Affects Of Voilent Media Essay, Research Paper
Recently there has been a dramatic rise in violence among America s teenagers. The easy explanation is that adolescents are scripting their behavior after popular music, television programs and movies that depict graphic violence, and explicit scenes of gore. Numerous years of social science research has studied the relationship between exposure to media violence and adolescent violence (Sege, 1998, p. 129). Although the size of the effect is still in question, the correlation between the two is now no longer a controversial issue. Many quick to assess blame credit the amount of violence seen on television and heard in music with the recent upswing of juvenile crime. Those critics feel that media should be accountable for their program content. Though such people easily cast blame, legal precedent states that the artist or producer cannot be held culpable for what actions come as a subsequent result of their productions.
Crime statistics have clearly become a paramount concern to the U.S. public during the last decade. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 1990, 56% of the adult population personally feared becoming a victim of a violent crime (Huesmann, L. R., Moise, J. F., Podolski, C. L.,1997, p.181). The increase of violence in America s youth is undeniable. An alarming number of malicious crimes are taking place in our country today. The statistics are rising, and a solution is nowhere in sight. Recently the American Medical Association handed the nation a D on its annual Report Card on violence. Despite increased public awareness and commitment to change, AMA President Lonnie Bristow, M.D. commented, The country is still struggling to control its number one public health crisis (AMA Release, 1996, p.1). Violent crimes reported to law enforcement officials during 1995 tallied 1.8 million offenses. In 1998, law enforcement agencies arrested 2.6 million offenders under the age of 18. Youth under 18 made up 18% of all arrests made in 1998. It is a well-known fact that crime rates peak in late adolescents. The alarming statistic is that the homicide rate by those 18 to 24 years old has spiked since 1985. Since the mid-1980s, the number and rate of murders among 15 to 17 years olds has escalated faster than any other age bracket (AMA Release, p.2). Reports anticipate soaring criminal activities over the next decade, as youngsters today become tomorrow s adolescents in numbers greater than we as a society have seen in a generation. These facts speak for themselves. Both experts and the public alike are desperately searching for causes and solutions to this swelling epidemic.
With the growing amount of violent crimes being committed, people look for reasons to attribute and blame. Virtual violence , violence that is not physically experienced, but which carries a lasting psychosocial effect on the individual, (AMA Release, p.3) has recently been singled out as a cause of this violent trend. Due to the explicit nature of the programming that is rampant in television, music, film, video games, and computers, experts have taken aim and fired a shot in the battle over media responsibility. Of course the occurrence of increases of violent behavior and violence in the media suggests a relationship between the two. This theory of and by itself is hardly evidence. Over the last four decades, however, a large volume of scientific evidence on the correlation between media violence and violent behavior overwhelmingly illustrates that this exposure does indeed lead to the developmental roots of violent behavior. According to psychological research there are three major effects of virtual violence: children may become less sensitive to the pain of others, they may also hold more contempt for the world around them, and they may begin to behave aggressively towards others (APA Children and Television Violence, p.1). In a soon to be released book, Professor Donald Roberts, and Professor Peter Christenson, of the American Medical Association, argue that those who view music as just music do not take into account that most human learning is incidental in nature and takes place outside of designated educational settings. The authors also write that poetry is equipment for living ; they emphasize that in the adolescent years, pop music is the heavy equipment -more influential than television, movies and computers. America s youth listen and watch music videos four to five hours each day. Music matters to adolescents. It alters and intensifies their moods, furnishes slang, controls conversations and provides the ambiance at social gatherings. It provides models for how they act and dress. Music can make a good mood better and allow us to escape or work through a bad one, Christenson said (It s Not Only Rock and Roll, p.4). But it can also intensify bad moods, which has led some to believe that violent lyrics lead troubled youth to take part in violent crimes. Adolescents use music to gather information about the adult world they are about to enter. Teenagers use music to mold their opinions of the society around them. A recent study done by L. Rowell Huesman, Ph.D., psychologist at the University of Michigan, states that, children age six to eight are very delicate and that these years are critical in the development of children (APA Children and Television Violence, p.2). He says that youngsters are learning scripts for social behavior that will last them throughout their adult lives. Researchers found that subjects shown violent videos felt less happy, more fearful, and more aggressive. Evidence taken from field studies conducted over the last twenty years conclude that the level of a child s aggressiveness and the amount of television and screen violence that a child is exposed to are positively related to some degree. Children who watch more violent acts behave more violently and show beliefs more condoning of aggressive actions (Huesmann, p.185). Similar results were found in studies done by Brandon Centerwall, George Gerbner and the Psychological Association Commission on Violence and Youth. Collectively, these findings offer strong evidence that childhood viewing of violent acts results in increased tendency towards violence later in life.
