Maybe the violence depicted in movies and books is not so gratuitous after all, despite the charges one often hears. There's now this interesting study:

"Perhaps depictions of violence that are perceived as meaningful, moving and thought-provoking can foster empathy with victims, admiration for acts of courage and moral beauty in the face of violence, or self-reflection with regard to violent impulses..."

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I think writers choose violence at least partially because it is very macho, and many male readers demand such books. They sell better than the thoughtful ones, probably because the solutions to the problems are simple.

Now see, when you attack the NRA I'm with you, Jude. But to me, the NRA puts the guns into the hands of those who have learned violence from parents, siblings, neighbors, games, and movies. Books aren't quite as responsible since I have a notion that most criminals don't read. But mentally disturbed people do read.

So, people make decisions in their lives based on how they feel and fiction is one of the ways people get those feelings. Operating on an emotional level is pretty much the point of fiction.

Really? People make decisions about their lives based on what happens in novels? I'm not being disingenuous. I really didn't know that. Sounds pretty incredible.

I can't speak for anyone else, I guess, but I can tell you that I don't behave any differently after reading a novel or watching a movie. So maybe it's just me.

I can't speak for anyone else, I guess, but I can tell you that I don't behave any differently after reading a novel or watching a movie. So maybe it's just me.

Not after one, Jude, no. But some people feel novels like Uncle Tom's Cabin or To Kill a Mockingbird or a few things by Dickens have had an effect on their outlook.

There's a reason why totalitarin states want to control the dissemination of ideas and fiction is one way ideas are disseminated. There's a reason the US government put ten Hollywood script writers in jail and blacklisted hundreds of others (sorry, nine writers and one director).

I really didn't know that. Sounds pretty incredible.

Now you're just messing with me, right? ;)



Back in the 50s, when we were practicing A-bomb attacks by hiding under our school desks once a month, a lot of Americans found communism frightening. And didn't Sen McCarthy do exactly the same thing you're suggesting? Using fear to control or temper something (violence as opposed to commies) in our media?

And didn't Sen McCarthy do exactly the same thing you're suggesting?

Yes, McCarthy used lies to control people through fear. He turned people against one another. But communism was never a real threat in America, McCarthy didn't really have a list with hundreds of names of communist spies out to destroy America (sometimes it seems strange how you Americans see yourself as so vulnerable, you should see what you look like from the outside sometime ;).

Your question was, do we think violence is rampant, not is violence rampant and I think that the excessive use of violence in our fiction does make it seem like there is more violence, or more threats of violence, than there really is. I'm counting TV and movies and video games - so much of them revolve around violence.

Fictional violence usually has to make some kind of sense in a story - real violence is often senseless (or insane, like mass shootings).

I don't really care personally, but as a reader and movie watcher it usually doesn't work for me.


But communism was never a real threat in America

John, I do not think you understand what the world was like during World War II and after in the 1950s. FEAR ruled. Communism was a big threat, the leader of Russia telling America he would bury us, building better missiles than us, orbiting the earth with satellites, building launch pads in Cuba and trying to install nukes 90 miles from America (like we did to them in Turkey). War was in the air every freaking day in the late 50s. I can't believe you think the threat was in our minds.

You must be Canadian. :)

War was in the air every freaking day in the late 50s. I can't believe you think the threat was in our minds.

No, the threat was real (well, as it turns out the Russians were not nearly as well armed as they claimed, but that wasn't known then), I just don't think there were really thousands of Americans working as spies for the Russians.

So I think you're right, the same way the real threat of communism was manipulated for certain effects then, the real threat of random (or ever-increasing) violence is sometimes manipulated now. Mostly, of course, it's unintentional and sort of bandwagon jumping. All I'm saying, really, is that if we don't question it and try to get to the truth, if we just follow along, what effect does it have? (I was going to make a "we're just following (subtle) orders," joke, but I can't make it work right now. Maybe I'll get it later... ;)


I agree. We need answers. Violence is an ugly problem.

The fact that most people don't kill doesn't make killings acceptable.

Huh? Your logic escapes me.

Nothing makes a random act of violence acceptable. That's not even part of the discussion. You're trying to say that there's a cause and effect relationship between violence in the media and violence in real life, but there's no scientific evidence to back that up. Saying it a bunch of times doesn't make it true. And, even if it were shown that every violent criminal in the world has a history of watching violent movies and playing violent video games, that wouldn't make it true either. You could just as well make the point that they were all exposed to automotive exhausts when they were babies, and that the carbon monoxide affected their thought processes. There's no science behind it, but you could say it, ignoring the fact that 99.9% of the people exposed to the same toxin wouldn't hurt a fly.

The 1 % are enough. Toxic writing affects those who have no defenses against it. Think about it. In the end those may be very few people, but if those few collect a huge arms cache, they can kill a lot of small children, movie goers, fellow students, or anyone in a crowded place.

The 1 % are enough.


But that's not what I meant. Not at all. In my hypothetical example, the entire population has been exposed to carbon monoxide, and 0.1 % of the population has unusual thought processes. That would lead to the conclusion that carbon monoxide is almost certainly NOT the cause unusual thought processes. In anyone. The same way that violence in the media does not cause violent behavior. In anyone.

There has been extreme violence throughout history, before books, before movies, before video games, and there will continue to be extreme violence even if those media are censored.

And surely you're not suggesting that censorship is the answer. To anything.

And again, if violent media cause violent behavior, why is Japan's murder rate per capita one tenth of what ours is? Their media are just as violent as ours, or more so, yet there is far less violent crime in Japan than there is in the United States. Kind of blows your theory right out of the water, doesn't it?


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