Concept of the Month -- August 2006

A Note on "Copycat" Violent Crimes

It has long been asserted that watching crime on television or enacting crimes in videogames contributes to violent behavior. In other words, it is what a person watches that allegedly desensitizes him and corrupts him. Thus he becomes violent. Consider the absurdity of such a thesis!

1. People who are fascinated by violence and other crimes gravitate to such programs and games and immerse themselves in great amounts of it.
2. Millions of people view violence in television programming.. It is entertainment or news. That's it. The viewers do not consider for a moment enacting what they see.
3. There is such a thing as a "copycat" crime. In fact, that is one reason given for maintaining recent higher security procedures at airports in the wake of the foiled airline bombing plot -- i.e., others may be tempted to copy it. For every person who might have such fantasies or even attempt to copy such behavior, hundreds of millions of people reject it, are repulsed by it, and never in their wildest imaginations would be tempted to copy this reprehenisible crime.

Critical is not what is on the screen or in the game but the mind of the viewer, reader, game player, or listener. A "not guilty by reason of television" defense failed many years ago in a Florida courtroom. That is to say the violent tendencies reside within the viewer. The television program, the movie, or the videogame do not turn him into something alien to his basic personality.

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