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Paul Schierling

Prof. Padgett
ENGL 102: Rhetoric and Composition
30 April 2016
How has media sensationalizing increased the amount of violence?
On Friday the 13th of November 2015, a series of bombing took place in Paris, France
suburbs, killing, 130 and leaving 100 in critical condition (BBC). Following this tragedy was
weeks of media attention focusing on the lost innocent live, speculating on the cause, and
overwhelming the public with terror. Only a few months later was a similar attack in Brussels,
Belgium by a similar terrorist organization. As the rate of violent media published through news
networks, movies, and video games increases, the rate of violent atrocities with motives of
inciting terror increases. A positive correlation though does not always mean causation. The
impact of media on behavior is best assessed through the psychological power major new
networks, films, and video games play in society. Commercial news today finds itself falling
into a pattern of sensationalizing acts of terror, in order to grab the eye of the reading, which
leads to increased profit and brand recognition. Movie and video game violence is becoming
more popular among the masses. With movies and video games becoming more violent, and the
movie rating system is becoming more relaxed in its judgment, children are now being exposed
to violence earlier than before. Following these violent publishing are irrational acts of violence
and radical terrorism. The connection between violent media and terrorizing massacres is that
people are becoming less sensitive to violence leading to more violent thoughts. While news
networks inform and movies and video games entertain, an overexposure can prove detrimental
to an individual psychological development.

For a problem to be analyzed, the problem must first be defined. In the past 10 years the
term terrorism, has taken on a new meaning in the United States in order to help highlight the
battle against radical middle-east, religious group. In June 2015, Ruth DeFoster published a
paper on the United State's interpretation of terrorism titled, Terrorizing the Masses: Identity,
Mass Shootings, and the Media Construction of Terror. Terrorizing the Masses was edited
by Dr. Catherine R. Squires of the University of Minnesota. In the article, DeFoster talks about
the changing perception of terrorism as radical religious groups are becoming more public with
their message. Today the CIA defines terrorism in Title 22 of the U.S. Code, Section 2656f(d)(2)
as, Politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational
groups or clandestine agents (DeFoster 14). To simplify, for an attack to be terrorism, the
attacker must be part of a greater national or ideological group and looking for specific political
or social change. Prior to 2005, and before the major national security changes in response to the
attacks on September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense defined terrorism (per the Code of
Federal Regulations) as, the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to
intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any political or social objectives.
(DeFoster 15). Based on historical definitions, terrorism is groups or individuals who are simply
looking to rouse terror in communities. For the sake of appearing less motivated by the
September 11 attacks, I will refer to the earlier definition of terrorism. With that being said, this
paper will refer to attacks by both groups and individuals when assessing media's impact on
terrorism.
Try turning on the 11 Oclock news and see how long it takes for the anchor to bring up
the most recent terrorist attack or neighborhood shooting. Most often, it wont take long. For
corporate news networks, increasing profits while not jeopardizing the companies name is the

main objective. Though corporate news serves the purpose of informing the public on global and
domestic issues, new networks are not charities, and if sensationalizing headlines and presenting
intriguing details can increase profit, then history has shown that the networks will. Although
sensationalizing headlines is profitable, there is a pattern of violent activity spiking afterwards.
A British news network called The Guardian published an article this past summer titled, Media
coverage of terrorism leads to further violence. Jaimie Doward, the author of the article, has a
historically liberal tone, but still presents credible studies that back up her claims. In Media
coverage of terrorism, Doward says, sensationalist media coverage on acts of terrorism lead to
much more such acts being committed (Doward). Doward back her claim by citing Michael
Jetter, a professor at the School of Economics and Finance at Universidad EAFIT in Medelln,
Colombia. Jetter mentions how, terrorists need media coverage to spread their message, [to]
create fear and recruit followers (Doward). The article later shows, how terrorism attacks in
the past 15 years have soared from 3,387 to 15,396 (Doward). With a 400% increase in
terrorism in the past 15 years and media coverage on those events increasing by over 300%,
networks news has a clear impact on the behavior of society. While Jaime Dowards theories and
hypotheses introduce new ideas, it is Michael Jetters raw data that gives concrete statistics that
supports Dowards argument. Dowards argument remains only an argument until additional,
esteemed authors support his claims thus turning a simple hypothesis into theory. Commercial
news repeatedly sensationalizes acts of terrorism and figures prove that following networks
reports are similar events.
Jaimie Dowards study shows a positive correlation between the amount violent stories
published corporate and the amount of acts of terrorism. Todays terrorist organization see
network news as a platform to advertise their organization. In plastering massacres in the face of

