The media is continuously being blamed for modern societal issues, such as the violent behaviours of today’s youth. It is often associated with the Media Effects Model, which is the notion that people’s consumption of the mass media can alter an individual’s behaviour. David Gauntlett, author of “Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’“, thinks otherwise.
One of the most researched media effects is that of violence – specifically, the influence of violent media on children and young adults.
Gauntlett starts by explaining that, there is no clear evidence that the media has a direct effect on behaviour, therefore we should conclude that “they are simply not there to be found“. He goes on to state that the effects model generally treats mass media viewers as weak and highly persuadable, highlighted by the fact that they are referred to as the ‘other people’, and that the effects model is often based on artificial studies and is not grounded in theory.
An example of the flaws in the effects model can be found in the case of Devin Moore. On June 7, 2003, Moore shot and killed two police officers and a dispatcher after being booked for committing grand theft auto. The controversy involving the crime’s relation to the Grand Theft Auto video game was revealed during an episode of 60 Minutes in March 2005. As a result of this crime, a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit was filed against the makers and marketers of the game, claiming that the game provoked the teenager’s actions. Attorney, Jack Thompson claimed that “The video game industry gave him a cranial menu that popped up in the blink of an eye, in that police station. And that menu offered him the split-second decision to kill the officers, shoot them in the head, flee in a police car, just as the game itself trained them to do”.
This problem can be described in two words. Cause and effect. All we need to do is recognise the fact that there are multiple causes that resulted in this crime.
Moral panics are not new – a century ago, people claimed that the radio was corrupting youth. As more problems within society arise, people want someone to blame. Before jumping to conclusions, we have to actually evaluate the problems with the media effects model and look at the other factors influencing behaviour.