Monday, January 28, 2013

Does Television Encourage Killing?

I'm confused. There has been a lot of talk lately about the violence in computer games and whether or not that is generating murderous behavior. I don't play the kind of computer games that are under scrutiny but, after seeing a news story about combat computer games the other night, I couldn't help but wonder if computer gaming was the only problem. That news story was followed by a trailer for American Asylum.  The trailer graphically showed people being tortured. And that's hardly the only truly violent program.  How about Kevin Bacon's new series?  The trailers for that made my skin crawl.

Is violence on television less harmful than that depicted in computer games? Is there less impact because we don't "pull" the trigger ourselves?

It appears that many of our mass killers are teens and young adults.  We already know that by playing computers they develop incredible hand-eye coordination. But what else is created by those hours of "practice?" Perhaps a deadened sense of remorse or compassion? And does that apply to television? 

If we produce and promote violent television, are we somehow giving approval to the kind of behavior depicted in the programming? Are we saying that is OK because we depict killers who get away with it?

Since Cain killed Abel, humans have killed one another. I don't know many soldiers or law enforcement officers who felt good about killing, even when it was truly justified. Usually there were grave consequences, both moral and legal, to killing. What are the results when that isn't shown to happen? If the viewer does not see consequence to killing, what prevents that person from doing it themselves?

Does violence on television beget violence in real life? Or does it merely reflect the kind of society we've become? It's an old argument. Perhaps, at some point, it doesn't make any difference because it is a "chicken or the egg" situation.

So let's go ahead and have the discussion about computer games. But let's not ignore the elephant in the room - television.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Talking Heads Don't Say Much

This blog is about communication and I usually stay well away from political commentary.  There are plenty of well-paid talking heads to get you all fired up about politics.  And that is exactly my point for today.

As I've said before, the danger of talking about anything political these days is that there is a lot of talking going on with little communication taking place. Sadly, I see that happening again.

All of us should remember that no matter what the topic, the folks on television and radio earn incredible salaries by making sure the ratings stay high. The more controversial and the more outrageous their statements, the more viewers and listeners they attract and, subsequently, the more advertising dollars are generated. Remember - television and radio are businesses.  Making money is what they are supposed to do.

Think everything you hear is the truth? Maybe. Maybe not. You have absolutely no way of knowing how these people vote in the privacy of the voting booth. Talking about issues is their job. They get paid based on how well they do that job and ratings are the measure.  Keeping viewers and listeners emotional about a topic maintains ratings. So, regardless of the topic, no matter how simple the issue, there can be no agreement or compromise from the talking heads because, if that happens, there is nothing to rant about.  Ergo - no viewers or listeners, no big paychecks, no fat bottom line and no gigantic corporate bonuses.

So, as yet another battle rages on our airwaves, please step back long enough to hear what is being said. Some of it is very strange indeed; it makes no sense at all no matter what side of the issue you stand on. 

What we are hearing is not communication. It is noise.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Say Happy New Year and Mean It

I took a couple of weeks off to recover from a bad cold (the flu perhaps?) and to enjoy the holidays. Now it is a new year and I got to thinking about what we all mean when we wish one another a happy one.

Certainly happiness is the cardinal desire of all of us. We wish it for ourselves and probably harbor some hope that if we wish it for others, the goodwill will somehow influence the kind of year we will experience. These past couple of years have been tough on a lot of people. Sadly, I know too many who lost their jobs and/or their homes. In some cases, friends lost their parents and even their health. Many of us are connected in some way to the horrific losses suffered by those who went through Hurricane Sandy.  So when I wish folks a happy new year, I am really saying that I hope 2013 is a lot better than 2012.  You probably feel the same way.

A recent PBS program segment about happiness (Learn more about it here.) was on This Emotional Life and I happened to catch it while taking down the holiday decorations. The general consensus was that happiness is a choice. We can decide to be happier by concentrating on the good things.  Sound overly simplistic? Many think so however there is evidence that positive psychology can help improve emotional outlook. And when we are in a better place emotionally, we may be better equipped to deal with whatever Life throws at us.

The program spoke to people with real problems and examined their responses to their difficulties.  As their stories progressed, we saw the subjects gradually feel better about themselves and their circumstances by changing their focus from what was wrong in their lives to what was right. Through various means including counseling and forgiveness training, they moved through their grief or anger. This is not cure for cancer, although the patient said she felt emotional relief, but it might have helped one man find a job. No one wants to hire a grump.

So I am wishing you a happy new year and meaning every word of it.  May you find a long list of things to celebrate and may your 2013 be a very good year for you indeed.