America: Freedom And Violence Essay, Research Paper
America: Freedom and Violence
Imagine the emotionless testimony of a violent youngster, who may not realize he is fingering an accomplice as he quickly excuses his violent act, Oh I don t know. I just saw it on TV. Countless acts of senseless violence in the past few decades have led our society to believe that although freedom of speech is a trait that separates America from many other countries, it has also made us more brutal. Media outlets such as television, movies, and music have had a major impact on our nation. The outlets can allow us to be creative, make money, and have fun. The downside is when it leads to homicide, suicide, and other serious crimes. The best example of seeing the influence of violence is the exact copy cat crimes that are played out day after day. Media also tends to guide children that may seem insecure, confounded, or simply daunted by what they see on the television. This cause creates a variety of effects, mostly leading to violence or desensitization to the events that occur around them. To understand how violence can be seen through media look to a common feeling when people listen to a new song that they start liking. It
can be described as an almost euphoric high. People that share this common feeling go to concerts where it seems like anything is fun and exciting. Often with so much intense hysteria people can feel pushy and violent as they try to get into the music. As a result concerts such as the 1999 Woodstock can end in violence. Events like this and other media extensions are uncontrollable because people have the right to be able to say what they want to say and express what they feel with little to no intervention. It is the first amendment that allows us to have the rights of freedom in our country. Freedom of speech has allowed media to be one link to the chain of violence in our nation.
The United States was founded on the principle that the people and the government had the right to freedom of speech. The words It s a free country! are four of the most important words to America. The term is used generally because we can not get away with everything in the United States. The rights we do have are our most cherished personal freedoms. The formation of our country began with the idea that freedom above all was the most important aspect of a country.
\”Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.\” (Thomas Jefferson)
Thomas Jefferson emphasizes how important personal freedom was to him. The first amendment was produced because it was important to the people and our founding Fathers. Freedom of speech is the right to express ourselves, our thoughts, and our hopes without the need to receive permission from the government or another higher power. We have learned as a country to utilize the rights in as many ways as we can by stretching and wandering around the unclear boundaries this right has given us. The fact that these manipulations have led us to strength is inevitable, but what comes with this strength is the realization that we also can be affected negatively.
\”Whenever men take the law into their own hands, the loser is the law. And when the law loses, freedom languishes.\” (Robert Francis Kennedy)
To be a country where freedom dominates our lives is accepting that the law will have less power. Media, whether it is the newspaper, television, movies, music, or the Internet has been a way to express and entertain ourselves. Our freedom of speech is regulated in some means because of profanity, pornography, and other extreme cases. We can still display a variety of violence through media. Studies show that in the past few decades the interest in media violence has increased dramatically in our nation. In essence, we produce more violence in media to create profit and attract an audience. It is hard for government to control violence in the media because of what freedom of speech has allowed us to do. Regulation by parents or other authorial figures have made it harder to be able to have contact with violence in the media. Even with the large amount of people not viewing violence, it has still been able to contribute to real-life homicide, suicide, and over all crime. What people have begun to see is that freedom of speech has been a great characteristic that we are proud to have, but it will display the negative effects through increasing amount of crime.
It is important to know the extent of the damage from the media. Real-life episodes have allowed people to recognize the link between violence and freedom. An example is a story of a mother in San Antonio, Texas. She describes a tragedy that she attributed to the hypnotic influence of rock music. One night during the summer of 1980, her sixteen-year-old son was unable to sleep because of his allergies and a severe headache. In her testimony, the boy decided to listen to Pink Floyd s album The Wall. He then got up and moved toward his aunt, who was asleep on a couch nearby. He attacked and killed her. (Biskup, 1992) Another tragic example is of nineteen-year-old John McCollum. On October 27, 1984 he shot himself in the head at his home in Indio, California. Apparently he had been listening to an Ozzy Osbourne song titled Suicide Solution . (Biskup, 1992) More directly related cases have also occurred in extremity. Steve Boucher became strongly obsessed with a song by AC/DC named Shoot to Thrill . The sixteen-year-old shot himself under the band s poster-calendar, which hung on the wall in his room. (Biskup, 1992) In addition to this incident is a tragic case that occurred in Sparks, Nevada. Raymond Belknap, eighteen-years-old, shot himself to death in a double suicide pact. His friend survived and said the music of the heavy-metal rock group Judas Priest persuaded them into thinking that the answer to life is death. Eventually the Supreme Court allowed the parents to sue the band because of the effect it had given their child. (Biskup, 1992) Again and again copycat crimes filter into our society through media. It is a way in which vulnerable people can find the meaning of their life when they have reached a state of confusion or reluctance. Media is like promotions to people that are on the verge of hysteria. Many have been able to look up to characters in the media as a role model. This fact gives a direct and substantial cause and effect argument that much have failed to see. People can easily find a role model in the media that could lead them to danger.
