Media and Violence
Over time, commentators have blamed media influence for a wide range of violence activities. During the James Bulger murderer’s trial, the judge blamed ‘violence videos’ exposure as having been the main motivator for the ten year olds who committed the heinous act. Next, we have the Columbine High School massacre where in the aftermath of the same, news writers and other analysts were in agreement that movies like ‘the matrix’ had a role to play in the same alongside Marilyn Manson music. It is however important to note that some analysts have disputed any link between media and violence. Those disregarding any connection between media and violence however base their arguments on shaky grounds and it is against this backdrop that this text tries to bring out the impacts of violence on TV, news as well as videogames.
Sometimes in the first quarter of 1993, a murder that came to dominate news items took place. The murder that took place in February 1993 was that of James Bulger, a two year old who was kidnapped and latter killed by two boys who were aged ten at the time of committing the offense. In his ruling, Justice Morland was of the opinion that the crime could have been motivated by violent videos. The sentiments of the judge provided fodder for news items with the Sun newspaper encouraging people to pile up all their nasty and violent videos and burn them “for the sake of our children.” This is a classic case where there is a clear link which has been identified between media and violence. According to Boyle (2005), what we watch largely influences our actions the same way a mentor influences our actions. The premise here seems to be that we tend to be informed to a great extent by what we watch on TV. When confronted with problems which require our speedy attention, we are more likely to solve them in a ‘proven’ way as depicted in a certain media. The impact of such ‘mentorship’ can be disastrous for minors whose reasoning ability is not well developed and whose distinction between right and wrong may be somewhat blurred.
According to Freedman (2002), around 2000B.C., one of the most prevalent forms of entertainment for Egyptians was the re-enactment of the god Osiris murder. Freedman (2002)goes ahead to note that according to historical accounts, a good number of killings which were taken to be the copycat of such entertainment were committed. It is probably such events together with the societal preference to spectator sports that were considered lethal that motivated Saint Augustine’s comments that the society seemed to be largely fascinated by instances of bloodshed.
According to Boyle (2005), violence and entertainment have always been intertwined in one way or the other. However, many are in agreement that in the recent past, there is something about media violence that seems to have changed. That is, recent times have seen an exponential increase in media violence. This can be highlighted by the research carried out by Jacques de Guise and Guy Paquette who happen to be professors at LavalUniversity. In the research which took place over a period of seven years, there was a sustained increase in physical violence (media) occurrences. This was particularly in the period between 1992 and 1993 where instances of violence (media) registered a 300% increase. When it comes to T.V shows we had media violence averaging at a about 39 violence acts every single hour. Whereas this research targeted Canadian television networks analysts are of the opinion that it is the case globally.
To reinforce the findings that instances of media violence motivate increase in crime rates as well as rates of violence Jacques de Guise and Guy Paquette found out that during the period of research targeting Canadian television stations, there was a sustained raise in violence instances in Canada. Through the percentage increases in both scenarios are not identical; one can easily conclude that there is a connection (positive) between media violence and actual instances/occurrences of violence.
Research shows that in the last one decade, media violence has become increasingly sadistic as well as more graphic. It is common place to view pictures of bullets in slow motion hitting people in movies. This is indeed what millions of people all over the world are treated to on a daily basis. A big chunk of these individuals are children.
It is important to note that concerns regarding media violence have risen exponentially largely because of globalization of media. According to a 2008 report by UNESCO, approximately 94% of households in US have television sets. Worldwide, the number of households with TV sets was found out by the same report to stand at about 64%. This essentially means that the number of individuals who are being exposed to illicit material as well as violence in media is mind bogging. As is already widely known, media violence has a wide range of negative effects. In that regard, the material the populace is exposed to thanks to the media through a wide range of mediums including but not limited to violence on TV, news as well as videogames is worrying.
Absence of consequences with regard to violence in the media
According to Freedman (2002), in the current day and age, violence has come to be viewed as a way of solving problems and this is largely informed by entertainment where we have the hero and the villain using violence every time they need top solve a pressing issue. According to CMPA or what is popularly known as The Centre for Media and Public Affairs, more than 50% of violence in movies as well as other television transmissions is committed by those who are presumed to be on the good side. Further, CMPA is of the opinion that violence is largely justified and presented as inevitable by the media. Hence people seem to associate violence with the solution to problems. This essentially goes ahead to erode the morality of individuals and created a society where the culture of impunity is well entrenched.
Previously considered as relatively reserved when it comes to violence, music has recently taken a new turn where it is increasingly becoming or being seen as an advocate of violence. A good case to make our reference from is the 1999 solo album by Jordan Knight. According to Boyle (2005), this solo album had a particularly disturbing song that seemed to glorify date rape. To further illustrate the penetration of violence into music, in the year 2000, we had activists as well as politicians in Toronto petitioning the government to ban the proposed performance of a musician, Eminem, who was to perform in the country. The grounds on which the activists as well as political based their arguments on were that Eminem’s songs contained lyrics that were largely seen to be violet, especially towards women. For example, we have a song by the same artist where he is graphically depicted killing his wife. In another song, Kill, Eminem plans to murder his own mum. However, it comes as no surprise that Eminem continues to be a huge success both internationally and at home. This can be attributed to the promotion of violence by the media. Others who have gained massive airplays for their use of wordings with violent connotations in their songs include Limp Bizkit and Dr Dre.
When it comes to video games, violence has also become a staple. Freedman (2002) notes that it is a sad trend that videogame makers are coming up with games that depict players as the bad guys where they have to butcher innocent individuals so as to earn extra points. it is important to note that it is not enough to rate such videogames as they also have an influence, mostly psychological, upon mature viewers. In addition to that, they can those in their teens can easily access such movies which end up corrupting their minds and reasoning. For instance, we have one of the best selling PS 2 game ‘grand theft auto 3’ glorifying the use of violence and drugs. In this game, players earn points by attacking, slaying and stealing all sorts of drugs from pushers and other individuals. The main theme of such a videogame that has attracted a cult like following is sickening. We have another sickening videogame referred to as Carmageddon where the main way to earn points is by slaying innocent pedestrians in the most graphical format one can imagine. Mind you the game comes with visual as well as audio enhancements where we can even have the cracking of bones to maximize the ‘excitement’.
The amount of violence in videogames is highly worrying and according to a 2002 study by MNet, young people are increasingly becoming addicted to games. Indeed, in a 2001 study by MNet, it was found out that close to 69 percent of adolescents have interacted with a videogame in one way or the other. The exposure theses young people are getting coupled with the content of such videogames continues to raise concerns across the board and as such, there have been laudable calls for speedy actions to be taken to avert the effects of nurturing a violent society.
It is important to note that the war against the promotion of violence in the media can only be won by the concerted efforts of all the players in the industry. We need to see more and more media houses denying airplay to music, movies as well as broadcast material with extreme graphical violence connotations. Moves like the one that denied the 2002 music video ‘what it feels like for a girl’ by Madonna airplay by MTV amongst other media houses for its violent graphics should be a common occurrence other than a rarity.
Boyle, K. (2005). Media and violence: gendering the debates. SAGE
Freedman, J.L. (2002). Media violence and its effect on aggression: assessing the
Scientific evidence. University of Toronto Press