Violence In The Media Argumentative Essays Example

Published: 2021-06-30 05:10:09
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Category: Education, Study, Crime, Media, Violence, Sexual Abuse, Television, Mythology

Type of paper: Essay

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Violence is endemic in today’s television, movies and video games. The prevalence of violence in popular media begs the question: Are we, as a culture, very violent in nature, or does the violence in the media make us violent. Many people subscribe to the “Art imitates life” idea that violence in the media reflects the violent urges of people, while some feel that the violence displayed in media actually causes people to be more violent. Of the two explanations, the more compelling one is that the violence in the media reflects the violent nature of humans.
One study which supports this viewpoint was conducted by LeeAnn Kahlor and Matthew Eastin. In this study, they attempted to find a causal link between watching sexual violence on television with belief in common myths about rape. (Kahlor & Eastin, 2011) In their study, these scientists surveyed over 2000 university students on subjects ranging from their TV viewing habits to their attitudes toward rape. (Kahlor & Eastin, 2011) Television watching was quantified using hours of television watched, hours of crime shows watched and numbers of hours of Soap Operas watched by participants. (Kahlor & Eastin, 2011) The “rate” of rape myth acceptance was measured by questions which asked the respondents whether they believed a number of different myths about rape. (Kahlor & Eastin, 2011) The results of this study were mixed. In general, television viewing corresponded positively with belief of rape myths. (Kahlor & Eastin, 2011) On the other hand, watching crime dramas had the opposite correlation with belief in rape myths. (Kahlor & Eastin, 2011) The authors suggest that their results indicate a positive correlation between TV watching in general and belief in rape myths. These conclusions, though, leave many questions unanswered in the more general subject of violence in media. First, the study focuses only on one type of violent act (rape) and did not directly measure sensitivity to it, rather measuring the rate at which myths about the crime are believed. It should be noted, then that belief in statistical myths does not necessarily correlate to violent behavior. Nor does it indicate even a tendency toward rape or any other violent behavior. It should be noted in addition that the experiment makes no effort to prove causality, only correlation. The experiment proved only that those who watch more TV believe the rape myths more than those who watch little. There is nothing to suggest which element is caused by the other, or if a third variable were influencing the results. Also, there is no evidence that actual rape is more common in people who believe in rape myths. Actual rapists’ motivations tend to go beyond a belief that a girl was “asking for it” or too drunk to say no.
A better study is one conducted by Brad Bushman and Craig Anderson which compares the suggestion that violent movies and TV cause violent behavior in real life with the statistical realities. They point out that it is undisputed that TV watchers are exposed to violent content. They cite a study which shows that the average American child will, by the time they leave Elementary school, witness 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence on television or in movies. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) They note that the percentage of PG-rated movies has dropped, and even G-rated films depict more violence than they have in the past. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) Also, they noted that Fourth Graders reported that about 65% of their favorite video games were violent. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) Statistically, the amount of violence portrayed in the media is far greater than what exists in the real world. Murders in real life represent only .8% of violent crimes, but on TV, they represent 50% of violent crimes depicted. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) The study then turns to an analogy of the connection between violence in the media, and violence in real life and the relationships between smoking and lung cancer. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) The first similarity is that neither relationship is 100%. All smokers don’t get lung cancer and not all lung cancer victims smoke, just as not all who are exposed to violent media become violent and not all violent offenders have exposure to violent media. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) A second similarity is that smoking is not the only causal factor for lung cancer, just an important one. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) A third is that exposure to smoking can cause negative effects (such as nausea) that diminish over time, and violent media can cause anxiety and fear that diminishes with exposure. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) A fourth similarity between these two relationships is that short-term effects of the behavior are mild and temporary in both instances. However, in both cases the long-term effects can be serious and permanent. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) The final similarity between the two relationships is that big money lobbyists have been denying causal relationships for years. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) Despite these observations, the study shows that they actual incidences of violence have little effect on the rate or quality of reporting about the causes. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) In fact, the findings show the media is under-reporting the link between violence and the media’s depiction. (Bushman & Anderson, 2001) While these similarities are persuasive, they definitely are not conclusive. First there is no evidence to indicate the level of causality (if any) between media violence and actual violence as there is with smoking.
Despite these conclusions, a number of facts are left out of the discussion about the effects of violence in the media upon that of real life. First, the best way to demonstrate the causal linkage of the two factors would be to analyze and compare rates of violence among societies without access to media, such as ancient cultures, than those with them. In other words, an experiment or study by which the hypothesized variable is removed and the results analyzed would better address this question. For example, comparing the rate of violence in Republican Rome to Modern America would illustrate the effect of Media upon violent behavior. The fact of the matter is that before mass media of all kinds existed, there was violence among the population. One could reasonably argue that it is the reporting of violent instances that has increased with the bloom of modern media rather than the violence itself.
Additionally, it is important to understand that none of the statistical “proof” of the correlation between media violence and actual violence contains any proof of causality. It remains possible the violence portrayed in the media is merely a reflection of the violence in real life. The condensed nature of the media portrayal could be seen as an indictment of our attention span rather than a reflection of our violent nature.
In summary, while it is clear that as a society we enjoy watching violence, and will pay money to do so, it is less clear whether the love of violence reflected in mass media is a cause or an effect of the violence of real life. That Americans as consumers enjoy violence is not disputed, but our conduct in our daily lives reflects a level of restraint not often portrayed in the media. Similarly, ending violence in TV and Movies would only reduce interest in them and in no case has been proven to reduce actual violence. While the question of whether we are all “potential lynchers” as Stephen King suggests, or whether the studies that indicate, but do not prove a causal relationship between media violence and actual violence are accurate, the fact remains that consumer demand for violent content remains high.
Work Cited
Bushman, B. & Anderson, C. (2001) “Media Violence and the American Public: Scientific Fact versus Media Misinformation” American Psychologist June/July 2001 pp. 477-489
Kahlor, LeeAnn & Eastin, Matthew (2011) “Television’s Role in the Culture of Violence Toward Women: A Study of Television Viewing and the Cultivation of Rape Myth Acceptance in the United States.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media June 2011 pp. 215-231
King, Stephen (N.D.) “Why We Crave Horror Movies” No Information on source.

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