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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Essay on Mass Media Bias

Mass media refers to the tools used to transfer and transmit information, concepts and ideas to general and specific audiences.  Presently, the examples of mass media are televisions, movies, internet, books, newspapers, magazines, and radio.  Because the mass media has the capacity to reach out to millions of people at the same time, it has been considered very useful especially in terms of information dissemination and public education.   Indeed, there is no other tool that has been as effective as the mass media in educating and informing the public.          However, the mass media can also be a tool for misinformation.  Because the mass media has established itself as a force in today’s society it has started to abuse this power such that it has been guilty of mis-educating the public.  The abuse of this power has been recognized in this society that mass media’s role in misinformation and mis-education are no longer being debated.  Rather, what is being debated nowadays is the effect and impact of mass media’s bias on the society. 
It is my argument that because of the need of the different companies that run the mass media to get ahead of competition they have started to highlight anything that involves sex or violence.  It is as if the companies operating these different forms of mass media are saying that the different incidences of violence are ordinary part of life.  Indeed, the mass media has become biased in portraying the actual events in our society in view of the need to be competitive. The bias in mass media can be seen in the shows appearing on television and the news being shown in local television. 

For instance, the mass media is known to portray excessive violence.  In view of this, the American Psychological Association has passed a resolution saying that mass media’s bias in portraying the level of violence in today’s society has escalated to unparalleled proportions. (“Violence in Mass Media”, 1) According to the American Psychological Association, the level of violence portrayed in television, film, and video has escalated markedly and that a great majority of research has found a relation between viewing mass media violence and behaving aggressively.  The American Psychological Association even cited as basis the research that viewing mass media violence leads to increases in aggressive attitudes, values, and behavior, particularly in children, and has a long-lasting effect on behavior and personality, including criminal behavior. (“Violence in Mass Media”, 1)

There are various examples of mass media bias in today’s society.  If a person starts to watch the regular shows being shown on television one can see how violence is being portrayed.  It is as if the mass media is saying that violence happens on a daily basis.  One of the examples of these television shows was the very famous Three Stooges.  The Three Stooges is perhaps one of the most famous shows on television.  Though it was intended for viewing of children, it depicts gross violence in its shows.  In fact, the three main characters regularly and monotonously exhibit slapping, poking, pinching and hitting each other as if it is a normal behavior for individuals to perform these acts.  The show is basically about violence that is “celebrated, continuously and joyously celebrated and reveled in.” (Andrew Horton 174) In fact, the depiction of violence is so outrageous and absurd that the shows exclusively focus on showing violence to its viewers.  It does not depict any social message. Human behavior, however, is far from the shows being depicted by the Three Stooges. 

A study was conducted by the National Television Violence Study from 1994 and 1997 on the programming on television.  It found that nearly 2 out of 3 TV programs contained explicit violence with the violent acts averaging around 6 acts per hour. (“TV Violence” 1)  It also found that fewer than 5% of the regular television programs featured an anti-violence theme or positive social message. (“TV Violence” 1)  Violence was also found to be widespread in children shows that in other types of programming.  It also found that the average child who watches 2 hours of cartoons a day may see nearly 10,000 violent incidents each year. (“TV Violence” 1) It must be stressed that violence is not only being shown in the television or movies but even in the news. 

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In the past years, local news has become filled with violence and suffering.  Moreover, in the desire of the local television stations to get the highest rating they emphasize brutal crime and sensational depictions of news events on television.  It is also noticeable that violent crimes are one of the most covered topics in local news. (Juliette H. Walma 1771)  For instance, incidents of shootings in schools, the violence in Iraq, the attack against the World Trade Center, hostage crisis in various parts of the country and terrorist events in different parts of the world have all been given extra attention by the local news.  In the past years, the news has highlighted the level of violence in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The news footages that are being shown involve scenes which are clearly not appropriate for children and even for some adults.  The explicit depiction of violence may confuse, frighten and even traumatize children. 

While it is true that there was conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is not true that the gunfights and explosions take place on a daily basis.  In fact, the people in Iraq and Afghanistan are still able to perform their regular routines such as going to school or to work.  If there is violence in Iraq and Afghanistan it is only confined to certain territories therein. 

The impact of excessive depiction of violence in the news has given rise to a new condition called the elderly fear of crime which emphasizes that the harmful effect is not limited only to children but even for adults.  The elderly fear of crime is the situation wherein adults have an intense and pervasive but unrealistic fear that they will be victimized by crime.  The fear is the primary reason why more adults are refusing to leave their homes insisting that they will be victimized by crime as soon as they leave their home.  One of the reasons for the unrealistic fear is the mass media which sensationalizes news about adults being victimized by crime (Dominic Casciani, 2009, p.1).  Though there are instances wherein adults are victimized by crime, it is not as widespread as the newspapers report it to be.  Consequently, the news scares them and makes them feel that the lawless elements are targeting the adults. 

There are many ways to alleviate the elderly fear of crime.  First, they must be convinced that the government is exerting efforts to prevent crime.  This can be done by ensuring police visibility.  There must be police cars roaming the streets even at night.  Second, there should be better lighting so that adults who eyesight is poor can still walk around even at night.  Moreover, even if lawless elements decide to target them the elderly know that other people can see them and give assistance to them when they scream for help.

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