant Professor John Kimmich Javier said, "News isn?t always pretty or nice. People must face that reality." People have had to face that reality, and now are taking action to stop that from continuing to be reality. Should it be stopped is the real question.
What is the effect of violence in media with children compared to with adults? Children model behavior they see in the media. If they don?t see the consequences of violence, it will teach them that violence doesn?t cause serious harm. Adults see more violence in the media than actually exists in real life. That?s because producers believe that they have to include extraordinary violence in order to keep the viewer. When heroes use violence, children think that violence is an appropriate way to respond to problems. Children are younger, so they see things and apply that to their lives, because they are learning everything at that age. Adults look at it as the "mean world syndrome" in which they see how society is portrayed on TV, and they think that every neighborhood is dangerous, like shown. When in fact most neighborhoods are nothing like they are portrayed on TV. The writers and producers are exaggerating, to make it all interesting.
There is also discussion of violence on TV not having any affect at all. People have seen so much, that they don?t really think about the actual act occurring on screen. Hanno Hardt, a professor at J-MC School said, "It?s lost it?s shock value. Maybe 20 to 30 years ago we would have been shocked. Now, a generation later, we know that this is a violent society. And when we read about violence, it only reinforces what we know." People have become used to seeing violence on television, but this has become somewhat surreal to them. They don?t think of it as reality until it happens to them. "When violence happens to people or their family, they become eyewitnesses to this violence. They have personal experiences ? compassion sensitivity, fear. People haven?t lost that."
We have covered a huge amount of information about the effect of violence in media on society. Did we answer the question though? I don?t think we did, but I do think that the answer is making progress. We are also a lot more informed now of what exactly is in the media right now, and what studies have shown to be happening. There has always been an issue of something effecting society, and there will always be a plentitude of scapegoats. What is the actual answer though? No one seems to have it. There is a lot of gray area, but society seems to be making this more of a black and white issue. Will the government ever really take action? Does action need to be taken? Hopefully after reading this, one is more educated on the difficulty in answering these questions.