The Politics of Media
"Excessive" violence in the media is a perennial boogeyman trotted out by politicians for each new election cycle. Whether on TV, in movies, video games, comic books, the Internet, or music CD's, our national leaders view "violence" (however poorly defined) as a prime excuse for censorship and state oversight.
While there is evidence that such media-portrayed violence can influence certain children, usually such kids are more aggressive to begin with. As the limited effects model suggests, there is no strict causality between media violence and subsequent real-life violence perpetrated by media consumers.
The fact that actual violence abounded long ...view middle of the document...
In the eyes of such fear-mongers, only media can explain and be responsible for any and all violence perpetrated in this country.
If anything, sexual images in mass media are viewed as even more dangerous than violent ones. Pornography is a favorite whipping boy. In the Nineteenth Century, even literature discussing contraception was deemed "pornographic" and worthy of censorship. From the Comstock Act of 1873, to the Communications Decency Act of 1996, the federal government has taken it upon itself to protect the public (and, again, children) from sexual oriented materials. As pointed out in the movie, "South Park," you can get away with mass killings in the media more easily than you can dirty words.
In her book, The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf discussed "How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women" (her subtitle). According to this thesis, the diet, cosmetic, and pornography industries promote false images of proper feminine beauty. "Psychologically weakened" women fall prey to these "hallucinations" and suffer such ills as bulimia, anorexia, economic and sexual exploitation, powerlessness, low self-esteem, and, again, violence.
In this scenario, women are helpless pawns in a capitalist game waged by Revlon and Weight Watchers. Somehow, though, despite the irresistible influence of media messages on women, Ms. Wolf herself somehow managed to escape being brainwashed.
Reminiscent of the concerns expressed in the Twenties, mass media today have been blamed for promoting such things as the breakdown of family values (viz, the Murphy Brown vs Dan Quayle controversy); relativistic morality; rudeness; and parental authority. As in that earlier time, the debate as to which came first -- the problems or the depiction of those problems -- wages on.
Never loath to seize an opportunity, our government has passed legislation outlawing same-sex marriages and wields the tax code as a means to encourage what it views as proper family arrangements and social behavior.
Despite the fact that the dangers of tobacco have been discussed for centuries, the recent lawsuits against "Big Tobacco" acted as though consumers of such products were naifs incapable of resisting the lure of the Marlboro Man. Even worse, Joe Camel "seduced" children into the vile habit of smoking.
Well, billions of settlement dollars later and after Joe has retired to the desert, smoking among young people -- and particularly girls -- has continued to increase. That will not alter the mind-sets of those politicians and citizens who view banning cigarette advertising in all media as the only logical means of blunting the creation of new smokers.
Alcohol and Food
The Budweiser frogs are castigated for making drinkers of children by being too "cute and funny." Hard lemonade is said to be packaged to "attract" and confuse young people. Liquor ads -- while not banned by the...