[VIEWPOINT]Violence in media - and in lifeMass media produce stars, and stars make news. Recently a popular comedienne made news after she became a victim of domestic violence, which is now a high-profile issue; newspapers and TV programs have started to cover the issue widely. The case can be a warning to our society about the prevalence of domestic violence and may give momentum to efforts to prevent it.
According to police statistics, domestic violence rose by 12 percent in 2002 over 2001. The total number of crimes increased by 8 percent during that year. Major crimes ― murder, burglary, theft, rape and violence ― also have increased.
In the past, crimes have been seen as an aberration of some specific individuals, but now we can witness such crimes often in the world around us. A recent report on a high school dropout who felt forced to sell his bodily organs to pay extortion to a teen gang made many parents worry about the safety of their children in their schools. What is worse, teenagers batter their friends at a birthday party or other kinds of celebrations, and the bizarre celebration behavior is getting more popular among juveniles. Now it seems that violence may become a part of festivities to them. Crimes related to credit card debts, regardless of the ages and social classes of the people involved, tell us that people are prone to regard violence as a solution or means to meet their needs.
What we think and how we act are closely connected with what we see and hear every day. Just as our tastes are gradually formed by foods that we eat more often, our consciousness and attitudes are nourished by the information we use more often. For this reason, industries that produce and distribute information are referred to as “consciousness industries.”
Many researchers have shown a close connection between social violence and media violence. Information about violence prods and enriches offensive propensities and lowers the social barriers to violence. As a result, if a person is more exposed to offensive information, he may express more violent attitudes and behavior. And the more ex-posed a person is to offensive information, the more pessimistic and gloomy he is inclined to be.
The research results show that there is some relation between violent actions and a pessimistic world view. In particular, teenagers who cannot distinguish reality from illusion show more such an inclination toward violence than others. The research tell us that we have to review our information environment first to understand the basis of social violence and to learn how to cope with the violence.
The degree of violence is high in our information environment by any criteria. Computer games that teenagers favor are offensive and violent. Online games are even more so. Over 90 percent of those games contain violent scenes such as massacres and explosions of bodies. Gamers favor the more violent play modes.
According to a 1999 survey, TV programs broadcast 1.7 violent scenes every 10 minutes. Violence against humans was in two-thirds of those scenes. Movies featuring violence are box office hits.
As we have seen, as the competition increases among mass media outlets, nudity and violence increase. How to cope with this kind of information environment is a societal task as well as an individual one. Our quality of life will differ according to the choices we make about the information we want to see and hear.
The mass media environment is getting extremely pro-vocative, and the importance of finding policies to control those provocations is increasing too.
* The writer is a professor of media information at Kyung Hee University.
by Lee Kyung-ja