Thursday, February 16, 2012

Media and Violence

The media unequivocally and undeniably plays a vital role in increasing violence in society. The modern day movies, books and video games contain large amounts of violence and bloodshed. Media glorifies violence and tends to justify the violent means. The media projects a distorted picture of life that can badly affect the thinking of an individual. The media shows violence as a normal and a legitimate action. Those who indulge in violence are given a hero’s status. The media seems to be least bothered about the question of morality and goodness.

The media paints an upside down, topsy turvy picture of the world we live in. Evil is shown to prosper while goodness is shown to suffer badly. The violence shown in media affects the children more than anybody else. It is the children who are most exposed to the media violence. They spend maximum amount of time watching television, movies and playing video games. Unfortunately, even the children books, comics and cartoons are not safe for the kids these days. They too are filled with plenty of violence and bloodbath. This can seriously affect the delicate psychology of the children.  

            Sisella Bok's book “Mayhem: Violence as public Entertainment” is a strong commentary against the irresponsibility of media in promoting violence in the name of entertainment. The very name of the book “Mayhem: Violence as public Entertainment” says it all. Sisella Bok takes due cognizance of the fact that how the media exposes kids to the scenes of murder, rape, and torture  right from their infancy in a very objectionable manner. The untoward events like Oklahoma bombing or Rodney king’s beating etc. are first aired on the television in the news repeatedly 24x7 for days altogether and then they are “reflected, repeated, and echoed in endless variations through the lens of entertainment violence” like interactive games, movies and best selling novels. The ‘splatter and gore’ movies show terrible scenes of the crushing of skulls and the tearing out of hearts from living persons and rotting corpses” for the so called entertainment of the viewers. She reminds the society about the grave dangers of serving violence as an entertainment. She expects the governments across the globe to step forward and save the society from the harmful affects of the “dangerous or corrupting material from the world's media”. 

We must show our disapproval against the casual approach of the media that refuses to accept any let up in the matter. The media dismisses the charge that it has a role to play in spreading violence in the society and calls it far fetched. Sisella disagrees with the media’s lame excuse that why single out media when there are other significant causes of violence in society e.g. the family breakdown and the ready availability of firearms. The book hits out at the media for confusing the matter by claiming that there is no set definition of violence; so a debate on the issue is directionless and meaningless. Sisella feels that even the definition offered by Oxford English dictionary is good enough to deal with the issue in order to find a solution.

Bok disapproves media’s argument that the American society is inherently violent with a history filled with violence against the natives, slaves apart from racial conflicts, frontier violence and crime. Sisella believes if slavery could be overcome and eradicated in America why not violence! The book aims to initiate a healthy debate on the subject and explores the possibility of finding creative solutions to the problem of media violence. The book finds the claim that violence can be entertaining as completely absurd. Sisella writes, “some found the notion that violence should be entertaining utterly self-contradictory, much like the notion of a "kindly rapist" or a "two-sided triangle"; others viewed it as unproblematic and simply confirming the perennial human delight in mayhem”. 

 The book provides a historical perspective by referring to the violent gladiatorial games so delightfully relished by the ancient Romans in the past. The modern day media violence as entertainment is perhaps inspired by such examples from the past. Man has become much more civilized since then. Hence, America as a civilized society can’t afford to behave in a primitive manner. The book points out that the Romans used such entertainment as an outlet for venting aggression. The same is not true about America in the present time. On the contrary, media violence has not only increased violence in the American society but has also caused several other serious problems. Sisella says, “Four possible negative effects have been most frequently studied: increased fearfulness, progressive desensitization, greater appetite for more frequent and more violent programming, and higher levels of aggression.” Hence, the book is a strong commentary against using violence as a mode of entertainment in the present time by the media.

Sisella takes into account the highly dangerous ill effects of the media violence on the child psychology. According to her excessive exposure to violence in the media can lead children to “psychological "failure to thrive," analogous to the nutritional failure to thrive diagnosed in severely deprived or malnourished babies and small children?” Hence, the book gives a wake up call to recognize the grave dangers posed by media violence in the modern times. The author feels that if the technology can be used by callous businessmen to promote violence through media to make money, the same technology is capable of offering solutions or alternative modes of entertainment to save humanity from the harmful effects of media violence.

"Mayhem: Violence as Public Entertainment" brings into focus the fact that though it is impossible to wipe out violence from the media or from real life yet that does not mean one shouldn't try bringing it down to the lowest possible level.  The author probes the fact whether strict governmental censorship is the only solution to deal with the problem or there can be other alternatives to check it. The book cites examples of countries like Singapore, Iran etc. that are taking steps to contain violence in media by restricting access to internet. The author shows her concern about America’s unwillingness to address the problem wholeheartedly. While other countries in the world recognized the problem much earlier, America has just started to discuss the negative impacts of the production and consumption of media violence.

Bok underlines the importance of individual responsibility in protecting the future of this society and the kids by guarding against the dangerous fallout of media violence. The book is fair-minded, unbiased and informative. It makes a sincere attempt to enlighten the audience to play a more active role in choosing what to see and what not to see. The book does not offer a concrete solution to the problem of media violence but it certainly gives a clarion call to sit up and take notice of the problem with greater confidence and enthusiasm. Sissela feels the dilemma of the American government over censorship versus First Amendment rights is false and unacceptable. The book views the American society as a society capable of “resilience--the ability to bounce back, to resist and overcome adversity". Hence, it has the power to overcome the unbridled growth of media violence through self-regulation and discipline.

"Mayhem" underlines the importance of awareness on part of individuals, parents, families and policy makers in curbing the menace of mayhem or violence. Sissela prefers awareness over official censorship in the matter. She doesn’t support any pessimism or ‘helplessness’ to deal with this problem. She feels that those who feel ‘helpless’ in the matter are utterly wrong. The book promotes optimism and asks for a positive action in the matter. The author firmly believes that there are several unexplored opportunities and imaginative solutions waiting to be discovered in the matter. The book sends out an affirmative message to curb media violence. It reminds us the famous inspirational lines by Arthur Hugh Clough, “Say not the struggle naught availeth”. Media violence can end if only we concertedly & unitedly want to put an end to it.
Copyright: Academic

1 comment:

Bloggy said...

you write great post. waiting for the next.

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