Thursday, 27 September 2018



In summation, despite the fact that the media are among many factors, they should not be ignored, regardless of the level of their direct impact. Because social violence is a pressing problem, even those factors that only modestly 'contribute to it are important. Small effects the media accumulate and appear to have significant long- term social effects.

The research strongly indicates that we are a more violent society because of our mass media. Exactly how and to what extent the media cause long-term changes in violent behavior remains unknown, but the fact that it plays an important, but not independent role is generally conceded.

What policies are suggested by the knowledge we now posses about media and violence? Not all of the factors discussed above are good candidates for public intervention strategies, but there are three sources of youth violence that government policy can influence.

In order of importance they are: extreme differences in economic conditions and the concentration of wealth in America; the American gun culture; and exacerbating the problems created by the first two the media’s violence enhancing messages.

Family neighborhood and personality factors may be more important for generating violence in absolute magnitude, but they are not easily influenced by public actions.

Since 1975, we have increased the rate of juvenile incarceration steadily. Today we hold in custody approximately one hundred thousand juveniles every year. Despite our strengthened capacity to punish, however, youth violence has not abated.

This result should have been expected because two social mechanisms are needed to reduce violence punishing violent criminal behavior and rewarding law abiding, nonviolent behavior.

While punishment of violent behavior is certainly necessary and justified, its emphasis, coupled with the concentration of wealth in America, has resulted in the degrading of the equally important social capacity to reward law-abiding behavior. By emphasizing one, we have lamed and discredited the other.

Non-material rewards like social status, an esteemed reputation, and a clear conscience have been losing their legitimacy with the young, while material rewards for law-abiding life-styles such as careers, comfortable incomes, and affordable goods are less generally available to our poorest and, not surprisingly, most crime-prone and violent citizens.

We have chosen to emphasize the mechanism, punishment that is actually the weaker of the two in actually influencing behavior. As operant conditioning theory would predict, punishment, if severe enough, can suppress one type of violent crime. But the suppression of one behavior gives no push toward a desirable replacement activity, and a substitute violent crime will likely emerge.

So “smash and grab" robberies give way to “bump and rob” holdups. Shaping behavior requires a credible reward system. In social terms, youth must see law-abiding behavior as credible and potentially rewarding as well as seeing violent behavior as potentially resulting in punishment.

The second area that government police immediately address is the gun culture in America. Our culture of violence, referred in the opening quote, is made immeasurably more deadly by the enfolded gun culture. The availability of guns as cheap killing mechanisms is simply a national insanity.

The mass production of these killing "toys" and the easy access to them must be addressed. The most recent statistics show that one out of every ten high school students report that they carry a handgun.

Gun buy-back programs should be supported, and production and availability must be reduced if a positive net effect is to be expected. Irrespective of the difficulty of controlling the sources of individual violent behavior, the implements of fatal violence should not be ignored.

The third area of policy concern, the mass media, exacerbates the gun culture by portraying guns as glamorous, effective, omnipotent devices. The mass media also heighten the negative effects of economic, through their consumer messages in advertizing and entertainment.

Although both of these effects that add to the problem of youth violence are sometimes discussed, the debate about the media remains tightly focused on measuring, and reviewing violent media content. Within this the emphasis has been on counting violent acts rather than on exploring the context of its portrayal. Deciphering the media's moral and value messages about violence has been mostly ignored.



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