Muftic: We must end culture of violence
December 24, 2012
When I was in elementary school, I had a radio series action hero. It was the do-gooding masked Lone Ranger bringing justice to a lawless Wild West.
The bad guys were defeated and he left his calling card: a silver bullet. Radio let me imagine what he looked like and picture the events in my mind. Yes, there were gunfights, but with six shooters, rifles, or a shotgun like my grandfather taught me to fire. Violence conveyed by radio did not show pain, agony of death, and blood. Comic books were the only visual pictures and cartooning kept the violence in the realm of fiction for young, impressionable minds.
What we see, hear, and read as children are large factors in shaping adult lives. Violent modern media glorifies the shooter and teaches young people that violence is the right way to gain power, resolve conflicts, or settle grievances, instead of negotiation and peaceful means. But America is no longer the Wild West.
Seeing violence on TV and movies is worth a thousand words. Being able to participate in violent video games is a whole new level. Especially troubling are video games that put the players’ hands on the trigger of the same weapons used by our troops.
Violent media is also desensitizing. The remake of comic book heroes … from Spiderman to Superman are masked or costumed do-gooders. But agony of death is shown in vivid color, and both heroes and villains are the perpetrators of insensitive violence, using weapons of nearly unlimited bullets, never having to pause to reload.
I stopped toting up body counts in these movies and convinced myself the carnage was only a movie. I noticed, though, that eventually the shock of bloodshed turned to numbness. While intended as entertainment, the U.S. military has used video games to desensitize soldiers to violence and reduce empathy toward their targets. Studies that show such games also desensitize civilians.
There are others with twisted minds who see villains as heroes. The bad guys become their inspiration and instructors. There is a reason the Aurora movie theater shooter was dressed as The Joker.
While rating systems give parents the knowledge to keep violent media away from impressionable 10-year-olds, there are parents who act as straw buyers and buy media rated for 17-year-olds-plus for their youngsters.
The problem with the National Rifle Association’s position of having armed, trained guards in schools is that the organization treated it as a silver bullet. There are so many other factors at play: lack of mental health services, easy access to military style weapons, and violent modern media. The NRA gave only lip service to some , while ignoring the access issue.
What the NRA could do is to lead a campaign for parents to keep M rated video games out of the hands of those under 17 and to educate adults if they fear their child is potentially violent, to remove weapons from their homes. Both ready availability of weapons of war and violent video games appeared to have played roles in Sandy Hook. We adults, including NRA members, could also press government to fund mental health services.
Changing media culture is also not a silver bullet, but it can help. Government censorship is an anathema to our democratic society so the burden falls mostly on those who produce media. But media that does not police itself can be influenced by its audience, too. Adults themselves can take away their profits by not watching or spending money for uber violent films, games, and TV shows and by restricting what media their children are seeing and playing. We can personally take the pledge to boycott violent media. That is one message the entertainment industry will heed.