Without any numbers to back me up, I have heard, and I would like to think that despite some current and very mindful examples to the contrary, we are living in the least violent time in history and the trend is continuing.
I would also like to think that if any media is blamed for someone committing violent acts, then it means those criminals cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality. If the criminal cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, then media as a cause seems to be a spurious one and the violence was going to happen anyway.
However, there are those would say that there is a certain percentage of the population that are induced to violent behavior by violent media and therefore because of that percentage the media should be more tightly restricted or even banned. I feel this percentage is small and there is an overwhelmingly larger reciprocal percentage of the population that will not be induced to violent behavior by violent medial. As someone that can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, I would prefer not to be planed down to the level of the mentally unstable (who would mostly likely end up violent without exposure to the media) and have whole genres restricted (from me) or legislated away because of them.
As far as being desensitized to violence. I think we need to be more desensitized. Not to the point that we don't care or stop recognizing violence as something that is not good or and in some cases evil. But to the point we can deal with violence when it occurs in a more efficient (less knee jerk reactive) way because it does occur. I am not saying media violence does that either, but sometimes I feel like society is turning itself into the Eloi (for you HG Wells fans out there).
And don't even get me started on Wednesday's US Supreme Court Ruling against "Fleeting Expletives". Are we really such babies that even accidental swear words are now illegal and actionable? That is a little off the topic but still a little relevant, so I decided to vent.
Very good points David. I'm sure statistically the times must be erring towards less violent, but I think it feels as if the opposite is true as so much more is reported in the news and media. Crime dramas and violent films are not a cause, but could indeed prove a catalyst to an already disturbed mind...
Just to go on a slight tangent, isn't it weird that you can see the most violent and profane videos on youtube, but nothing deemed 'pornographic' such a flash of nipple? Just coming at it from an arts background where there's ample nudity in various media, it seems that the violent content would be a lot more damaging than anything that happens to contain nudity but isn't explicitly exploitative/porn...
Honestly, I have to take a slightly different stance here. Do I think the amount of violence in our media is helping? Not really no. That said, the old testament is filled with stories of killing and fucking which would make many modern movies sound tame, and until the last century the beating of children was seen as a cultural norm. So in all, exposure to real violence has sharply declined in the last century. That said I believe the primary ill of modern media to be that it gives a stylized and unrealistic view of violence. Firstly, when the media portrays the deaths of millions in the news, and in a brand new TV show 18 people are killed in the first episode, death on a large scale is easier for people to accept, it seems less gruesome, the idea of nuclear weapons or genocide isn't as big of a shock, and this is much more dangerous.
Also, violence touches every life at one time or another, and the stylized unrealistic way it is portrayed means that people are unprepared for it when they most need to be. I was once in the middle of a friendley exchange of insults in front of my coffee shop (the kind in which both guys are bored and just making jokes at the others expense and usually laugh about it and make up) when the other guy pulled a knife on me. Now, this guy has changed things from good-natured banter to life-death struggle in a second and doesn't even realize it. My first thought was that I needed to kill him before he had a chance to react (I believe I could have if necessary.) But honestly he was just a harmless guy who thought it would be cool to look tough and pull a knife like he'd seen on TV. So I told him I would hospitalize him if he didn't put the knife away, and he did. He wasn't a killer, or even a bad guy, he had seen stylized violence like pulling a knife to the point he thought nothing of it and didn't realize he was threatening someone's life. That is the problem I have with the violence in our media, it is portrayed as less serious than it actually is, and unrealistically, gun-fights go on for 30 min. and people are stabbed four times and then win anyway and are having sex later that night. Violence is a fact of life and always will be, but our culture's portrayal of it as a something easy and fun, is horribly harmful.
I think that we, or at least i am, are becoming desensitized to violence on television and the internet. I can pretty solidly state that i could watch a man's head get blown off on TV and not flinch, but im not sure i could say the same thing if it happened right in front of me in real life. Im not sure about how other people view TV. and Video games and what not but I guess in the back of my head i know their not real and stuff like that. Thats just the fictional stuff though, I can sit through the news and "shock videos" on the internet without any feeling, i may feel bad for the person being tormented or suffering but I guess you could say I am desensitized.
No, we don't live in a more violent world, we just live in a more media accessible world. We can now turn on the TV, or go on the internet and see live, pictures or videos of a tribe being murdered in africa, or 3 teens from europe killing a man with a screwdriver. The violence is just more publicized these days.