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Scoot: Is Gun Violence in Movies to Blame for Real Violence?

One of the oldest and most-debated questions surrounding entertainment is whether any medium (TV, radio, movies, Internet, etc.) influences audience behavior or reflects the behavior of its audience.  While there may be a degree of truth that it both influences and reflects society, there has always been an argument about which it does more; influence or reflect?

Conventional wisdom seems to place much more emphasis on the media’s influence on society, rather than its reflection of society.  Tragic school shootings and random violence, especially involving teenagers, lead to the media rushing to establish any relationship the shooters may have had with violent video games, violent movies or any form of violent entertainment. 

Defining the evil that is to blame for tragedies is an instinct for both media and society.  Like with any medium that is driven by the goal of attracting the largest possible audience, the news media strives to provide a script that conveniently identifies the villain or the evil force against which society can rant.  A well-defined script, or news story, has a better chance of capturing the attention of an audience that is bombarded by thousands of flashes of information, images and storylines every day.

Over the past year, I have addressed this issue in several blogs.  When tragedy strikes, humans innately need to know who or what is to blame.  By understanding who or what is to blame, the immediate focus turns to the solutions that will prevent future tragedies.  Through society’s desire to define the evil source that has inspired a tragedy, the general public becomes satisfied that the next step is to work on a solution, but if the problem is inaccurately defined in haste, then any proposed solutions do nothing to actually solve the real problems.  

Politicians are often too willing to settle for a perceived problem that the public easily accepts, instead of addressing the truth, or the actual problem, which is more confusing for public comprehension.  It is always in the best interest of any politician to find an evil influence that is tangible, since that is something they can address and then attempt to satisfy voters by supporting legislation that will either ban or control the evil influence – for example, violent entertainment.  The idea that violent entertainment is to blame for the unacceptable level of violence in society is a more tangible and far less complicated than addressing the issues of parenting, education and mental health.  Those issues do not allow for the easy solutions demanded by society.

The new study showing that gun violence in movies rated PG-13 tripled over the last 20 years will lead much of the media and the audience to the quick conclusion the increase in violence in movies explains why there is an increase in violence in the real world.  That is the convenient and simplistic conclusion, but is it the right conclusion?

The National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993-2011 shows that gun incidences, victims and the gun crime rate have decreased.  If, in reality, gun violence is down – then why is there so much talk about the dangerous influence of violent entertainment on society? 

Beginning with my days sitting in a Communication Theory class (which was the toughest and the most enlightening course I had ever taken) it has been my belief that the media more reflects society than dictates behavior.  Even television commercials will not inspire viewers to do something they don’t really want to do. Can you think about a commercial that persuaded you to do something you really didn’t want to do – or if you are honest, you will probably admit that if a choice you made as a consumer proved to be a wrong choice, then you were predisposed to make that decision to buy and the suggestion presented in the commercial appealed to even a deep subconscious predisposition.  Persuasive car commercials will not convince you to go out and buy a car, however, if you are in the market for a car or if you have even thought about getting a new car, then a persuasive car commercial could inspire you to select a particular make and model. 

If a new study shows that gun violence in movies rated PG-13 has tripled over two decades, the general conclusion will be that the gun violence in movies is inspiring gun violence in the real world.  But, if gun violence in the real world has actually decreased, then why will blaming violence in movies for real violence attract so much attention? 
If it is true that the media reflects society – its audience – then the media would reflect society’s tendencies.  The widespread belief that violence in entertainment is to blame for violence in the real world is reflected in the way the media covers gun violence stories.  We may not be able to pinpoint which came first – the media’s infatuation with blaming violence in entertainment for real world violence, or the audience’s belief that violent entertainment is to blame for real violence – and it really shouldn’t matter.  Today, the media reflects and feeds on society’s instinct to blame violent entertainment for inspiring real world violence.

Audiences are quick to condemn the media for the selection, slant and substance of the stories it covers, but if the media more reflects the audience it entertains and informs, then blaming the media is equal to blaming the reflection you see looking into a mirror on the mirror. The mirror is just a medium reflecting that which is looking into it.  And so it is with an audience that does not like the image it sees through the media.

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11/12/2013 3:31PM
​Scoot Blog: Is Increase in Gun Violence in Movies to Blame for Real Violence
Please enter your comments below.
11/12/2013 6:11PM
Well, better late than never ... O’Bùtt Face is dropping ...
Obama has reached his lowest approval rating in any Quinnipiac University national poll since being elected president, with 39 percent of registered voters now approving of his job performance and 54 percent disapproving. Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2013/nov/12/obama-hits-lowest-approval-rating-presidency-poll/#ixzz2kToLEkyV Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter
11/12/2013 6:35PM
Gee, Scooter, you did not get them Memo ... Obama says that no one
is responsible for anything they do. Obama is not. Of course folks blame others for anything they do even killing people. Gee, get with the times. You can do anything and it is not your fault. Obama loves you ... LOL.
11/12/2013 6:47PM
Deborah "Debbie" Wasserman Schultz says the Tea Party is to blame for all
violence and the fact that you are not getting as much þutt sex as you would like. Glad to help.
11/12/2013 7:06PM
Really Scoot it is YOUR fault more of us have to actually work some and cannot
go on welfare or unlimited unemployment. YOU need to pay more taxes. It is all YOUR fault.
11/12/2013 7:45PM
Many of us always knew Obama was a piece of dog SH!T ... it just took the
stupid people a little longer to wake up.
11/13/2013 8:27AM
ObamaCare was always an elaborate ponzi scheme but clowns like Scooter
who are desperate to be seen as hip, lined up to support it trashing anyone who did not as a hayseed lacking the sophistication required to see the good in an incompetent black man running the US healthcare system. The fools who voted for Obama deserve the all misery headed their way and should get no help because if the Republicans step in and fix this miss, the STUPID, Obama’s base, will merely credit Obama the one who created the mess—again they are stupid. Over half of Americans voted for a no-growth economy, consistently high unemployment, high taxes, poor health care, and a more dangerous world where we are not respected so they should get what they voted for ... ENJOY ássholes. LOL.
11/13/2013 10:32AM
One can at least respect the original black slaves in this country.
They actually worked hard for their food, clothing, and shelter. The blacks today on the Democrat Plantation are kept as government chattel, but are not required to do any work for their benefits ... yes, the Republicans freed the black slaves, but most of them have chosen to return to slavery in the hopes of a few handouts from their liberal slave masters Washington.
11/13/2013 10:51AM
Former Secret Service Agent confirms Obama is a commong thùg ..
11/13/2013 4:21PM
Ted Cruz and Mike Lee Warned You Scoot ...
They were trying to get people back then to delay ObamaCare, to defund it, to prevent this that's happening from happening. They knew it was coming, as did every other elected official. Everybody in both parties knew this was coming, folks. But, Scoot was too busy having a HARD-ON for Obama and excited that Bam endorses þutt sex.
11/23/2013 6:25PM
Ted Cruz - The Tea Party's Mad Hatter
So your hero costs the country millions in economic growth due to shutting down the government to further his own brand and 2016 presidential ambitions and a disgruntled Secret Service agent turns on his former employers to create hype for his run for public office and to garner media attention and this is somehow a harbinger of truth or revelatory information? It's the same old cynical, anti-government nonsense peddled in the wake of Waco and Oklahoma City - "jackbooted thugs" vs the common man. Overly simplistic argument that panders to emotional, paranoid people with a shallow icon-oriented concept of "patriotism" - Cruz & Company are cartoon figures.
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