Jeff McCall

Jeff McCall

The nation struggles with how to address the presence of violence in culture. People discuss gun laws, policing and mental health support. Citizens are protesting and gathering at government buildings to demand action.

As the opponents of violence activate, they should make sure to demonstrate in front of the big corporate media towers in which decisions are made to saturate American culture with violent content.

The big media industry has fattened itself financially by infusing entertainment, and even news content, with gratuitous, sensational and gross violence. Broadcast television, cable channels, movies, video games and web sites deluge society with images of blood and gore.

Viewers share the blame for being unaware of the dangers of absorbing mediated violence. More viewers should simply reject content that floods society with weapons and blood. The corporations that profit from the violence, however, have shown no cultural leadership and are happy to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

It has been said a society defines itself by the stories it tells. The video/film industry now creates most of society’s stories. The media serve as culture creators. Sadly, the media overwhelm the roles of family, school and church in the lives of many people, particularly young Americans.

Media executives deny the negative influences of their own programming, but the question is not whether mediated messages affect culture, rather it is how and how much. Advertisers wouldn’t spend billions on television advertising if viewers couldn’t be influenced through the messaging of electronic media.

None of this discussion is to suggest that watching a movie or playing a violent video game prompts someone to go on a shooting rampage. The creation of a society, however, in which violence surrounds impressionable minds must raise concerns.

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Television news coverage of real-life violence is delivered in an emotion-driven, exploitive fashion that helps shock the nation but insufficiently informs the nation. Local newscasts fill up to a third of air time with shootings and other “cop shop” news, absent context or solutions.

Activists who seek to reduce violence in society should consider that fixing gun laws and mental health procedures could be of limited consequence if the culture continues to swim in a sea of mediated violence. That violent culture is fueled by media giants such as Viacom, Comcast, Disney, Fox Entertainment and Time Warner.

These corporations have glorified violence across multiple media platforms and made tons of money in doing so.

In the wake of the Florida shooting, various corporations have severed ties with the National Rifle Association.

It will take a multi-faceted and prolonged effort to fix the nation’s cultural ills.

It’s time to paint the placards and schedule the demonstrations in front of those media corporate headquarters.

Jeffrey M. McCall is a professor of communication at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and author of Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences. Contact him at jeffmccall@depauw.edu. The opinions are the writer's.


Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.