Mr. Fluster Bluster

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©1999
Isn’t it great that the US Senate has commissioned a study on the influence of violence in the media? Dr. Baehr explains why you shouldn’t get too excited.



In response to the killings at Columbine High School, the U.S. Senate ( whose mem­bers often remind us of Howdy Doody’s bombastic companion Mr. Bluster) has voted to direct the National Institute of Mental Health to do a study on the influence of violence in the media, particularly video games on susceptible youth. For many people, who forget the past, it might be advisable to remember that this has been the government’s reaction to concerns about the mass media for the last 75 years.

In the early 1920s, the government called for studies, and the entertainment industry reacted by forming the Motion Picture Distributor’s Association…to pretend to police itself. This MPDA sham worked until the late 1920s when there was another outcry, and more studies were conducted. In 1932, the industry actually took some cogent advice and started to work with the church’s film office. In the mid-1950s, studies were convened concerning comic books. In 1971, the Surgeon General’s Report collected 3,000 studies on media violence. From 1978 to 1979, the National Institute of Mental health was directed by Congress to collect even more studies on media violence. In the mid 1980s, the U.S. Attor­ney General collected studies on the influence of pornography.

Most of these studies and many other studies are described and cited in my book The Media-Wise Family. However, these studies on the effect of violence in the entertain­ment media have been conducted so often and the evidence is so overwhelming, that a UCLA poll in the early 1990s showed that 87% of the top executives in the entertainment industry believe that violence in the media influences children to commit violence! (In fact, the majority of them will not take their children to the movies they produce.) In light of all these studies, most knowledgeable media experts and educators–and the New York Times and the London Times–have stated that the evidence is irrefutable.

If the evidence is irrefutable, if close to 90% of the industry admits that entertainment can influence susceptible youths to commit violence, if the American people believe that the mass media of entertainment can influence people to commit violent acts, why commis­sion yet another study?

Perhaps, it is to dodge a bullet, put up a smoke screen, make a lot of noise, appear that you are doing something, pretend that the problem is being solved, address the effects and not the causes, and bluster your way through another problem.

Well, folks, it is time to wake up.

Just exploiting the problem is not going to solve the problem. Calling for studies is just going to waste time and bury the issue. Forming committees is just going to confuse and obfuscate. Holding up the three worst video games is just going to get kids to run out and buy them. Rating TV programs “M” for mature will only attract susceptible youths.

Wake up America! Don’t fall for this ruse!

Now is the time to call on your legislatures, the media companies and advertisers to do something, rather than persist in their codependant, symbiotic relationship.

Now is the time to reinstate the Motion Picture Code and to teach our children to be MEDIA-WISE. The future of America depends on it.

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