As I mentioned yesterday, immersion in media violence tends to cause individuals to develop “mean world syndrome”, to become desensitized to violence and/or to become more aggressive themselves.
Desensitization damages our sense of community. Individuals lose the ability to empathize with the victim. They develop the belief that violence is inevitable and do not protest or work against increasing levels of violence. More importantly, I think, individuals lose the ability to understand the consequences of violence. This latter component of desensitization contributes to a growth in violence, one of the most important contributors in my opinion. Lacking an appreciation of the consequences, violence becomes just another action. Violence can then be undertaken “lightly” because the outcome and the “other” are without consequence.
Watching violence increases aggression and violence less in a copy-cat sense, but more in the sense that values and attitudes begin to favor the use of aggression and violence to resolve conflicts. It is no longer an act of last resort but more of first retort.
To address violence, to decrease violent deaths and violence in our community, our approach must be multi-faceted. A singularly focused program/solution will be less than maximally effective. We need to limit or “balance” the violence in our media (that will be a tough one, violence “sells”). We need to address the “mean world syndrome”, paint a more realistic picture of violence in our communities while working to build the sense of community, the desire for community, the cohesiveness of community. We need to replicate (or develop) programs aimed at lessening the tolerance for violence, the teaching of the consequences of violence, the expansion of reaction choices beyond the choice of violence. The “solution” (and remember a solution is a mixture) is “messy”, not a neat and tidy single entity, but it is worth the effort—save a life, save a victim, limit suffering.