Today’s Wall Street Journal reports on efforts by school districts to use new technology to secure themselves against a repeat of the 2012 tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed by a deranged shooter.
This stat from the article stood out for me: there are, on average, 19 active shooting situations in the U.S. today, more than double the average over the past decade.
I’m hearing a lot of ideas floating about these days on how to stem the alarming rise of violence in our country. Secure our schools. Arm teachers. Invest in brain health programs. Change gun laws. Tighten immigration policies.
I would like to add my own modest proposal to the list.
Boycott violent media.
Now I haven’t done a scientific study on the connection between violent media and violence in our society. Studies on that topic have been mixed. Some show a link. Some don’t.
But to me it’s just common sense. When I was growing up, we didn’t have psychopaths walking into schools and nightclubs armed with assault rifles, massacring innocent people.
We also didn’t have mass-media programs that routinely depicted violence against human beings by other human beings.
This was back before the Internet, of course. Back in the days when there was only a handful of television channels to choose from.
There were some programs back then that showed guns. I think for instance of The Lone Ranger and Gunsmoke.
But actual violence – people aiming and firing weapons at each other – was rare, bloodless, and generally done by good guys shooting bad guys in the leg while bringing them to justice.
Today, violence is 24/7. It’s on TV. It’s in movies. It’s in video games. It’s on the Internet. I see people pointing weapons at each other at 5 a.m. in the morning as I’m working out at the gym.
Today’s media violence is gruesome and gratuitous. It’s not a means to an end (good conquering evil). It is the end.
What’s that end? Quite simply, it’s to attract eyeballs.
The media business has always been a balance of power between content producers, the networks that distribute that content, and the companies that advertise on those network channels in the hopes of getting people to buy their products and services.
In the early days of media, the power was in the hands of the networks. Content producers and advertisers had limited options to show their stuff and reach consumers. The channel was more important than the content in drawing eyeballs and ad dollars.
In today’s age of omnipresent media, where the options for accessing and viewing content are virtually limitless, that balance of power has been flipped on its head.
Today, channel is cheap, content is king and advertisers are in the driver’s seat – so much so that networks have gotten into the game of producing their own content.
Networks and content producers are in an all-out war to attract the audiences needed to get limited advertising dollars.
To break through the clutter, media companies are constantly upping the ante of shock-and-awe content in their programming. They do that through sex and violence – a lot of it, depicted via gratuitous, over-the-top images intended to keep our overstimulated eyeballs riveted to that screen.
It’s only logical that all of the omnipresent, gratuitous violence that we experience through the media would spill over to our everyday lives.
We are what we consume. Whether food or violent media, what we take in through our senses and organs must be processed. It must go somewhere.
If we want healthy bodies, we consume healthy food. If we want healthy emotions, we think positive, healthy thoughts.
In the same way, if we want peace in our world and our communities, we must be very careful what media we choose to consume.
Now, I’m no philistine. I love technology as much as anybody. I’m not advocating that we turn back the clocks to the days before the Internet. That’s not feasible.
Rather, I’m advocating that we exercise our power as conscious consumers to shape the programming that we see in the media.
Yes, we do have power. We own the eyeballs that media producers and advertisers want to attract.
The reason violent shows and movies are on the media is because we watch them.
If we choose to turn our eyes away from gratuitously violent media, the audiences for those shows will shrivel and the advertisers will take their money elsewhere.
So I say – let’s stop looking to the government and other authorities for solutions to the violence epidemic in our world.
Let’s take matters into our own hands by boycotting violent media. I refer to any television show that depicts gratuitous violence involving someone wielding a weapon against someone else.
Stalker. Hannibal. The Walking Dead. Dexter. Sons of Anarchy. Criminal Minds. The Following. Scandal. Even excessively violent crime shows such as CSI and NCIS.
Turn them off. Violent video games and movies too.
We are more than just eyeballs to be manipulated by media networks hungry for ad dollars.
We are creators of our own destiny. Our own environments. Our own inner and outer peace.
Join with me to retake control of our environments by boycotting violent media.
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Image: Andre Cox