The Myth of Media Violence: A Critical Introduction

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The positions of the people in the four cultures are presented. Then the book presents 11 chapters analyzing each of the 11 myths. The book concludes with a chapter assessing the prognosis for a meaningful solution to the surface problem of media violence as well as the underlying problem of misunderstanding. The first myth is the widespread belief among individuals that violence in the media does not affect them, but that other people are at high risk.

This belief allows people to decouple their fear that other people are experiencing negative effects and thus behaving in aggressive and criminal ways from their sense of personal responsibility that the problem lies within themselves where they are experiencing many of the negative effects and therefore need to change their own behaviors and attitudes.

A second myth is the belief that the media are not responsible for any negative effects in society. Many people believe that the negative effects attributed to the media are caused by nonmedia factors, such as poverty, availability of guns, child abuse, and so forth. Although these factors cannot be ignored, neither can media factors.

Instead of blaming one or two factors, it is more useful to recognize that there are many factors in the process of influence and that all the factors work together to increase a person's risk for each of the many negative effects. Most adults believe that violence in the media primarily affects children. Again, this false belief serves to decouple their fear that the next generation is being poisoned from their responsibility to look within themselves and see that there are many negative effects that are also poisoning them as adults.

But the irony is that most people do not regard most of the serious assaults and maimings that are portrayed in the media as being violent. The public has been conditioned to accept a very narrow definition of what is violence—ignoring highly violent acts that are interlaced with humor or that appear in a less-than-real context. People generally underperceive the [Page xvi] amount of violence in the media, and if they were not already so desensitized a major negative effect , they would be far more critical.

Producers of entertainment programming claim that the violence they present just reflects violence in society. However, violence in the media world is both an overrepresentation of violence as well as a distortion compared with patterns of violence in the real world.

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Producers of media violence also claim that they are merely responding to market desires. Again, this is a partial truth. Yes, the media are businesses, and as such they must supply what their consumers demand.

However, the media also shape markets, and they therefore have created and continue to reinforce the demand for violence. Many producers claim that violence is an essential element in telling stories. But it is conflict—not violence—that is essential in storytelling. Violence is only one of many tools that can be used to create and heighten conflict.

Many believe that reducing the amount of violence in the media will solve the problem.

Again, this is a myth. The problem is less with the frequency of the violence than with the way in which the violence is portrayed. Because violence is portrayed in a negative context, frequency then becomes a problem. However, if violence in the media were portrayed in a positive context, frequency would not be a problem. Producers of media violence continually claim that the First Amendment is an absolute protection of their freedom of expression.

But this is a distortion of the actual wording of the First Amendment, which provides a protection of individuals from the federal government allowing them to speak out and worship as they please.

The myth of media violence : a critical introduction (Book, ) []

Using a literal interpretation of the First Amendment, there is no protection for businesses who want to market products exclusively for profit, nor is there any protection from product liability. Is the V-chip a solution to the problem of media violence? No, because the problem with media violence is not a hardware problem, so it cannot be addressed adequately by adding a circuit that can be programmed in all new television sets.

Instead, the problem of media violence has more to do with a lack of responsibility to the common good. Congress demonstrated such a lack of responsibility with the way it implemented the V-chip system; that is, Congress allowed the producers of violence to develop their own ratings system, to rate their own programs with no oversight, and to allow producers to ignore the V-chip entirely with no penalty. The producers exhibited a lack of responsibility by first refusing to develop a system, then grudgingly [Page xvii] developing one—but one that provides viewers with as little information as possible.

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As a result few, if any, people use the network rating system. Finally, perhaps the biggest myth of all is when people believe that there is nothing that individuals can do to make an effect on reducing the problem.

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People are too dependent on others—such as the federal government—to create regulations to protect them. If people understand the problem better and are willing to change some of their behaviors, they can do a great deal to protect themselves from negative effects. I conclude the book with a chapter that offers alternatives to the 11 myths. These alternatives are couched in a public health perspective. The problem with media violence ultimately lies in finding a way to reduce the risks of harmful effects to all individuals as well as society while at the same time not restricting artistic expression, legitimate commerce, or people's access to the widest range of messages possible.

This is indeed a complex problem. Public opinion has been consistently critical for 50 years, and congressional hearings have been largely reruns for 50 years. We need to see the problem from different perspectives so that we can appreciate its many facets and ultimately perceive some fresh approaches to dealing with the problem. We need to share perspectives and construct some common ground where we can communicate better with one another, rather than continuing to talk past one another until we are all even more frustrated.

If this leads to a more informed discussion—replacing a misinformed debate—then this book will have made a contribution to addressing the underlying problem of a lack of understanding about media violence. When we first work to reduce this underlying problem, we will be creating a condition where we can move forward on the surface problem of bringing about change in the behavior of people in all four groups so that the sum of their cooperative effort benefits everyone. James Potter earned a Ph. He has published six books in the fields of qualitative methodologies, media violence, theory, and literacy.

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The Myth of Media Violence : A Critical Introduction by David Trend (2007, Paperback)

Click here. Don't have access? View purchasing options. Online ISBN: Online Publication Date: May 31, Print Purchase Options. Copy to Clipboard. View Copyright Page [Page iv]. For information: Sage Publications, Inc. Includes bibliographical references and index. Violence in mass media. Title: Eleven myths of media violence.

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Original Articles

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