Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The usual speeches and censorship in Aurora

(This was first posted on Open Salon July 23, 2012; since then the way the media covers these stories hasn’t improved. This will be followed up soon by a new post about the two recent shootings in Oregon and Connecticut.)

Here we go again, in the same old routine, which even includes the fact that many of us seem to call this the same old routine. A year and a half ago I wrote about what I called Unacknowledged Censorship in Arizona; the following is how I opened it up:

For better or worse the people with the violent rhetoric aren’t being censored in the Mass Media; however the academics with rational solutions that actually work are; and few people seem to have noticed it.

Generally speaking there are two groups speaking loud and clear in the media who don’t address the most important issues; and at least one other group that receives virtually no attention but they do know how to address the problem and dramatically reduce violence; however they are being ignored in the Mass Media.

The groups that are receiving attention fall into the usual categories as described by the media, the right wing conservatives and the left wing liberals. The left claim that the rhetoric is a major contributing factor and it should be toned down or censored. Most of them aren’t calling for complete censorship as far as I can tell but they are asking for more civility. The right wing are accusing the left of trying to completely censor them even though that isn’t what they’re doing; and in at least a few cases they are calling for censorship of the left, often saying the left shouldn’t make claims without evidence. Neither one of these high profile groups are addressing the vast majority of research available from the academic community that has studied this subject. This research actually does demonstrate some of the “evidence” that some of these people are asking for…… Full article

At the time the primary focus of the debate was the violent rhetoric in the political debate by many people like Sarah Palin. There was also discussion about gun control as there should have been but there was little or no discussion about what is almost certainly the leading cause of violence, whether it is mass murder or more common domestic violence and other crimes. There is no one cause for these social problems as the media often implies; instead it is virtually guaranteed that there are multiple causes contributing to them; and I have no doubt that one the most important ones if not the most important contributing cause is child abuse which often escalates to bullying and other forms of violence. This is confirmed by many researchers
including Alice Miller, Murray Straus, Barbara Coloroso, Philip Greven and many other credible researchers some of whom I have provided links to below for further information. Additional contributing causes almost certainly include the easy availability of guns and violence in the media as well as the rhetoric that was being discussed during the previous shooting.

None of these are discussed nearly as well as they could and should be in the traditional media or by the political establishment.

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gave speeches on Friday immediately after the shooting and have followed up with more since then; they both talked about how this is “evil” and “senseless” and they both called for “prayer.” During tragedies like this there is almost always a call for “leadership” but the political speeches never seem to include a sincere effort to review the most relevant research into the root causes of violence so that they can find the most effective way to prevent future incidents.

Does “leadership” mean telling the public what they want to know so that they can make them feel good and get their vote?

Or does it mean leading them in the right direction so that the biggest problems can be solved in the most effective way possible?

Judging by the typical behavior of most politicians it clearly means the first. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had a tragedy and it won’t be the last. Politicians know this and so do political scientists and they also know that it is a time where people behave based on emotion so if a politician handles it right they can gain an advantage without doing much if anything to address many of the most important issues. I have no doubt that they have prepared general speeches or guidelines that can be altered in minor ways so they don’t seem quite the same but that they appear to address the issue and portray themselves as caring and able to feel the pain of the people.

This is standard operating procedure!

This standard operating procedure doesn’t involve a serious discussion by either the politicians or the mass media about the most effective way to solve problems especially if it impacts the agenda of the political establishment or the small number of people that control the mass media which this does.

There is little or no discussion about how child abuse and bullying escalates to create more violence or how violence in the media may have some impact on violence in real life or how it might have other social implications.

All of this is almost if not entirely censored from the media or political discussion.

Fortunately there is some discussion about gun control although it isn’t nearly as good as it could be or should be. I have no doubt that reasonable gun control almost certainly would have some impact on violence and it may be the difference between a few murders and a much larger disaster involving mass murder as many people have pointed out. Contrary to what the NRA would have us believe there is no attempt to take away all guns just reasonable control and the vast majority of the public seems to support it according to many polls. I haven’t looked them up but whenever I hear them talk about polls about whether the public supports background checks to makes sure violent felons, terrorist, and mentally ill people shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns the majority seems to support it and they also support bans on high capacity clips that could make the difference between mass murder and a few killings.

