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The
Effects of Violence in Media on Society Today
Is societies violence the medias fault?
This is the question that has been asked since before television was in
every Americans 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 isnt 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 societys violence. “I come from a country
… that puts a lot of American movies on and has more graphic violence within
its 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 cant focus on the guns, just like one cant focus
on the media. David Phillips, one of the men we discuss later put it perfectly,
“Its 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.

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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 wasnt 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 peoples 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 medias
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. Berkowitzs
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 wont 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 isnt helping everyone
to feel better about this dilemma. It is actually going to get worse before
it gets better. There isnt 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 wont 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 risque 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 arent 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. Were moving away from reality. Were in the
grip of a political correctness thats 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 isnt
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 dont see the consequences of violence, it will teach
them that violence doesnt cause serious harm. Adults see more violence
in the media than actually exists in real life. Thats 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 dont
really think about the actual act occurring on screen. Hanno Hardt, a professor
at J-MC School said, “Its lost its 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 dont 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 havent 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 dont 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.