With so many mass murders by individuals, perhaps there is a common explanation, like popular culture

NCOSE Press Statement logo


NEW YORK (December 10, 2007) – Morality in Media President Robert Peters had the following comments in response to latest mass murder in Omaha:

“What might be called ‘mass murder by individuals’ is, of course, not a new phenomena in human history. What is new in the United States is the regularity with which it now takes place. As noted by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, mass murder by individuals includes ‘killers of family, of coworkers, of students, and of random strangers.’

“Many place the primary blame on the availability of guns, and there is no doubt that guns are the weapon of choice of most individual mass murderers. But in many parts of our nation, guns have always been readily available, unaccompanied by mass murder by anyone.

“Guns are also the weapon of choice in the entertainment media, which includes films, TV programs, rap lyrics and video games. A week never goes by that I don’t see at least one advertisement for a film or TV program or videogame that prominently depicts one or more individuals who are carrying, pointing or shooting one or more guns.

“Use of guns in the media, of course, is not a new phenomena. In the 1950s and 1960s, guns were popular in both films and TV programs that depicted war, the Wild West, police work and a wide variety of heinous crimes, including organized crime.

“Back then, however, there were standards that guided how violence was depicted in the media. For example, among the film industry Hays Code provisions was one that regulated the depiction of murder. Murder was to be presented in a way that would not inspire imitation. Brutal killings were not to be presented in detail. Revenge was not to be justified.

“I recall reading that the TV program ‘Untouchables’ broke new ground in depicting deadly violence, but I don’t recall anyone wanting to be Al Capone. Kids wanted to be G-Men.

“America also had what some call a ‘civil religion’ that taught and reinforced at all levels of society a simple commandment, ‘You shall not commit murder.’ “Today, films and other media glamorize murder and revenge and present it in the most detailed, sadistic manner possible. More often than not, media also portrays religion in a negative light.

“Problems at home, problems at school, problems at work, problems with girl and boyfriends, difficulty getting along with other people in general and mental illness are nothing new, and cannot be the primary explanation for mass murders by so many minors and adults.

“Parents, schools, religious institutions and government have all changed over the decades, but none are saying that it is OK to kill because you have been wronged or are unhappy.

“Only in the entertainment media is the worst of human behavior depicted ‘non-judgmentally’ or even worse, glamorized and promoted.

“There is a saying, ‘You reap what you sow,’ and the American people are reaping what the entertainment media have sowed and we have bought for more than forty years.”

Based in New York City, Morality in Media works to promote standards of decency in media.

Author: MIM   12/10/2007

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