Violence is often regarded more as entertainment more than it is as something that is horrible and avoided in the most effective way possible. This is often done in more subtle ways by many people that are shocked by violence and truly want to prevent it. The use of violence for entertainment purposes is promoted largely by the mass media but this isn’t something new. Before the mass media was established in its current state violence has been used as entertainment in mythology for thousands of years. What is relatively new is the way new technology is drilling it into our culture on a massive scale that reaches a much larger audience.
The Mass Media is using violence as entertainment not only in movies and sitcoms but in the news and shows that are presented as objective even if that pretense is extremely weak. Some of these shows claim to be advocating victim rights but they are clearly more concerned about raising ratings and stirring up people’s emotions. This isn’t limited to entertainment it is also used for political reasons. By stirring up emotions they are using the way violence is portrayed to encourage even more violence and in many cases as war propaganda. Adolph Hitler wrote about how violence can be used as war propaganda and many people learned to recognize how he did it but there are still very many more subtle ways and other not so subtle ways that continue to be overlooked.
The Mass Media is using violence for profit. Not only do they sell a lot of videos but they also use it as a great advertising draw. They are making a steadily growing amount of profit without doing much if anything to explain to the public how to avoid violence. They could use their position to help get the messages from qualified researchers like Garbarino, Lewis etc but instead they give much more attention to demagogues who manipulate the public. Robert W. McChesney explained in his book “The problem of the media: U.S. communication politics in the twenty-first century” 2004 how the Mass Media is dominated by a few large players and they may have increased their rights to copyrights to stories about true life cases of violence so that certain player can buy the rights to sell the story of high profile crimes. When Pamela Smart went on trial there were several bad movies that rushed to the TV screens to take advantage of the high interest in the subject. Since then there has been some media reform but not to help get messages across from researchers that are sincerely interested in teaching the public how to avoid violence but to protect copyrights. The goal of this legislation seems to be to protect the rights to earn profit regardless of what information is or isn’t provided about avoiding violence.
The use of violence as entertainment is often presented as informative or educational material. This raises the question of how can you tell informative or educational material apart from entertainment material or if they can serve both purposes. If they serve both purposes I don’t see much problem although it may not seem quite right but if it serves only for entertainment it shouldn’t be passed of as educational. The most important way of recognizing the difference is to determine whether it helps the public understand the issue and how to prevent violence in the most effective way possible or at least the most effective way the producer of the material knows how to do. If the producer of the material is doing the best he knows how to but it isn’t very good then it is important to recognize that and either give those that do a better job a chance or educate the producer of insufficient material. Educational material that is designed to inform the public in the most effective way possible needs to be organized in the most effective way possible and it needs to be designed to find out what the cause of violence is and how to prevent it.
Organizing information in the most effective way starts by making sure there is always an index in books. Any other organization advantages including source notes etc. will also be helpful. Books like Ann Rules don’t have them and they read more like a novel. This seems to be designed more for entertainment purposes and possibly propaganda purposes. They often tend to exaggerate the indifference of the perpetrator and downplay the abuse the perpetrator may have received as a child. Anything that is designed to distort perception to present a strong bias isn’t educational. There is a very strong tendency amongst many people perhaps a large majority to exaggerate the crimes of those perceived as monsters or perverts. This is usually unnecessary since the crimes that they committed are usually bad enough to make the point without exaggeration. There is also a tendency to downplay anything that could be considered mitigating. These tendencies are both counterproductive when it comes to preventing violence since the most effective way to prevent violence requires an accurate perception of reality. This is true regardless of how much punishment the guilty should receive since prevention should be designed primarily those that haven’t committed crimes at all mainly children. The concern about punishment routinely distorts perception and impairs to understand and prevent violence.
Many people look at violence more as a hobby where they try to figure out who done it. This creates a culture where many people trade ideas to solve crimes but more often than not there is no more than a token of discussion about the events that lead up to the crime itself. When previous events are discussed it is usually the events immediately preceding the event and rarely abusive upbringing that is among the most important contributive causes to crime. When abusive upbringing is discussed it is usually as a mitigating circumstance and not as a cause that can be recognized and prevented in the future. A modest amount of education might change the direction of these discussions and lead to much more productive ideas about preventing crime. If this happens violence as entertainment or who done it hobbies can be turned into productive prevention ideas.
First Posted on Tripod on 10/22/09(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)