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<Why is the idea of violence in the media a non starter.>
Let me be more exact. That there may be some kind of relationship
between the media and violence is not a non-starter. What is a non-starter
is the claim that the media have a powerful causal impact on the incidence
of violence in society, indeed a causal impact that is greater (as this
recent study suggests) than things like drug abuse, abusive parenting,
psychological problems etc.etc. It's a non-starter for a range of reasons,
but one would be because if the media had the level of power that some claim
violence would be at extraordinary rates given the high levels of exposure
to media violence that people in mediated countries like the US and Britain
To show this, this next bit's from a lecture I give on this topic (I
don't recall the sources off hand, which is terrible I know, but anyway):
'One recent study of American television showed that on average, 350
characters appear in prime-time evening programmes on US TV per night,
and of these 7 are killed. More extensive research over time has
shown that in America at least, the rates of violence on television
are quite high.
A study of one week's drama programmes on US TV in 1961 saw
a dozen murders, 16 gunfights, 21 people shot, 37 hand-to-hand fights
and so on. A study of programmes during 1967-68, showed that 80% of
programmes on American TV included violence, and the same researchers
examined programmes for about a ten year period between 1967 and 1978.
Although over time the amount of violence on screen did not significantly
increase, the number of programmes containing violence never dropped below
60%, and the average number of violent acts per hour was 7.5.'
So, if the hypodermic model is right- the millions of viewers
watching such violence should go out and commit similar acts, meaning
millions of murders every day. Not very likely, and certainly not what
happens, and the pro-effects lobby don't really deal with this problem.
< How many die in the name of the Bible, Quran etc or do books not
count. Marx for those of the non religious persuasion perhaps? What is the
Now this is an interesting comment because it raises the hidden
agenda of many violence researchers. Some books are vilified and banned
etc. etc. precisely because of perceived detrimental effects (Hubert Selby
Jr, William Burroughs, DH Lawrence etc. etc.). If someone says that reading
'Catcher in the Rye' made them kill someone, they are believed, but if they
say the Bible made them do it, they're deemed insane. But now that we have
the dangers of film, TV and computer games etc., books can rest relatively
easy after all novels are art, TV is just entertainment.
The ideational impact of media is not under dispute- as Wade said
ideas have power. Indeed, studies suggest that print remains a far more
effective medium for the transmission of ideas than TV say. The emotional
impact of the media is not under dispute either- Seinfeld makes me laugh,
reporting of the current events in Israel makes me feel very frustrated and
angry- but I ain't about to go and become a stand up comedian or a suicide
bomber, as a result of such things.
So, overall, the complaint is about a very specific kind of effect
that is being claimed, not about effects per se. Indeed, it's out of a lack
of satisfaction in the range of effects theories that are out there that I
personally was drawn to memetics in the first place. Something's going on,
but what I dunno.
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