Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Real Concerns with Media Violence and Behavior

I just got off the air with a talk show host on WPHT; the subject was the existence of a link between media violence (mainly video games) and shootings like the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook, Aurora, and today in Texas. It gets so frustrating talking with people who are essentially anti-science (some people are "evil") and who set up straw men (PROVE that video games CAUSED a particular shooting) for people to argue. This host in particular keeps saying over and over on the air that it is mental illness that causes the violence and shootings, but doesn't seem to get that mental illness has environmental as well as organic roots.

Recent research in neuroscience, research studying adoloescent boys, shows a strong correlation between the duration and intensity of viewed violence and a host of behaviors, in particular a desensitization to violence, aggressive behavior, and a lack of prosocial behavior. Such behavior in young males is of particular interest because their prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, and so the part of the brain responsible for "moral thinking" is prone to influence; that is why teenagers tend to engage in risky behavior and why it is so important to be teaching kids "right from wrong."

One of President Obama's executive orders mandates a study into the relationship between media violence and violent behavior, no doubt focusing on shootings in particular. I don't know whether this will be original research or a review of the literature, but I'm pretty certain the work will confirm the relationships I mentioned above. The real issue will be in choosing a course of action.

My concern quite frankly with shootings in particular but with the social fabric. As a conservative, I place great emphasis on our relationships with one another, and I am thus concerned with how we interact with one another, the compassion and empathy we demonstrate towards one another, and our willingness to engage in altruistic and generally cooperative behavior. In this regard, I am convinced that media violence, while it may not lead to an increase in random shootings, will add a tear to this social fabric. When combined with the deterioration of this fabric due to a thinning in the middle class, the glue that holds our society together, this is just another sign that our nation is "losing its soul."

What we do with this new research will be subject to much debate, and no doubt calls for banning some videos as a component of the President's overall gun control strategy.The conservative in me abhors this propensity to legislate. What we really need is stronger, more effective parenting and boardroom decisions that more greatly reflect "the parent" in these capitalists. It would also be incumbent on the media to stop sensationalizing the news, attracting viewership with violence, and for movies and television drama to find storylines that don't center on violent activity.

There is alot we can do in the area of gun control- like requiring liability insurance and increasing buybacks- that do not trample on an individual's right to own a gun. Similarly, there are steps we can take to slowly but steadily decrease the glorification of violence and use of weapons. The law is there to support but not direct this change. Neuroscience has confirmed that the correlation exists, it is now up to us as a society, and not our politicians, to "resew" the social fabric.

No comments:

Post a Comment