the public, people begin to feel fear and anxiety, that proven to breeds further violence. Daniel
Meierrick and Tim Krieger, both professors at the University of Freiburg, published a peerreviewed article titled What Causes Terrorism?. In Merierrick and Kreigers article, they
discuss the main goals of terrorist organizations when engaging in violent activities. The number
one cause is to, gain publicity and media attention. (Meirrick, Krieger 4). When organized acts
of terror take places, it is a journalists duty to report this to the public, but the corporate
networks sensationalizing is what publicizes the attackers and the message they wish to convey.
Examples of media sensationalizing terrorism are when unqualified individuals begin to debate
on the details as well as the publishing of emotion puff-pieces that focus more on pathos than
logos. Journalists do a good job reporting the facts in a professional manner, but it is when the
commercialization of the industry publishes stories with flashy headlines and invite individuals
to debate on theory rather than find solutions based on fact.
The news is an establishment that provides credible information on pressing topics. On
the other hand, movies and video games are sheer fantasy meant to entertain the mind. CBS
provides an article by Michelle Castillo that show the increase of gun violence in movies. CBS
being a historically more liberal network has a pattern of promoting increased gun control.
However, in Castillos study Recent PG-13 Movies Feature More Gun Violence than R-rated
Films, the author provides outside studies by credible institutions that back up the claims being
made. The PG-13 rating was originally made as a buffer, allowing a younger audience the watch
more intense films that were not beyond their maturity. The PG-13 rating became the most
profitable market for film-makers. Castillos study shows that, PG-13 films have a similar rate
of gun violence per hour compared to R-rated films until 2010. Then, gun violence in these films
surpassed their R-rated counterparts between 2011 and 2012 (Castillo). The seriousness of the

increase in gun violence comes in that many teenagers learn their behaviors through films. The
rating system was one of the few filters limiting the youths exposure to gun violence, but as the
importance of the rating system deteriorates, people become more desensitized to violence and
crime. Now with such sensationalizing being put into movies and video games, the line between
fact and fiction now becomes more blurred. From movies like Batman to video games like Call
of Duty, there is a major influx of violent stimuli and a constant exposure to multimedia violence
has proven to lead to similar events.
In Brad Bushman and Craig Andersons article Understanding Causality in the Effects of
Media Violence, they look at recent shooting linked to violent stimuli such as movies and video
games. The Sandy Hook Massacre consisted of an elementary school shooting ending the lives
of 20 students, 6 faculty member, and Adam Lanza; the shooter himself. After further
investigation, it came to the authorities attention that, Lanza was motivated by violent video
games and a strong desire to top the 77 victims killed by Norwegian mass shooter Anders
Breivik in July 2011 (Bushman, Anderson 4). Video games like Call of Duty condition the body
to become aroused around gun violence, and with humans constantly seeking increased arousal,
events such as Sandy Hook, unfortunately, take place. Much like video games, movies have
provided another source of violent arousal. Most recently was the Aurora, Colorado shooting,
occurring at a The Dark Knight Rises showing, killing 12 and wounding 77. Following his
arrest, Holmes [the shooter] identified himself to the police as the Joker (Bushman, Anderson
4). For the unaware, the joker is portrayed in The Dark Knight Rises predecessor, The Dark
Knight, as a homicidal psychopath. Similar shooting motivated by movies and video games have
occurred like: Bethel, Alaska; Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Columbine, Colorado;
Red Lake, Minnesota; Beltway sniper attacks, Washington DC. With such a vast array of violent

media leading to terror-inducing massacres, there is a clear pattern between the exposure to
violence and similar acts. Movies and video games today contain such realism, that people are
having trouble distinguishing between what is a true model of behavior and what is not.
Investigation of movie theater and school shootings have shown that the perpetrators
have engaged in violent multimedia, but this does not prove that there is any relation between the
two. Stuart Marshall Bender published a peer-reviewed article in 2014 in Projections, a
psychology journal. In the article Bender talks about how the film industry produces pieces that
are increasingly more realistic. Bender then shows that the exposure to such realism causes
people to mimic the behavior in front of them. Connecting to Castillos study that shows people
are being more exposed to violence, it is safe to infer that an influx of violent movies is causing
an increase in terrorizing acts of violence. Many filmmakers argue that realistic movies, enable
humans to mentally rehearse for potential future (Bender 8). With that being said, the highest
grossing movies of 2015 were Star Wars: Episode VII, Jurassic World, and The Avengers;
making over $2 Billion combined (Fandango). While filmmakers agree that movies influence
decision making space battles, dinosaurs, and superheroes are violent fantasies that have no
relevance in the decision making of this generation. Bender then compares the influence movies
have on behavior and the violent material available. When filmmakers put sensationalized
violence in realistic settings, The everyday viewers then, have expectations that may not match
up to the reality of the events depicted (Bender 9). The art of film is creating a captivating
setting, so directors go for realism, but then lace violent content which distorts the audiences
perception of reality. Movies and video games leading to violence is an understandable relation;
movie and video games today are becoming more realistic, thus having the audience associate it
with reality. Next, a flexible rating system is putting younger audiences in front of increasingly

