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July 1996, Week 5


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Chris Worsnop <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 09:09:44 -0400
text/plain (118 lines)
So maybe it's the weapons that kill people not the media. Or maybe it's none
of the above. Maybe it's people who kill people. (I know that's an NRA line,
and I don't subscribe to their rhetoric, but we have to consider all
Honestly, the only reason I posted the data from the Star was to try to
lighten up the whole debate, and perhaps add a touch of the ludicrouis to
what has become a very sedate and serious topic. (I obviously do not think
it worth while even considering that media representations make people
behave in any particular way at all.) The gun data makes it perfectly clear
that there are other things to be considered.
For instance, today's issue of the same newspaper has a lead story on  a
report that Canada's crime rate (particularly violent crime, including
homicide) has declined again in 1995 for the fourth year running.
>At 09:42 1996-07-30 -0400, Chris Worsnop quoted the following statistics
>from the Toronto Star, Sunday, July 28, 1996:
>> Japan (125 mil pop)       38 homicides by gun     (0.3 deaths per million
>> U.K.   (58 mil pop)       137                      2.3
>> Canada  (29 mil pop)      172                      5.9
>> Switzerland (6.9 mil)     96                       13.8
>> U.S.A.  (260 mil)         16,315                   62.5
>One would have to connect this figures with data on the availability of
>firearms or the preference for other lethal weapons in the respective
>countries. I hear that stabbing is much more popular in Japan than shooting
>(honestly, no joke intended).
>Two remarks on the recent introduction of Japanese screen/TV-violence.
>(1) First of all, the consideration whether and how the astonishingly low
>level of criminality (other than bank-frauds, as goes without saying:)) in
>Japan reminds me of a recent discussion on another mailing-list, i.e.
>whether the present, to some deplorable state of Japanese society on the
>whole is due to the decline of genuinely altruistic religions or not. It is,
>for instance, sometimes claimed that the fascination of the intelligentsia
>with Aum Shinrikyo would not have happened, had there been more genuine
>religious concern in Japanese society, or had there been more decent
>religious education in schools and universities. I usually argue against
>such claims by pointing out that one has to be more careful than that -
>first, the role and function of religion in society, its importance for
>public life and private morals has to be clarified, then, it may be possible
>to arrive on judgements. I think Ulf Dalquist (sp?) made a similar point
>when asking for more detailed considerations on the role of media/state of
>society (if I remember correctly, he wrote something along the lines of
>"heightened sense of social control") before jumping to conclusions on the
>interrelation between crime and on-screen violence. In both these
>discussions, violence and religion-decline induced social misery, it apears
>that people who are familiar with one segment of a certain foreign society
>(religion/media) tend to over-emphasize the influence of that segment on the
>state of that society on the whole. Religious studies people would blame
>religious matters, media studies people would blame/credit media-related
>matters for just about every societal phenomenon. Having said that, I would
>consider links between high percentage of on-screen violence and low
>crime-rate (what kind of crime, anyway? does bullying in schools count?)
>inconclusive in either way, before Japan can be adduced as evidence to prove
>either opinion.
>(2) From my TV-experience, I have come to notice that there is a genuine
>trend in Japanese game-shows to exploit loss and humiliation. A friend of a
>friend of mine works for a small provincial TV-station. Everybody there
>knows that she's afraid of heights. But she gets sent to climb a steep
>mountain, for a silly game-show. The woman is scared, but goes along with
>it, for fear of losing her job. She is properly secured, yet, because of her
>fear, she falls some times, hanging helplessly in the air. One camera is on
>her face all the time. When she finally makes it, she breaks down in tears
>of relief -the camera doesn't let go of her face one single second, and we
>are not so much lead to sympathize with the pityful woman, but rather forced
>to witness, like a researcher looks at the dissection of a mouse. A similar
>air of distanced curiousity for desaster and public humiliation can be seen
>in the present coverage of the Olympics. Japanese athletes are not doing
>very well, but instead of emphasizing the few medals they win (in order to
>instill a little more of that fighting spirit), the painful losses are shown
>over and over again. Certainly, humiliation and exploitation plays a part in
>American/European/... TV, too, but on the whole, I have come to think that
>American game-shows go for the winner rather than the loser, whereas here,
>losers definitely get more air-time. I am not sure how that can be related
>to violence/crime rates, but here it is, anyway.
>Birgit Kellner
>Department for Indian Philosophy
>University of Hiroshima
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Chris M. Worsnop
Consultant, speaker, workshop leader
Assessment, writing, media education
2400 Dundas Street West
Unit 6, Suite 107
Ontario, Canada
L5K 2R8
Email:  <[log in to unmask]>
Phone:  (905) 823-0975
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