knowl124: October 2011 Archives

"Violence Vanquished"

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My dad often finds articles in the newspaper or magazines that he thinks I will be interested in and sends them to me so we can later discuss. This week I received an article titled "Violence Vanquished" from the Wall Street Journal (link to the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904106704576583203589408180.html?KEYWORDS=violence+vanquished) written by Harvard Psychology Professor, Steven Pinker. Pinker explains how, although it often does not seem this way, the amount of violence in our world as drastically decreased, with comparisons being drawn as little as decades ago.
Most of the article (adapted from his book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined)is dedicated to specific statistics proving Pinker's claim, however, the part that most interested me was his speculation and analysis towards the end of why violence has declined and poses the question, "Is it because violence has literally been bred out of us, leaving us more peaceful by nature?". Pinker says that it's very unlikely and I certainly agree. As Pinker mentions, children still have to be taught to not bite, kick and injure their friends simply over disagreement. People who have no neurological disorders still are capable of committing horrendous crimes due simply to anger or jealousy. But it is no longer exactly beneficial to be violent. As Pinker says, "Violence is often reframed as a problem to be solved rather than as a contest to be won," and one should have no trouble brainstorming the numerous groups and movements against violence including the Civil Rights Movement, groups like GSA and more recently school-wide as well as governmental attempts at curbing cyber-bullying. The article is definitely worth a read to understand our other solutions (purposeful or accidental) to violence including democracy, international relations, technology to help us be more aware of other cultures. I wanted to conclude my blog post with a connection to my previous entry about reality TV.
Television, especially reality television, is very often linked to violence in youth or throughout society. I wonder though if the argument couldn't be made, looking at the clear facts that violence has decreased even in the past decade, that although we do witness this public violence in high quantities, maybe it's more of a release for us normal citizens. I feel like it is pretty likely that someone would feel angrier after watching their favorite sports team lose than seeing a fight on "Jersey Shore" (which, really, and perhaps disturbingly, is meant more to illicit humor). Maybe I'm wrong but I know that I often just see people fighting on TV, whether it's on "Dr. Phil" or "The Real World" and find myself feeling embarrassed for the arguers and thinking how I hope to never catch myself behaving like them.

More on Reality TV...

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I was spurred to write this post in response to blog posts by smit6600 and dingm052 both pertaining to reality television and its effects on viewers. Currently I am enrolled in a Cultural Studies class called "On TV" in which we investigate how television influences society and vice-versa as well as how meaning is created by shows, etc. One of the first things we've discussed is how, in fact, very little about TV is "real" anymore.
Smit6600 says that they don't believe their behaviors are affected by these shows because they don't 'idolize the characters or anything' they're just interested in the drama. This may be true for them but I'd argue that reality TV's impact on society is possibly more powerful (and perhaps more subliminal) than we first perceive. For example, think of all the Jersey Shore Parties you've been invited to, the slang (DTF, smush, guido) that has become so popular from the show. Clearly we know The Jersey Shore cast is wild and out-there and most of us would say we watch purely to enjoy their crazy antics but, I mean, there must be something in us that does actually admire something about them. Another extreme example comes from the influence of MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, shows that have unintentionally glamorized teen pregnancy when I'm sure their intention was to do just the opposite. Personally, I don't see the appeal but these shows combined with movies like Juno may have been part of the encouragement for many "pregnancy pacts" throughout the nation.
Basically, I agree with dingm052 that reality TV isn't going to necessarily make you less intelligent, it's just likely to influence behaviors and possibly relate to some bad decisions made by college students and confused teens. Frankly, I believe that all television is pretty constructed- even news shows. Like on The Today Show when the reporter wanted to make some flood look worse than it was but gets busted by two guys just casually walking in front of her canoe (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgm3_jzcNm4&feature=related).
One last thought on the subject- I know that the prevalence of some of my friends smoking is due to our love of the show Mad Men in which there is hardly a scene where someone isn't lighting up. As stated by my friend Tyler, "Don Draper just makes smoking look so cool." Although Jon Hamm (the actor who plays Draper) has responded in an interview when asked if the cast smokes real cigarettes, "Some people do, but not to the extent that we smoke the fake ones or else we'd all be dead." Anyway, people just need to be mindful of what they're taking in when they watch TV but I'm not into any conspiracy theory like it will significantly change your life.

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