Media violence begetting violence in our culture

As we bury the victims from the August 20 Colorado movie theater murders, ponder this: Have you heard about the guy who awakens to alarms coming from a branded smart phone? He showers using branded soap, shaves with branded shaving cream, eats a popular cereal for breakfast, and hears 150 radio advertisements while driving to work in his branded car. He sees about 1,000 internet ads a day, then drives to a nationally-franchised fast casual restaurant to have dinner with his wife and kids.

In his scant spare time, the guy sees about 500 Facebook “likes” a day for branded products and services. How much of an impact do you think this amount of branding and marketing will have on what he thinks? On HOW he thinks?

PUT-In-BAY: Flags at hall staff in memory of Aurora, Colorado, shooting victims.

Multiply that one man by 320 million, and you get a glimpse into the impact that advertising and branding are having on our national consciousness. It’s beyond dispute:  The cumulative effects of these bombardments are changing us in ever more frightening ways. Here are some examples:

Six of the top ten best-selling video games in 2011 are known as “first person shooter” role playing games.  The No. 1 video game in 2011 in sales was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It earned $400 million in sales on the first day of its release, and netted more than $1 billion worldwide in 2011.

Of all the theatrical releases in Hollywood so far in 2012, 94 movies have earned an “R” rating from the MPAA. There have been as many “R” rated movies coming out this year as movies rated “PG” and “PG-13” movies COMBINED. Movies rated “R” have earned 51% more revenues at the box office compared to 2011, with more than $1.5 billion in box offices tickets in the U.S. sold to patrons attending “R” rated movies already this year. In the years 2009, 2010 and 2011, Hollywood distributed an average of about 10 “G” rated movies per year.

A Ball State University 2009 study found that most Americans now spend at least 8.5 hours a day looking at a computer monitor, TV set, or mobile phone screen, frequently doing two or three at once.  The typical 25 to 34 year old is in front of a screen of some sort (TV, computer, other) at least 63 hours a week.  That same typical 25 to 34 year old is reading only 49 minutes a week If you do the math, it averages 3,780 minutes a week on screens versus just 49 minutes a week of reading

Speaking of television, research on violence and television by the Parents Television Council estimates that by the time an average child leaves elementary school, he or she will have witnessed 8,000 murders and over 100,000 other acts of violence.  By the time that child is 18 years-of-age; he or she will witness 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders.  One 17-year longitudinal study concluded that teens who watched more than one hour of TV a day were almost FOUR TIMES as likely as other teens to commit aggressive acts in adulthood.

That’s correct. About 50 years ago, psychologists advocated the social learning theory. By showing young children televised violence and then watching their behavior afterwards, researchers learned then that children learn by what they watch. They become far more likely to imitate, and even initiate violent behavior when they watch violence on a TV or other screen.

Lt. Col. David Grossman, author of Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, explains: “Violence is like the nicotine in cigarettes.  The reason why the media has to pump ever more violence into us is because we’ve built up a tolerance.  In order to get the same high, we need ever-higher levels.”

Add it all up: We’re now a society that is becoming more pervasively violent than ever before. Each medium is in a quest for profits, and if turning up the violence in television, movies and videos will result in more revenues, then it becomes the “right thing to do” in the eyes of executives and shareholders.

“Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle,” 93-year-old Rev. Billy Graham wrote recently.  He pointed out how Christian chaplains serving in the police department in a Southern city were ordered to no longer mention the name of Jesus. “Similar scenarios are now commonplace in towns across America. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone—except God, “ Graham added.

“Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control.”

Rev. Graham is right. Somehow we need to hold Hollywood movie-makers, network and cable television executives, and those creating and developing our media to a higher standard. If violence become a common brand in all of our media, we’ll see more Chardon and Aurora, Colorado-type shootings in the years ahead.


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