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We Are a Country Drenched in Bloodshed: Some Hard Truths About Violence in the Media

There are many causes of violence in our culture, but the least understood is the heavy influence of media.

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Time to Put TV Under Scrutiny

The ultimate trouble we face as a society is the powerlessness of most people in the face of corporate dominance. We lack responsive democratic institutions to leverage change in policy to make us less vulnerable to domination by corporate interests. The pervasive and accurate feelings that the political system is bought and sold, that most elected officials belong primarily to the "money party" or their "future million-dollar job" party in whatever industry they choose to specialize, leave many people in despair, and in some cases angry and violent. 

In a political system as out-of-whack as ours, where billionaires pour untold millions into elections to seal their outcomes, where corporations spend billions on lobbyists who promote their interests, building on citizen outrage and turning it into change is a difficult challenge. 

As Brodeur writes, over the past 40 years there were industries polluting our air, water and food, while the entertainment industry "increasingly poisoned children's cultural environment with violence carried by TV programs, movies and video games. While society agreed to regulate the pollution of air, water, food, governments have been unable to regulate use of violence in entertainment products for children."

The executives of a handful of big media conglomerates think they own the freedom of the press and it's their right to decide what will be aired to children (and adults) in the global market. Of course, not all TV is toxic; some of it's often inspiring, but a lot of it is the opposite. 

Still we have to face the music. We need to challenge our assumptions about why our society is so violent. Yes, there are many reasons, and it's often next to impossible to separate them, as they do feed on each other. But that is no excuse for not trying to address all of the causes and not spend all our political capital on gun control and fighting the NRA. There is no avoiding that violence in the media, for children and adults, which along with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is central to our society being drenched in violence.

Television, quintessentially American, may very well be our biggest culprit. Brandon Centerwall argues that research demonstrates "that crime rates more than double within 10 to 15 years of the introduction of television to any society." He points out that homicide doubled in the US after the introduction of TV in the 1950s and that the relationship is causal

It's time to take a closer look at the dark side of the ubiquitous and beloved television, and ask what television programming contributes to a very imperfect society. Is your TV making you less safe? 

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

Jan Frel is AlterNet's editor-at-large and associate publisher. 

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