more gun violence. Finally, the audience begins to feel the setting on screen is the setting in
reality and feel violence is in society, just as much as movies and video games show.
Problems remain problems until a legal and legitimate solution is proposed. The most
obvious solution is to censor news networks, filmmakers, and video game creator, but fortunately
such extreme measures are a clear infringement on ones freedom of speech. The opposite of
preventing the publishing of violent material is the promotion of nonviolent material. Corporate
news, Hollywood blockbusters, and video games are all driven by profitability, so the
government would have to subsidize certain businesses to limit violent material being
publishing. With naked and hungry people around the world, the government shouldnt be
funneling money into big businesses, so subsidizing joins censorship as an inappropriate
solution. Unfortunately, there is no appropriate solution to limiting violent publishings, but there
are barriers that can be created to limit ones exposure to these materials. In 2009, the American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a policy statement titled Media Violence, which listed
ways to minimize a peoples exposure to violent material. Being pediatricians the AAP Believed
that child development is the crucial point at which violent material enhances violent behavior.
The AAP published a list of parenting methods that are neither unethical nor and infringement
upon ones rights. The main solutions to minimizing the impact of violent materials are listed
below:

Remove televisions, internet connections, and video games from childrens bedrooms

Make thoughtful media choices and co-view them with children.

Limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day

Avoid screen media for infants or toddlers younger than 2 years

Media violence is apparent in corporate news, movies, and video games; all industries too big to
censors or subsidize, so the solution lies in the hands of the consumer. By parents acting as moral
censors, children will no longer be an audience of the sensationalizing of violence and mature
faster, thus becoming capable of comprehending acts of terrorism without it is resorting to
violent behavior.
Violence and terrorism will always be present, people will always see movies listen to
music, and watch the news, but when violence is sensationalized to such a glorified state,
violence will more than exist, it will consume humanity. News networks serve the purpose to
inform that public of important information, but commercial interest has caused credibility to
take a back to profitability, in making headlines more and more sensational. Movies and video
games are tools to escape the stresses of our realities, but those industries now promote gun
violence through constant implementation, thus creating a generation heavily absorbed in
violence. Music is more art than anything else, but when art reaches such a large audience,
which such dry messages today, advocating for gun violence will create a society of gun
violence. Peace and violence cannot coexist, for one to rise, one must fall, and the pattern of
publishing and human behavior that follows shows an environment of violence.

Work Cited
BBC. Paris Attacks: What Happened on the Night BBC News. BBC News. BBC, 9 Dec.
2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016
Bender, Stuart Marshall. Blood Splats And Bodily Collapse: Reported Realism And the
Perception of Violence in Combat Films And Video Games. Projections: The Journal
For Movies & Mind 8.2 (2014): 1-25. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text.
Web. 12 Apr. 2016.
Bushman, Brad J., and Craig A. Anderson. Understanding Causality in the Effects of Media
Violence. American Behavioral Scientist 59.14 (2015): 1807-1821. Academic Search
Complete. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
Castillo, Michelle. "Recent PG-13 Movies Feature More Gun Violence than R-rated Films:
Study." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2016.
DeFoster, Ruth. "Terrorizing the Masses: Identity, Mass Shootings, and the Media Construction
of "Terror"." Order No. 3727884 University of Minnesota, 2015. Ann
Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.
Doward, Jamie. Media Coverage of Terrorism leads to Further Violence The Guardian.
Guardian News and Media, 01 Aug. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
Kreiger, Tim, and Daniel Meierrieks. What causes terrorism? Pubilc Choice 147.1 (2010): 327. Google Scholar. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.
Mrug, Sylvie, et al. Emotional And Physiological Desensitization To Real-Life And Movie
Violence. Journal Of Youth And Adolescence 44.5 (2015): 1092-1108. PsycINFO. Web.
12 Apr. 2016.