[Letters] Some thoughts on media violence

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[Letters] Some thoughts on media violence

“Post hoc ergo propter hoc,” which translates to “after this, therefore because of this,” is a logical fallacy with a simple meaning: if two things happen chronologically, it does not mean that the first caused the second. Although this is a relatively simple concept, it seems lost when dealing with media violence and children.

Blaming violent media for exposing children to violence, for instance, has become more strenuous than ever since the advent of television, Internet and most notably the video game industry. Those who support this view claim that the gory graphics have played a major role in the brutal shootings, such as the Columbine massacre and the Washington sniper incident. But the matter is not so simple. Many say that the methods and theories applied in the research linking media violence to adolescent aggression are inefficient. I agree and believe a more thorough investigation is needed to verify the link between media violence and adolescent behavior.

Those who support the link say that media violence causes an increase in aggression. The problem is that no one can conclude with confidence that they are truly linked. The most solid research studies and statistics that support this are based on testimonies or witness records of juvenile crimes and violence. The 17-year-old boy involved in the Washington sniper incident was claimed to have been “trained” to kill without hesitation by playing the 3-D shooting game “Doom,” yet studies conducted by major institutions, such as the Harvard Medical Center and The British Medical Journal, have concluded that societal media consumption and violent crime rates have failed to show direct correlation.

Critics have gone a step further saying that only a handful of the many research studies conducted in the past have been able to use standardized and reliable measures that would make the tests valid. Probably the most reliable method would be to observe the behavior of the children over a number of years after exposing them to media violence, but that would bring up moral issues, just like medical tests that look for exact association between lung cancer and smoking.

Another reason why we should be careful in judging the consequences of media violence is that there could be other factors that give birth to youth violence. Many youngsters who have been involved in violent crimes had indeed been exposed to media violence, but they also had a number of other traumas. In order to solidly conclude that media violence is the crucial component of youth crimes and violence, researchers must show that these factors are external variables - something they have been trying for decades but have failed to clearly analyze.

It is a rather hasty conclusion to confirm that a link exists between media violence and real-life violence. The so-called “media violence” has been with us ever since the ancient Greeks wrote about brutal plays and the Romans built the Colosseum. It is a rather startling fact that the highest homicide rate in the history of the U.S. occurred during the Great Depression, not when “Grand Theft Auto” was released. Unless there are research studies that come up with ways to complement their analysis, or to figure out why they cannot explain a distinctive relationship between violent media consumption and crime rates, the subject will always remain controversial.

Kang Jae-yoon,

a student at Daewon Foreign Language High School
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