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Friday, July 20, 2012

Violent images beget violent acts

by Jamie Lutton

I am not expert on violence. I am not a psychologist or a mental health professional. But the  senseless mass shooting, new, yet dreadfully familiar, this time in a Colorado movie theater, has compelled me to write again about this hideous phenomena.

We have a terrible curse walking the land.  The madman who wishes to kill many people at once, and with firearms.

I have a thesis  I want to propose as to the reason this epidemic is occurring. The advent of very violent television, movies and video games, that simulate not only real deaths, but construct a reality where violence, mostly gun violence, is a creative, powerful act. Even a grotesquely humorous and sexy 'fun' act.

The mentally unstable shooters got the idea for picking up guns and attacking strangers from  television programs (there are a lot that use this sort of plot), violent movies and video games. And  from watching and playing many, many of them, over many years.

The shooting happened during a shooting scene in a really violent movie. The madman when he was arrested, told the arresting officers that he was a character from the previous, very violent movie in the series, and had dyed his hair to match the character's hair.

As a society, we worry about pornographic sexual content in commercial media.  When are we going to start worrying about ultra- violent content in movies and TV? The weak minded and mentally ill among us are easily influenced by this material.  And all of us are desensitized to the presence of violence all around us, 'pretend' or otherwise.

I have an analogy I want to make here.

It is sort of like trying to lose weight personally, or wondering why there is so many fat people in our society right now, and that this problem is growing rapidly.

We seem, as a people, to be getting fatter every year.
   
We have TV selling fattening food every few minutes on TV in commercials that pay for the programming we watch. This TV is watched by children as soon as they are old enough to  face the screen. So, people go out and buy junk to eat, and they eat far too much of all food. They have been programmed to think eating itself will make them more popular and happy. Their unconscious has been convinced that junk food is good food, and safe, and even necessary to happiness.

And so we have an epidemic of obese people, adults and children, such as we have never had before.  And this is threatening our national health.

So,  really violent content in TV shows , movies, and video games, are absorbed for years on end by everyone. Then   someone who is mentally ill, now and then,  becomes delusional, and shoot ups a school, a workplace, or a movie theater, killing and wounding people, we should not be too surprised. .

It is really simple, and very sad. And it is not about 'gun control'; it is about telling people, over and over and over, via TV and movies and video games that guns are fun,  and it is 'fun' to shoot people.

The NRA types and the liberal types might be able to agree on this problem.  It is not the guns; the guns are the symptom. It is living in a society that has the viewing of people being killed as entertainment.  It does not matter that the killings are '''fake'''. The 'killings' are engineered by experts in Hollywood special effects to look as real as possible, with background music to enhance the pleasure of watching people 'die'.  And the hero as well as the bad guys, often, kills a lot of people as part of the plot.

Even though such programs and movies are 'fun to watch', or that we are conditioned to think such things are fun,   they are  very dangerous.  I am no different; I have watched such programming with pleasure, in the past. But what has this done to us, as the killings are made more graphic all the time.

What do we tolerate as 'fun'.
        
The shootings in work places started some 30 years ago in a few post offices. That is where we got the new term 'going postal', for someone going mad and shooting their workmates.  But now it is so commonplace to open the newspaper and read that someone goes to where they used to work, and shoots several people dead, or to a loved ones home, that we hardly pay any attention.

Only when many, many people are shot dead and wounded do we look up, and worry. And these victims in Colorado were shot in a movie  theater, which is new.

If we want to change this, it would behoove us all to avoid violent programming, games and movies.  Or to at least  avoid exposing children of all ages to this sort of recreational violence.

And as I said in a previous post, to start making mental health care more available and affordable, and take away the stigma of being mentally.  Begin to treat it as no more shameful than having diabetes.
This young man, up to a week ago, was just a paranoid and confused person who needed help desperately.    .
It would have been so much easier to treat him then, before so many people were killed and lives ruined.
We can all start now, by demanding that as a society we remove graphic 'pretend murders' from our entertainment, and start at our own home when we do this. And to consider such material as a horrible thing to expose children to, instead of a harmless pastime.

Experts have been warning all of us since the 1950's that violence acts would be the outcome of this kind of saturated exposure to violence in the media.

When are we going to say, 'that's enough',  turn away, and refuse to participate?

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