Few of the major candidates for any office spend much if any time discussing this; one of the few exceptions is Caroline McCarthy who was elected on this issue after she lost her son and husband in a subway shooting.
The reason this happens is because the NRA has a massive lobbying campaign to prevent any rational laws and they have a large following of single issue voters that only vote on guns and many of them are very susceptible to the kind of propaganda put out by people like Ted Nugent. This is also helped by the corrupt campaign system that enables well financed special interest groups to gain an advantage when it comes to buying propaganda campaign ads that are extremely distorted and are often not checked by the corporate media that provides much less coverage to politics than they used to, or at least much less investigation even if they have as much if not more rhetoric.

But at least this gets some coverage.

The escalation of violence starting with child abuse and the impact of media violence hardly gets any coverage at all; and on the rare occasions where they do manage to get some coverage they present it in a distorted manner. When it comes to murders that have been abused they often have someone ready to yell “that’s no excuse” if they acknowledge that it happened at all; ignoring the fact that whether it is an excuse or not shouldn’t be the main point. The main point should be if they recognize the causes they can do much more to prevent future incidents.

The sources linked below cover this more and I have covered this much more in other blogs, which are listed on the left, so I won’t go into too much details about it on this blog even though I think it is the most important contributing factor. However in this case violence in the media may have more of an impact on the incident at hand or at least in the way people are responding to it. I don’t know much about James Holmes and whether or not he was abused or impacted by how much media he watched since the coverage of this is limited and it isn’t being prevented well but I suspect that it is virtually guaranteed that there will be more about how he has suffered from some form of abuse or dysfunctional upbringing before it is done. Otherwise it would be unprecedented and worthy of more investigation to finds out what the root causes are since most if not all other incidents like this have turned up such evidence in the past.

One of the reasons why violence in the media may be more important in this cases is because the incident took place in a fantasy Batman movie theater and judging by a lot of the coverage of it I suspect many people thought it was part of the show and I suspect there should be some investigation about whether some of the audience members are having a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy. Even if they aren’t there are almost certainly many other people around the country that spend an enormous amount of time watching the violent media coverage of many incidents and violent TV programing that watch little else and probably do.

This is almost certainly much more likely due to the fact that they have allowed the media to be concentrated in the hands of a small amount of people that put out an enormous amount of violent programming without allowing much if any discussion on how it impacts social behavior. This is especially important with the rapid development of technology over the past twenty years.

Indications of this may have been in the coverage of this incident if you look closely; there have been several people that seem to have been amused by all the coverage of this and happy to be receiving attention by the mass media. One of the photos that were shown over and over again showed a couple grieving and in the background there was someone with a big grin on her face; when showing this photo on the second day this person was edited out. This is just one of the people that seem to think of this as an exciting event that is amusing not a disaster that should be avoided in the most effective way possible. In all fairness this may be taken out of context and there is almost certainly an explanation for what happened at the time that the photo was taken but there are probably some incidents where they’re more concerned about being part of one of the biggest stories in the media as well. Many people love being the center of attention and being able to tell the story about what happened.

Another thing worth considering is the way one person in her lower twenties responded to what happened; she was talking about how she didn’t know he was a “bad guy” at first but then when he started throwing things in the theater she knew he was a “bad guy.” This seemed like an extremely simplified description of what happened and I can’t help but wonder about whether the reason this person responded in this manner might have been because she was too caught up in fantasy movies. I don’t know this for certain but with the non-stop playing of this type of movies all the time with little or no serious educational material in the mass media many people may not have any other source for their information and they may think this is the appropriate way things happen.

Judging by most of the action films that are playing all day every day someone that was obsessed with them and didn’t watch anything else might get the idea that these kind of bad things happen and that the only way to deal with them is to have a “good guy” come in at the last minute and save the day.

