Despite the fact that there is some evidence that, lengthy exposure to violent media increases aggressive behavior in people, this exposure alone cannot cause people to become violent and aggressive for there is no established connection between violent entertainment and violent behavior.
On the contrary, there is substantial evidence that violent, belligerent, and emotionally delinquent environments lead to aggressive behavior more than watching violent films does. This may be a contentious issue with numerous people linking violent media to aggressive behavior. Nevertheless, there are other people, as the writer, who think that exposure to violent media alone does not lead to increase in aggressive behavior. I strongly refute the claims that exposure to violent media leads to increase in violent behavior.
First, the research methodologies used to study and analyze the link between violent media exposure and aggressive behavior are more than often flawed. According to Gauntlett, mainstream researchers approach the issue of violent media from the perspective that media causes violence (23).
With this ingrained deeply in researchers’ minds, they seek to establish violent reactions only in the context of media consumption. The anticipated results in such a case would obviously place blame increase in aggressive behavior on exposure to violent media. This should not be the case as research should start by focusing on the violence itself; regardless of the cause, and then try to mire its causes.
This approach would work better to produce results that are more credible. Moreover, most of the studies focus on children without using controls like adults. Most of these studies seek to qualify a “barely-concealed conservative ideology” (Gauntlett 45). To complicate the whole issue, what researchers may consider as ‘violent’ in research premises, may not be violent in context of the viewer. Additionally, the research objects are based on former studies that used blemished methodologies not founded on theory.
Supporters of allegations that exposure to violent media leads to aggressive behavior may be quick to point out cases like the media attention generated by Michael Johnson case. It is true that this case attracted much publicity but these critics forget to indicate that this is not always the case.
Human beings are not copycats and they will draw a clear line between what is good and bad. It is true that there are copycat violent acts like murder and suicide among others. However, Barker posits that, these copycat violent acts occur mostly in abnormal fostering (56). Research indicates that, raising people in violent or aggressive environments will have great impact in life than mere watching of given movies or listening to some music. There is enough evidence to show that most of copycat murderers are mentally unstable.
It beats logic to assume that simply because people have seen violent acts, they will go ahead and commit them. Millions of people watch violent movies all over the world; therefore, if exposure to violent media increases aggressive behaviors then we would have millions of aggressive people world allover.
This is not the case and research indicates that, only few people engage in aggressive behaviors as a direct result of watching violent movies. Moreover, people who watch these movies in their childhood grow up to be normal responsible people (Ward 87). Therefore, to claim that exposure to violent media leads to increased aggressive behavior hold no substance to qualify it.
People like Elizabeth Newson have drawn a strong link between violent media and violent lifestyle. For instance, in 1994, Elizabeth made reported that the movie Child’s Play 3 caused two boys, aged 10, to murder James Bulger. Nevertheless, in response to these allegations, Barker indicates that, Elizabeth’s accounts relied greatly on opinions and press instead of relying on results from an independent research (63).
This points out how flawed research on media violence can be. In the murder of James Bulger, there was no evidence that the two boys had watched the alleged film. Unfortunately, after something pops into the media, people accept it without taking a step further to investigate the credibility of the information. Ward posits that, many researches on violent media have failed to establish adverse effects and that most of the hypotheses have proved to be null (12).
There are cases whereby people have reacted violently even without watching violent scenes in the media. For instance, after watching the evening news, a father kills his entire family using a gun; he is arrested and brought before the judge; he explains that his actions emanated from the ‘bad’ news he watched.
He claims that, the news was too bad that he saw no need of anyone living. Is this case different from any other violent behaviors arising from violent media? The answer is of course no! In this incidence, the man must have been abnormal and his actions cannot be explained entirely under the pretext of ‘bad news’ he watched.
Similarly, the few cases of violent behavior arising from watching violent films cannot be explained by the fact that the assailant had watched a violent film. There has to be something more than watching violent films and this is where researchers fail in their work.
According to Barker, there are other factors as socio-cultural issues in criminal cases. These factors cannot be dictated by watching of violent media only. “We must look beyond a specific film to think about the specific context in which it has been consumed, and the wider social background of the people” (29).
We cannot explicitly say that this issue on media can cause or cannot cause aggressive behavior. The best thing is to probe what other factors as social issues make some people perceive and use media in a way that will bring aggression to them. The bottom line is; influence from violent media alone cannot lead to increase in aggressive behavior.
To cap it all, the research on violent media is minimal and often utilizes flawed methodologies. Questioning the credibility of these methodologies, Ward said, “The real puzzle is that anyone looking at the research evidence in this field could draw any conclusions about the pattern let alone argue with such confidence and even passion that it demonstrates the harm of violence on television, in film and in video games” (34).
According to Barker, if exposure to violent media leads to increase in aggressive behavior, then America would be a violent state (68) because in contemporary times, the media is littered with violent scenes of sundry and diversity. In the US, crime up surged between 1965 and 1980 and this was attributed to violent media. The authorities responded appropriately and crime rates leveled around 1992. Since then, violent media is allover and there is no equal increase in crime rates.
The way out of this long-standing misconception about violent media is to conduct more conclusive research works. Research should be independent and should use credible sources not just opinions and sentiments from the press.
Most of the films that are violent have political themes and this may explain in part why many people do not like them. Nevertheless, people should be informed about what is happening around them. In this regard, we should not criminalize some informative and entertaining sentiments in the media like violent films or movies.
Therefore, we can see that, although evidence suggests prolonged exposure to violent media increases aggressive behavior in people, that exposure alone does not cause people to become violent and aggressive for two main reasons. First, there is no established connection between violent entertainment and violent behavior. Additionally, there is enough evidence to show that violent environment leads to violent behaviors more than violent media does.
Barker, Mitchell. The Newson Report: a Case Study in Common Sense in III Effects in
The Media /Violence Debate. London: Routledge, 2001.
Gauntlett, Dean. Ten Things Wrong with the ‘Effects Model’. Approaches to Audiences
– A Reader, 1998. Web. 8 July 2011.
Ward, Michael. Video games, Crime & Violence, 2007. Web 8 July 2011.