There have been so many crimes that have had a direct parallel with the media that it is not surprising there have been thousands of studies displaying the problem that media plays in violence. Two of our Surgeon Generals have publicly declared that an overdose of media violence can trigger aggressive behavior. (Biskup, 1992) According to psychological research there have been three major effects of seeing violence on television: children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering, children may be more fearful of the world around them, and may be more likely to behave in aggressive ways toward others. (APA, 1998) In a study at Pennsylvania State University, one hundred preschool children were observed both before and after watching television. Some were watching cartoons that had many aggressive and violent acts while the others watched shows that did not have any kind of violence. The researchers saw many differences between the children that watched the different shows. The kids who had watched the cartoon with violent content were more likely to strike out at playmates, argue, disobey authority, and were less willing to wait for things than the children that had not seen the violence on television. (APA, 1998) Studies have also shown a 300-500% increase in violence in the past thirty years. (Berger, 1989) A study named the rat experiment , displayed disturbing results. They began with three groups of mice. Each group listened to either no music, classical, or hard rock, then they would do timed runs through a maze. The process lasted a few weeks. The final results showed the mice with no music were faster by five minutes then their original time. The mice that listened to classical music went through the maze eight minutes faster. The mice that listened to hard rock slowed by up to thirty minutes. In fact, the experiment was cut short because the hard rock mice had ended up killing each other. (Violence, Public Health, and the Media, 1993) Although this could not directly relate to the act of humans, it is certainly a sign of the harmful messages in music or other media products. Leonard Eron Ph. D. and his associates at the University of Illinois found that children who watch many hours of television violence when they were in elementary school tended to also show a higher level of aggressive behavior. By observing these youngsters until they were thirty years old, he found that the ones who had watched a lot of television when they were eight years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults. (APA, 1998) Research displayed a tendency of eight year old boys that viewed the most violent programs growing up, were most likely to engage in aggressive and delinquent behavior by age eighteen and serious criminal behavior by the age of thirty. (APA, 1998) In a long-term study on kids going to juvenile jail detention, they concluded that their findings suggested a strong relationship between antisocial or destructive behavior and a preference to rock music with destructive themes. (Biskup, 1992) Dan Cuellar who has investigated several satanic crimes declared the link between kids and Satanism is music. (Biskup, 1992) Through over 3,000 studies on this subject 75% found harmful effects from television violence. (Bender, 1996) Combined these factual studies most definitely accent the link between media and violence.
Lyrics in rock are one of the main contributors to violence, suicide, homicide, or satanic practices in the media. About one-fifth of students listen to music that contain these violent acts. (Biskup, 1992) Most psychologists agree that music may trigger violent behavior impacting those who are already at risk. This means that if a child has been brought up by abusive parents or other damaging environmental factors, rock lyrics can give them ideas to act out on anger or other withheld feelings. In 1987 the Surgeon General directly pointed out that explicit, sexual, and violent imagery in rock music has a bad influence on children and adolescents. It can lead to suicide, Satanism, and drug and alcohol abuse. In a quote by Dr. Radecki:
I have already seen several cases of young people in my psychiatric practice with severe problems of anger and anti-social behavior who are deeply immersed into subculture of violent rock music K It is plainly obvious that they are heavily immersed in fantasies of violence, that also are affecting their way of thinking and their behavior in an anti-social direction.
His opinion shows a direct correlation with the link between rock music and violence. Even mental health workers have been told to consider adolescents music-related behaviors and orientations as a useful indicator for psychological assessment. (Biskup, 1992) Cleo Wilson a detective and specialist in this type of study has cited an increase in Satanic activity over the past six years. It has been speculated to continue to rise because Satanism has been protected by the first amendment. (Biskup, 1992) One study has shown that many parents do not even know what kind of lyrics their children are listening to. (Baby Bag) Music has always been somewhat of an individualistic trait teenagers swallow in their stride to find individuality in themselves. More regulation by the government could help change the terrifying results of these studies. By putting this information together it displays that the influence media has on people can contribute to violence.