If this is what some people obsessed with the wall to wall action films watch all the time it might be all they think about and they may have a hard time separating it from reality. There has been an enormous amount of social research into this but it hasn’t been presented to the majority of the public and quite frankly I haven’t read most of it so I can’t say exactly what it indicates but it surely is worth more attention. However after reading a significant amount of research on certain types of social research there is no doubt that this research exists and it is well known within the academic community. In fact studying human behavior and presenting the results to only a small percentage of the public is standard procedure; which means that, among other things those that are up to date with the research can use it for their advantage including political ads and marketing and the majority of the public may not even realize that they’re being manipulated.
Instead of doing all this research to benefit the majority of the public it could and often is used for the benefit of those that want to use it for psychological manipulation.

This isn’t necessarily primarily a conspiracy in the strictest sense of the word; a lot of this isn’t even kept completely secret which would preclude the claim it is a conspiracy. However some of the things that lead up to their decision making process are what they call “proprietary information” or a “trade secret” which would fit the description of a conspiracy. In most cases this wouldn’t involve something dramatic as the fringe conspiracy theorists claim; instead it may involve the authoritarian thinking of those in power and the fact that they base their decisions on ideology and profit with little regard for the best interest of the public. This type of research is presented in many academic journals but it isn’t presented to the majority of the public and only those that know where to look for it can take advantage of it. This is helped by copyright laws that slow down the distribution of an enormous amount of educational material and ensures that only those that pay for it can have access to it.

To make matters worse many members of the public don’t want to hear this.

They prefer to think of many of the people that bring them together as heroes and that they’re rising from disaster. I don’t know how to put this in a nice manner but there are no heroes that completely saved the day; there may be some people that prevented it from getting worse but they didn’t do the things that could have prevented from happening at all and they can’t bring back the people that died.

They’ve been led to believe that the course of action that they follow after every disaster is part of the solution; if this was true then they wouldn’t be happening over and over again. The latest tragedy was followed by a memorial service and a call for “solidarity” according to one of the pundits and many people seem to be complying. Unfortunately this call for “solidarity” doesn’t seem to include much if any discussion about how to prevent this from happening again any more than it did after the Columbine shooting or the Youth With a Mission shooting or any other shooting whether they were in Colorado or elsewhere. Instead, for many, they seem to involve solidarity behind prayer rituals and political speeches and rallies saying that they will overcome. Most of this wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t involve a lot of denial of the cause of the shootings as well.

According to many reports including a book written by Brooks Brown three years after the Columbine incident many people were unwilling to acknowledge the relation between Columbine and the bullying that preceded it. In fact a more recent story that came out during the coverage of Aurora briefly mentioned one of the victims and the trouble that he had coping with it and it mentioned that he had emotional problems and at one time threatened to commit violence against one of his relatives the way it was committed against him. This was dismissed as the result of the trauma from Columbine without controversy but the possibility that it might be similar to the way Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris reacted after being the victim of bullying wasn’t considered; in fact he briefly mentioned that they killed people that did nothing wrong to them. In many cases that was true, I’m certain, but this seems to imply a denial of the bullying that preceded the Columbine incident or many of the other stories that surrounded it.

During the “solidarity” at the memorial service they may all seem happy but this is ignoring the fact that they’re not addressing many of the most important issues that impact this event and could enable people to learn how to prevent it from happening again.

I don’t want to upset people more than they are already upset but without addressing these problems they won’t go away.

The review of these causes could be viewed as good news since it indicates that there is a cause for all these shootings and we can find it and prevent them but in order to do that many people will have to face facts that they don’t like, including the fact that if people were more willing to address these problems ten or twenty years ago then they would have been much more able to reduce the chance that many of these incidents would have happened in the first place.

The following are some articles, web sites and books about some of the contributing causes for those of you who are interested.

“The Roots of Violence are NOT Unknown” and accompanying articles by Alice Miller
free on-line copy of “For Your Own Good” by Alice Miller and additional information including at least one other free book on the subject.
Excerpts from “The Truth Will Set You Free” by Alice Miller
Home page for Barbara Coloroso, an internationally recognized speaker and author in the areas of parenting, teaching, school discipline, non-violent conflict resolution and reconciliatory justice.
Home page for Murray Straus, includes articles and several free on-line books on the subject.
Excerpts from “Spare the Child” by Philip Greven
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
“The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions” at American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry
“Violence in the Media - Psychologists Help Protect Children from Harmful Effects” at American Psychological Association
“The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children” at AllPsych Online

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