Scoot: Have we become desensitized to real violence?
I often hear the argument that our society has become desensitized to violence because of prevalent graphic violence in movies, on TV and in video games. It is our human nature that instinctively seeks to determine what is responsible for violence in our society that seems beyond explanation. However, the quest to define what is responsible for tragedies does not always yield the correct answer.
Have we become desensitized to violence in the real world because of graphic violent entertainment? It is tempting to believe that we have become desensitized and it does provide a definite explanation. But I don’t think it’s an accurate explanation.
Last night, I was watching television and The Weather Channel was airing a series of specials titled, “Why Planes Crash,” and one of the features had the subtitle, “Brace for Impact.”
“Why Planes Crash” is a well-produced series that explores the causes of many of high-profile plane crashes. Each plane crash is explained with actual film or video and with detailed graphics and animation. But there is nothing graphic about it.
I don’t know if The Weather Channel planned to air this particular series now, or if it was a last minute decision because of the crash of Malaysian Flight 17. Now, there have been a total of three major airline crashes within one week. Two of the crashes may have been weather-related, while it is believed that Malaysian Flight 17 was downed by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists in the Ukraine.
We have all seen endless videos of the smoldering wreckage of the Malaysian Boeing 777 and items on the ground that confirm men, women and children were aboard that flight. Yet the horror we feel from the tragedy comes – not from any graphic visuals of bodies – but from the idea that what we do see represents reality.
A movie from Hollywood would never invoke that feeling in us by simply showing light smoke coming from a jet engine cowling on the ground or a ripped up child’s travel bag. Doesn’t that demonstrate that we clearly understand the difference between real violence and entertainment violence and wouldn’t that mean we have not become desensitized to real violence?
Generations have watched footage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX and we are deeply affected by what we see – but we see nothing that is graphic. When we watch the grainy video of the recent Bourbon Street shooting – we don’t see anything graphic – but we are compelled to watch because we know it’s real.
When you think about all of the bloody violent car crashes we have seen in movies and on television – you would think that the sight of a fender-bender on the shoulder of the road would not capture our attention. But we always get frustrated at how traffic builds up when there is an accident on the side of the road because people are slowing down to look – even you and me.
It’s convenient to buy into the premise that Americans have become desensitized to real violence because of graphic violence in entertainment – but our own responses to the tragedies and violent acts we know are real suggest that we – as humans – have not become desensitized and still react to things less graphic – but real.