Taking On Hollywood’s Ultra-Violence

April 30, 2007, 11:46 am


By Andrew L. Jaffee

Congress could regulate violence on cable, satellite and broadcast television without violating the First Amendment, the Federal Communications Commission said in a report released Wednesday. …

A correlation exists between bloodshed on television and violence in real life, the commission said.


While I’m not sanguine with censorship, Hollywood has shown no inclination to limit the amount of perversion it pumps out. The FCC report cited above “has alarmed executives in the broadcast and cable industries as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.” It has alarmed broadcast executives because they’re afraid they might make a few less million dollars; the ACLU doesn’t know what morality means. Are Americans concerned about Hollywood’s ultra-violence? Yes. Are U.S. citizens willing to do anything about it? Maybe. Are Americans sitting back and passively internalizing all the violence? Probably.

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A very recent Zogby poll found that, “nearly 80 percent of the nation feels that there is too much sex, violence, and coarse language in aired programs.” An SRBI Public Affairs poll from 2005 revealed that, “More than half of Americans say that there is too much violence (66%), cursing/sexual language (58%), sexual content (50%) and reality programming (65%) on broadcast television.”

Perhaps Americans were shocked to find that the Virginia Tech gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, was “inspired” at least partially by a “bloody South Korean movieā€¦ ‘Oldboy’.” Perhaps they’ve taken note of Tinsel Town pumping out garbage like Saw, acclaimed by Rue Morgue as a movie which “will make your skin crawl right off your bones!,” where the protagonist “decides to crush the bones in his foot with the toilet’s tank cover, so that he can slip out of the ankle cuff.” How about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – The Beginning, which treats viewers to a very graphic “night of sheer terror at the hands of a family of cannibalistic, inbred psychopaths?” Would you want your kids immersed in the video game Grand Theft Auto, where “you play an evil criminal who kills random folks for dishonorable people?” And then there’s Top Model’s beautiful corpses… perfect for your teenage daughter.

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Now, back to the question of whether U.S. citizens are willing to act on their concerns regarding Hollywood’s “artistry:”

However, most Americans would not ban this [violent/sexual/profane] content. …

A vast majority (94%) have never written to or called a television or radio station or government agency to complain about indecent content on broadcast TV.

And yet,

  • a majority (68%) say the entertainment industry and television producers are not “in touch” with their moral values.
  • a little more than half (53%) believe the FCC should be stricter in controlling the amount of sex and violence on television

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Well, if the majority rules, then the FCC is right on target:

Concluding that “exposure to violent programming can be harmful to children,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wrote in a statement accompanying the report that “Congress could provide parents more tools to limit their children’s exposure to violent programming in a constitutional way.”

Among those tools, Congress could require cable companies to sell their programming on a per-channel or family tier basis, rather than only in pre-bundled packages.

As for broadcast television, the report cites Supreme Court precedent to suggest the agency could regulate violent programming much as it regulates sexual content and profanity, by barring it from being aired during hours when children may be watching. Or it could create a family-viewing hour.

It also says that technology intended to help parents shield their children from objectionable programming, such as the V-chip, is inadequate.

The report indicates that Congress could develop a definition of excessively violent programming but that such language “needs to be narrowly tailored in conformance with judicial precedent.”

I don’t know about you, but it seems rather obvious to me that indulging in violence — virtually — is bad karma. How can people indulge in graphic violence “vicariously” without becoming obsessed with — at least desensitized to — that same violence? Can you sleep with — screw — the devil without getting pregnant with demon-seed? Can you get half-way pregnant with his demon-seed? People are not only vicariously viewing violence, in stadium seating with Dolby Surround-Sound no less, they are now active participants in all manner of horrors via video games. Many video games sport software and hardware that makes the participants’ experience more real, with sounds, images, and devices which provide sensory touch/feel feedback. What divides virtual reality from reality?

It was the great Roman thinker Marcus Aurelius who said:

A man’s life is what thoughts make of it.

Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. …

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. …

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. …

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

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Buddha, the Prince of Peace, taught the Eightfold Path, requiring Right Thought, which told us to shun all imaginings of ill will, harm, or violence. The great Bhagavad Gita urges:

The serenity of mind, gentleness, equanimity, self-control, and the purity of thought — these are called the austerity of thought.

The Vedas cry:

Let noble thoughts come to us from everywhere.

Am I advocating some type of absolute, extreme pacifism? Of course not. I’d be a hypocrite if I did. Remember that even Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.

By forgetting history, we are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. The Maya and Aztecs doomed themselves by indulging in ultra-violence. So did the Romans by entertaining themselves with the blood-sport of the Coliseum and Circus Maximus.

Censorship is not needed. Common sense is. What the heck are parents doing buying violent video games for their kids, thus subsidizing the violence industry? Why are people seeking “entertainment” by watching perverted movies, putting millions into Hollywood’s coffers? If there’s no demand for violent entertainment, then it won’t be produced. That’s simple supply and demand, and a directive for our society to examine the violent path it seems to have chosen to walk down. I do not advocate censoring anything. I endorse a simple concept taught by the great Martin Luther King, Jr. himself:

The non-violent resister must often express his protest through non-cooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that non-cooperation and boycotts are not ends in themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent.

Whatever your thoughts and feelings are about Hollywood’s ultra-violence, get involved:

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