The culmination of rising teen violence, coupled with the accusations of media influence by psychology experts have led many to challenge the legal liability of violent media sources. Many feel that the mass media has induced these aggressive actions and attitudes. Those looking for a cause want the media held accountable for the content of their products. In these cases, plaintiffs of deceased or injured children have sued musicians, producers, designers, and publishers for negligence. A review of U.S. court decisions on the issue shows that courts have hesitated to hold media organizations culpable for inciting the violent acts of these individuals (Dee, 1987, p.106).
One such case was one in which a young fan apparently interpreted his favorite singer s songs literally and committed suicide. In the case of McCollum v. Osbourne, the parents of John McCollum, Jack McCollum and Geraldine Lugenbuehl, sued Ozzy Osbourne and CBS records for negligence when their son listened to one of Osbourne s songs, Suicide Solution , for five hours while heavily drinking, after which he killed himself by means of a .22 caliber revolver fired into his right temple. His parents asserted that the content of this song had been an immediate cause of their son s death. Their attorneys, Thomas Anderson and Doug Miller, filed suit on a product s liability line of reasoning (Dee, p.124). They claimed CBS records had sold a defective product. The lyrics were introduced as evidence and contents are herein noted: Wine is fine but whiskey s quicker; suicide is slow with liquor/Take a bottle, drown your sorrows; then it floods away tomorrows/Breaking laws, knocking doors, but there s no one at home/Make your bed, rest your head, but you lie there and moan/Where to hide, Suicide is the only way out/Don t you know what it s really about? (Dee, p.125). The prosecution argued that the defense should have realized that these suggestive words could produce an uncontrollable impulse to commit suicide (Dee, p.125). CBS attorneys, William Vaughn and Douglas Abendroth, cited other examples where characters expressed desires of suicide such as, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Willy Loman, and the theme song from M*A*S*H*. Anderson fired back with claims that Suicide Solution called for immediate action on the part of the listener. The preciding judge on the case, Joe Cole, ultimately sustained the defendant s objections and dismissed the case on First Amendment grounds. The ruling handed down by Judge Cole states that:
These words cannot be so closely parsed as to distinguish them from the general proposition that the central concern of the First Amendment in this area is that there be a free flow from creator to audience of whatever message a (recording) might convey It could not be argued that the language would be actionable if in a book or magazine. Neither can it be argued here. Further, no duty exists to support negligence causes of action (Dee, p.127).
Although many experts fear that adolescents are taking this violence to heart and reenacting the suggestive themes, our courts have yet to uphold this belief. The courts interpretation seems to be that the meaning that teenagers take away from media is partly determined by their stage in life. People do not so much uncover the meanings so much as they construct them, forming their own interpretation. They draw from a pool of knowledge and experiences they already possess. Christenson (It s Not Only Rock and Roll, p.7) cautions these critics not to lose sight of the violent reality that many kids may be monsters already, and simply seek out musical fare that spurs their violent and aggressive inclinations. Dr. Bristow, commenting on the status of violence in America today, concluded that, Like any disease, violence must be stopped at the source. Solutions will come from each of us working together to stop the violence and begin a cure (AMA Release, p.7).