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Media and Violence

by Randy King
KPC Self Defense

media-and-violence-krav-maga-nycRecently as I was browsing the internet for self defense related news and came across an article and video that read “Man uses Nunchuks for self defense.”

This is just one of the many examples I constantly find of people using very strange or antiquated weapons for self defense. Why do they do this? Where do they get this idea from? In this review I want to answer the question: Does Media have an effect on how acts of violence are committed in North America?

In my field, reality based self defense. We try and research violence from the point of how it is done, both from an offensive and defense perspective. In this we find a growing trend of people using odd weapons or tactics when committing violence. The conclusion I came to, and hope that you reach as well, is that what is done on television or movies has a strong effect on how violence is perpetrated here.

Media is a powerful thing in North America. It influences us constantly and sets the tone for what is popular. So much so that not knowing “pop culture” will sometimes make you an outsider at social functions or even at work. Lack of education in any area of life can make you feel out of place and vulnerable. So when a young male from a sub urban neighbourhood decided to “thug up”, where would he get his education from? They get it from watching the media that they like and then they take the things that seem the most real to them and their experiences. Mickey Rourke said on the 2012 documentary “I am Bruce Lee”  and I paraphrase “After watching Bruce Lee use nunchuks in his movies, every thug and gangster had a pair in their car”. What he is said is that by watching the choreographed movies of Bruce Lee, actual violent people changed their methods for real world acts of violence.

The old adage “seeing is believing” applies to this situation. If you see something happen and it work successfully enough times you will believe that is how it is done. In the film “Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey (2010), there is a very famous scene where they are about to be mugged and the mugger turns his gun on Steve Carell’s character and he panics and yells “kill shot, that’s a kill shot”. This scene was very funny, but it was particularly funny if you understand anything about guns and shooting. Holding a gun in that manner is actual bad for the mechanism of the pistol and causes jams. I bring this up because hundreds of people are using guns in this manner every day, not due to training but because they saw this happen on their favourite gangster movie and thought it was cool. This not only happens in the criminal world. Law enforcement officers in the late sixties and seventies where holding their guns low and shooting from the hip. This method of shooting is very ineffective and has since been corrected. Why did they do it?, Because that is how James Bond shot in the movies. Little did they know that the reason for this was so the actor could get more face time on camera…as a proper stance covers your face.

All of this ties together that most of our information comes through vision. Vision uses up 65% of our brains pathways and is responsible for 80% of what we perceive and is extremely important in learning. Edgar Dale’s Cone of learning (1945) states that after two weeks we remember 50% of what we see, including movies. It stands to reason that when planning or committing violence those tactics learned from gangster and military movies can and will be accessed. Having strong violent images have been shown to desensitise and train young people; “Television, movie and video game violence teaches kids to kill by using the same mechanisms of classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning that is employed by modern soldiers, but without the safeguards of discipline and character development.” -David Grossman

The limitations of this argument are that news, the main directive of this thought process is always trying to look for unique and interesting stories to present to keep people interested. Also in no way am I saying here that media creates violence, though I do believe it engages the potential of violence and steers the methods of those willing to commit it. All of these conclusions are based on the geographic and economic state of North America where violence is done by the violent but a mystery to the non-violent and some people can avoid daily violence through economic means.

Using a nunchuk as a weapon for self defense is a weird thing to do especially in a country with widely available, more effective methods. Why did he even have them, what caused him to attain this weapon?  Media, it is designed to drive sales and create trends; sadly this effect also affects crime and violence.

With that in mind just because I have mentioned the oddities of the monkey see monkey do mentality does not mean that there is not a frightening reverse to that. Keeping that in mind I would like to close on a quote from retired Lt. Col. David Grossman one of the leaders in the study of conflict;

Through violent programming on television and in movies, and through interactive point-and-shoot video games, modern nations are indiscriminately introducing to their children the same weapons technology that major armies and law enforcement agencies around the world use to “turn off” the midbrain “safety catch” that Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall discovered in World War II.”

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