The merchandising of violence
Following each gun killing, such as the killing of 32 people at Virginia Tech by deranged gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, the anti-gun lobby comes out in force, demanding tighter gun laws.
For people who grew up in the 50s, gun ownership was commonplace and unremarkable. Most families in country towns owned guns, along with many city dwellers. Yet gun massacres were unheard of. Gun-related homicides by registered gun owners were extremely rare.
What changed? Back then there was no violence onTV, no video games and little in the way of media sensationalism.
Since those days Western society has been subjected to an increasingly violent culture inspired by the American entertainment industry. Our
Cho Seung Hui
senses are saturated with violent movies, violent video games and with gangsta rap celebrities such as Snoop Dog, glamorising violence, drugs and mistreatment of women.
Young people are being fed a visual diet of glorified and unrestrained violence.
Violence has been a staple of US director, Quentin Tarantino since his sensational debut film Reservoir Dogs. During the 1990s Tarantino unleashed a tidal wave of blood-letting with his mix of pop culture references, low-life comedy and shocking violence. Tarantino reached a bloody crescendo with Kill Bill, said to be the most violent movie ever made by an American studio. In the 20-minute nightclub-set climax, limbs are liberally hacked from torsos, sending fountains of blood squirting in the air.
US death metal band, Cannibal Corpse glorifies child rape, suicide, murder and necrophilia in its lyrics. The band has Dismembered and Molested, and Necropedophile which details "the pleasure gained from killing, then raping, children".
The last few years have seen a surge in the number of computer games featuring graphic violence. Yet dozens of studies around the world are finding increasing links between violence in video games an violent behaviour by game adherents.
In Grand Theft Auto, one the Top 10 Ultra Violent Video Games, as rated by Family Media Guide, the player has sex with a prostitute then beats her to death with a baseball bat to get his money back. Nice.
There was a strong link to violent video games with the Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In an unsuccessful court action, some of the families of those killed in the Columbine High School shootings sought US$5 billion in punitive damages against the manufacturers and distributors of video technology. They say the massacre would not have occurred without the marketing of video games, particularly the game "Doom," which they say influenced the two gunmen.
Cho Seung-hui’s video ramblings made it clear he idolised the Columbine killers.
The links are proven
A 2005 study by researchers the University of Birmingham in the UK analysed data from six laboratory studies into children's behaviour after they had watched scenes of violence. They found there was "consistent evidence of an association between younger children watching media violence and showing more aggressive play and behaviour".
Four United States health associations have directly linked violence in television, music, video games and movies to increasing violence among children. In a joint statement the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Paediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said, in relation their study of entertainment violence, "Its effects are measurable and long-lasting. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitisation towards violence in real life."
"The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviours, particularly in children", the groups said. "Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive later in life than children who are not so exposed".
It's a fair bet that each saturation coverage of the mass killings by a sensation-seeking media helps breed the next copycat killer.
It’s time that we the media consuming public, together with media themselves accepted some responsibility for these horrific events, instead of blaming guns and gun owners. For starters, the media should impose a media blackout on mass killings, as they do for suicides, and for the same reasons.
Never mind about more gun controls. How about controls on the sources of violence. A punitive tax rate on violent and degrading movies, music and video games with the funds applied to promoting non-violent, family-value productions would be a good start.