The Morality Police.
June 11, 2001 2:32 AM   Subscribe

The Morality Police. "Our hysterical attempts to shield kids from images of sex and violence are stunting young lives -- and trapping us all in a Big Lie." A well-argued piece, more of an op-ed than a straight-up book review. As a scientist I only quibble with the author's musing that "if there really were a cause-and-effect link between real violence and media violence, then it would have been proven by now."
posted by topolino (13 comments total)
I've been awash in Kung-Fu movies, porn, Marilyn Manson and the like my whole life, and I've never hurt anyone, nor am I likely to do so.
If you could make an argument that media did directly cause violence, wouldn't people like me prove the opposite? The problem with declaring that a certain kind of behavior is a direct result of a kind of input, is that for it to hold true, it has to effect everyone that way, or it becomes apparent that other factors are at work.

I'm sick of the moral majority (which is neither) and their attempts to impose their point of view on me, and the corrosive effect it has on culture.
posted by dong_resin at 4:34 AM on June 11, 2001

If you want to keep images of violence away from young people, don't get involved in wars.
posted by holgate at 5:00 AM on June 11, 2001

I wish the self-link thing was suspended so I could post my old rant about this, but here we go without it...

A lot of times, people simply forget about context, and about tolerance. If something comes on the tube or the radio or might be accessible online that offends them, they immediately assume that their offense means that the offending show or song or what have you is offensive to all, and has no redeeming content.

I think allowing people to select their own diversions instead of trying to enforce some vacuous community standard would be valuable. Allowing people to have their outlets, whether we find them valuable or not (personally, I hate with a bloody passion the novels of John Norman, and would like to cut off his hands at the wrists, then pull his tongue out, yank off his ears and use a corkscrew to remove his eyes in order to keep him from writing anything else ever again...but others seem to like him, and I am not the arbiter of standards) is the best we can do, I think. I know that free speech is neither absolute in its applications, and also is not as dogmatic in other nations than the one I am in. I know that in the name of free speech, some truly hideous thoughts are flung around.

Perhaps, instead of worrying so much about fake violence and fake people having sex, we should try and instill healthy attitudes towards the real violence and actual sexual issues through honestly. Yes, I'm advocating talking to our kids. Explain what really happens when someone gets their nose broken or a bullet hits them (the movie Three Kings has an excellent scene for this purpose) or what have you.

By the time I was sixteen, I'd killed so many animals on the farm that I almost couldn't go by a McDonalds anymore. I'm not a vegetarian...I crave meat, always have, it's not healthy for me but I eat it anyway...but I had a real understanding of what a gun could do, and I had no interest in killing anything ever again.

I'm not saying this approach would be perfect, just that talking to our children is better than trying to quell anything that doesn't fit within our individual boxes. The world is too big to fit within anyone's perspective.
posted by Ezrael at 5:09 AM on June 11, 2001

"There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?" - Dick Cavett
posted by RavinDave at 5:43 AM on June 11, 2001

"There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?" - Dick Cavett

It's true. You never see people in real life repeating stupid jokes they heard on TV.

And kids would never demand overpriced tennis shoes just because they saw Michael Jordan wear them on TV.

This business of people being affected by and wanting to emulate what they see on TV obviously has no basis in reality.
posted by straight at 6:32 AM on June 11, 2001

I think he touched on the real issue here: selfish people (parents) who want society to be restructured around what's convenient for them. What sort of parenting do you think these kids are getting when their parents think it's too much to ask that they read a movie review, or keep track of what movies/tv their kids are seeing?
posted by dagnyscott at 6:38 AM on June 11, 2001

"Won't someone please think of the children!" (well, SOMEONE had to say it!) Often I think that people who yell loudest about 'protecting the children' are using children as an excuse so they don't have to deal with their OWN issues and fears about sex and violence, etc.

A friend of mine kept an open dialog with her daughter. Sometimes the daughter asked difficult questions, but my friend always answered them. She discussed sex with her when questions were about sex. Violence. Spirituality. It made her think just as much as it made her daughter think. But... thinking can be a GOOD thing. ;-)
posted by thunder at 7:46 AM on June 11, 2001

from adbusters: Media Violence a Threat to Kids

"Imagine that the Surgeon General is presented with a series of studies on a widely distributed product. For 30 years well-controlled experiments have been showing that use of the product causes symptoms of a particular affliction. Many field surveys have shown that this affliction is always more common among people who use the product regularly. A smaller number of studies have examined the long-term effects of the product in different environments, and most have shown at least some evidence of harm, although it is difficult to disentangle effects of the product itself from the effects of factors that lead people to use it. Over all, the studies suggest that if a person with a 50% risk for the affliction uses the product, the risk rises to 60% or 70%. Furthermore, we have a fairly good understanding of how use of the product contributes to the affliction, which is persistent, difficult to cure, and sometimes lethal. The product is economically important, and its manufacturers spend large sums trying to disparage the scientific research. A few scientists who have never done any empirical work in the field regularly point out supposed flaws in the research and belittle its conclusions. The incidence of the affliction has increased dramatically since the product was first introduced. What should the Surgeon General do?

This description applies to the relationship between lung cancer and cigarettes. It also applies to the relationship between aggression and children's viewing of mass media violence. The Surgeon General has tightly come to the same conclusion in both cases and has issued similar warnings...."
posted by rebeccablood at 9:55 AM on June 11, 2001

For 30 years well-controlled experiments have been showing that use of the product causes symptoms of a particular affliction.

This is purest hogwash in terms of balanced reportage. There has been exactly no scientific consensus at all over this issue. And it is my opinion that comparing television--oops, mass media--to lung cancer is a disgusting load. (Disclaimer: I work in cancer research. So I may be touchy.)
posted by Skot at 10:19 AM on June 11, 2001

It's not the balanced reportage that makes it hogwash; it's the expressed parallel where none exists. How do you control for the other variables of raising a child so that influence of mass media can possibly be filtered out?

Well controlled studies my arse.
posted by norm at 11:24 AM on June 11, 2001

I am more than certain that violence in media can have an influence on violent behavior.

Causality isn't always transparent.

What I'm almost more worried about is that people do not seem convinced that talking with their children about these issues is a good thing. I mean, how can one with a sane mind doubt this?
posted by Tara at 3:03 PM on June 11, 2001

People don't like to talk to their children, in a lot of cases. They have gotten used to telling their children what to do without explaining why (which makes sense...trying to explain to a two year old why she shouldn't touch the stove will take time and probably won't work, so it's better if you establish that no means no and that the child is not to touch) and as the child grows and matures and becomes capable of understanding the reasons why, sometimes the parents become fixed in their ways and fail to realize that a dialogue is at last possible.

It's hard to realize your child, while still yours and always to some degree connected to you, is no longer as dependent on you to interpret the world. Grasping this fact, that your directives are now open to interpretation, is one of the challenges parents face, I suppose.

I've been thinking about becoming a parent a lot lately. Hopefully, it's still years away, and I have time to develop a good mix of tolerance and intractability, and learn when to use which.
posted by Ezrael at 3:37 PM on June 11, 2001

I think the damage is only done when parents tell kids not to do something, and then don't tell them why, "Because you wouldn't understand it", "Because I said so," or "Because that's what God says to do." Those three phrases alone cause more kids to rebel and do the exact things that their parents tell them to than any others I can think of.
posted by SpecialK at 5:33 PM on June 11, 2001

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