Can Media Inspire Violent Crimes?
One problem that many corporations ignore is the possibility that
aggressive type people seek reinforcement for their own destructive acts, either
against themselves or other people. Television violence, for instance, and the
widespread public concern accompanying it have led to calls for strict controls
on the depiction of violent programs.
In their decision making, some producers do not take responsibility for the
equally important minority. Instead, they may gear their content toward the
masses, who crave sexually explicit and violent action. Fortunately, this group
has the ability to disseminate violent action rationally, realizing that in
reality, people who commit acts of violence have to compensate for their actions
by taking full responsibility for the harm they cause others.
Not everyone can distinguish fact from fantasy. Not only is it the
irrational people who commit the crimes in our country, but our own children who
may errantly be learning from day one that nothing bad will happen to them if
they shoot their brother in the head with Daddy’s pistol.
Studies show that in one week of content analysis of prime-time output on
seven New York City channels, there were 3,421 acts and threats of violence
observed. Children’s fictional entertainment programs had three times the
frequency of violent acts or threats recorded in adult programs.(Gunter,
p.13). many of these acts were committed without any compensation for the
action without responsibility, then it must be acceptable behavior. Similarly,
aggressive adults are seeking reinforcement for their own anti-social behavior
from seeing attractive television characters behave in the same way.
Behavioral evidence has indicated that the anti-social effects of violent
television portrayals are strongest and are most likely to occur among
individuals who are already aggressive. (Palmer, p. 10).
The ethical question is, should television submit to mass appeal or take
into consideration the affects on certain members of society, including
children? The consequences of televising violence are not only harmful to some
viewers but concurrently affect the television stations in the form of loss of
viewers and possibly gaining a bad reputation. There are many sources,
including viewers’ associations and popular journalism, which have been
condemning the depiction of violence in television programs as a potentially
dangerous and anti-social act on the part of those who make and transmit
programs. (Gunter p. 2). Still, even though these associations have been
condemning television violence, their efforts have had little effect on the
large money-making corporations. Therefore, the decision, on the part of those
in charge of the programs, should be one of social responsibility.
In his article, “Sex and Violence”, Joe Saltzman states, “If, as producers
argue, violence is a part of the human condition, then so is responsibility. In
real life, you just do not commit mayhem and then go on to the next scene.”
It is also necessary to realize that violence is part of our nature and of
our life. Almost everyday we are participants and observers of violence,
whether it is natural violence, theatrical or fictional violence, sporting event
violence, or political violence. To exclude all scenes of violence form
television would be to falsify the picture of life.
Television media can “encourage or aid” destructive behavior, not “cause”
it. There are usually many more casual factors involved. To tell people what
they can and can not say, write, and televise is unconstitutional; however, it
can be controlled and we can hope that the decision makers will promote strong
moral, ethical values in their decision making or at least consider them, in
order to help prevent violent or self-destructive behavior.
Gunter, Barrie; Dimensions of Television Violence, p. 2, 13.
Palmer, Edward; Children in the Cradle of Television, p. 10.