Television and interactive toys attract children the most because of their large amount of commercial attention. It is the basis of a child s life. Children have been desensitized by television. It has given them a disarranged view of how the world is, allowing them to be more fearful of their environment. The most important fact we should examine is the effect media has on children to understand why it creates violence. Infants can remotely imitate televised behavior. Toddlers become even more capable of imitating the verbal and non-verbal behaviors. At this age they establish viewing patterns that may expose them to high amounts of violence throughout life. By the ages of three through five, they are predisposed to seek out and pay attention to televised violence because of its formal features. They still have a hard time in deciphering fantasy and reality. When children reach ages six to eleven they will build stereotypes of the characters. They can make sense out of the television world, but they do not utilize this ability often. They are more likely to become aggressive after watching violent television if they believe the violence they have seen affects real life. This is one of the most impacting stages of a child s learning years. As they progress on to the ages of 11 and 17 the adolescent will connect with violence on television if they exhibit some of the following:
h Strong identification with the show
h Perseverance through its extensive and elaborate fantasy
h Capacity to commit the act
Another popular tendency is the increase of importance in horror and sex in movies. They feel comfort with their friends by doing so. (APA, 1998) Skeptics often feel that although these are serious conditions it does not apply because they do not see or interact with violence enough to do this. The fact of the matter is that the average 4 to 8 year old American child will view 250 episodes of war cartoons and 1,000 commercials for war toys. Over seventy-five homicides and suicides have now been linked to game play. The average American child will watch 200,000 acts of violence on TV including 16,000 murders by the time they have reached only an age of eighteen. (Baby Bag) Even more connection is seen when a study of population data for various countries showed that the homicide rate has more then doubled within ten to fifteen years after the introduction of the television in our society. What was thought of as a way to bring the family together has now left 55% of children watching television alone or with friends but not with their family. (Baby Bag) That means 55% have the opportunity to see anything they want by the click of a button. Even more then this is that 66% of children s programming had violence of this three-quarters demonstrated violence that was left unpunished or 58% were not shown showing the pain from the violence. (Baby Bag) Now with the increase of Internet use we should expect our children to be influenced by even more vats of violence because there is no control on what is put onto the Internet. Throughout the country more youths become subject to violence and society has been trained to look beyond it.
It is hard to say exactly how media violence triggers aggressive behavior. How do we know how much is too much? Most experts believe the main problem behind violence is the virtual commercial monopoly over our public s free airways. (Media Awareness Network) Companies make what they know will appeal to a child whether it may have violent effects or not because they need to stay in business. There is no free market in television, because it has been taken over by large companies that make toys solely to increase profit. The rise in cheap violence such as television shows like Jerry Springer can be harmful. They are filled with emptiness and lightweight grotesque images that lead to both paranoia and anesthesia. It is almost like a syndrome, mean-world syndrome where the view of the world that seems to be a lot more dangerous. (Media Awareness Network) Adolescents in particular are highly imitative. Walk into a mall, and see adolescents with baggy pants with a backward cap all around America. As a society we have looked to model the behavior as seen on television.
After an overwhelming amount of research it is fair to say that television plays a major role on who we are as people. Although we should allow change, it is hard to define its limits. America produces these television programs, whether they copy society or we copy them. They portray a violent country. What is important is to learn to sway our minds from violence to a new mindset that could be more uplifting. A majority of the United States seems to enjoy action or violent programs because of the emotion it pulls from them. Metaphorically, the situation is like putting gasoline on a flame. We have violence in our country initially then we almost encourage it by intertwining it throughout our entertainment. Is it possible to find a way to pull out these same emotions through something with no violence and more compassion? Violence in our culture is inevitable until we find something extremely different to produce adverse effects. Together we should look as a country not to frame and monitor, but to open up and look at new possibilities to create something more. If we could accomplish this we could live in a country with freedom and less violence.
Violence in our nation is linked to media which is a direct result of the freedom of speech. Studies show that the increase in violence correlates with the increase of television in our country. Violence can haunt the minds of many children and adolescents while they are still growing and learning to function. A time like this can make all outside events become more sensitive to a child s mind. Media can help give ideas or promote certain acts, especially if it seems like the viewer is making a connection with the role model that makes these actions. For children that live in abusive homes or have lived a psychologically damaging life, media is something they may try to connect with when things in the viewer s life do not seem to be going well. Not only can it create more violence but also it makes people who live here become more fearful of the world around them. Media has learned to focus on the exaggerations and extremities in our country so that one who views this could see his environment as a fearful enigma. The identity of America can be unclear. The founding of the first amendment has made our country full of violence. What use to be a strengthening trait that made America attractive, has now turned into violent turmoil that makes many more people filled with fear instead of freedom.