Reflections on violence in the media
By Keating Smith, Staff Writer
“The cops are so weak in this game,” remarks my 10-year-old nephew while playing his latest video game, Bioshock Infinite. This same member of the household was sent home early from school a few weeks ago after he and a friend re-enacted a level in another violent video game and made threats of bodily harm to a young girl at their school.
Over the past several months, the significant amount of violence I’ve been exposed to through various mediums has left a more than typically negative impression on me; one that I am now beginning to question. While the discussions and debates on how the media portrays violence to the masses is an exhausted topic, what seems to be a recurring trend in our generation is that we can’t differentiate between acts of violence.
What’s the result? Young men walk into theatres, malls, and elementary schools armed to the teeth with semi-automatic assault rifles and carry out horrifying acts of violence on innocent people. The result is gun control advocates and activists screaming their anger and outrage to the federal government, which results in the exhausted President of the United States holding yet another press release where he states how his administration will prevent this from happening again.
This is not something new, and we were exposed to these tragedies on what seemed to be a monthly—sometimes weekly—basis in 2012.
While Helen O’ Neill, a journalist for the Associated Press, dubbed 2012 the “Year of the Gun,” she also found that mass shootings are becoming less common in American society than they were during the early half of the 20th century. This is not to contradict the fact that we’re becoming so accustomed to stories of mass shootings that we now consider them to be mundane, but to emphasize how conditioned we’re becoming to violence in the media.
The same can also be said for the ways that military operations are carried out—particularly with the use of drone technology by the United States. The advantages of using an unmanned aircraft to carry out a strike on a Taliban cell in the tribal regions of Afghanistan may outweigh the disadvantages of sending a soldier in to carry out this operation. However, the person behind the controls of this drone may be sitting in Nevada at a military base using something reminiscent to a Xbox controller to carry out the operation. Again, this is a complete disassociation from being exposed first-hand to “real” violence, and is more than likely carried out by a young serviceman in the US military—who may have spent years in his bedroom playing video games before enlisting in the military.
If we’re taught from a young age that life is precious and that harming others is bad, then why do we feel we can shrug off mass shootings seen in the mainstream media, or relate them to the fictional deaths of dozens of people we see in entertainment media?
My final points I would like to leave off with are these: have you ever had to deal with a traumatic death in your life? Have you ever shot a gun before? If so, have you ever killed a large animal? If you have answered no to any of these questions, then why are you cheering on the brutal and unrealistic death of the antagonist in a movie, or feeling relief and accomplishment when you successfully beat a violent video game?