Media Scapegoating?

Hi Digital Diary Followers

When issues arise in society it is very easy for us to fall into a “point the finger” culture and naturally it is usually the media who is scapegoated for our problems. Many people would be aware of the various negative media clichés that exist today. However when one delves deeper into the issue we find that there is, in fact, little reliable evidence to show what media actually does to us. (David Gauntlet, 1998) suggests this is because the media effects research has taken the wrong approach. Interestingly enough until I was actually asked to question this notion I readily accepted most of the assumptions written about the media.

An interesting point to consider is that we don’t take into account that many of these media effects tests take place in sterile, laboratory settings (Gauntlet, 1998). It is obvious that this would have a clear effect on the subject because they know they are undergoing testing. It also removes them from an environment in which normal media habits would take place therefor leading to unreliable results. It is also noticed that there is an outnumbering of small scale simple tests to large scale sociological studies meaning information consumed from the these small scale studies may not be as reliable because they were completed on a lower budget in limited time.

Another issue is that effects research often starts with media as the problem rather than looking at individual factors (Gauntlet, 1998). By looking closely at other issues such as family history, religion, peers, diet, location etc. it is often found that these are the issues which cause problems such as violence rather than the consumption of media. This can be seen particularly in the case of 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. Even before Seung-Hui Cho’s name had been realised several specialists had already presented video games as the underlying cause including Jack Thompson (Ferguson).

However the Virginia Tech Review Panel stated that:

“He was enrolled in a Tae Kwon Do program for awhile, watched TV, and played video games like Sonic the Hedgehog. None of the video games were war games or had violent themes”.

Cho also had a number of other underlying mental health problems and had undertaken stalking behaviour towards female students previously (Ferguson). By looking closer into the details it was obvious that the media was not to blame for this tragic event rather the individual traits of Cho.

So while the “media effects model” can provide us with some interesting conclusions we should not readily consume everything that it tells us. We need to look at the bigger picture instead of just jumping to assumptions and immediately blaming the media for our own  problems.


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