VIOLENCE IN A CIVIL SOCIETY – Whose Fault is it Anyway?

by Dick Rolfe, CEO – The Dove Foundation

Dick Rolfe, CEO - The Dove Foundation

Ever since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, three groups loomed into the spotlight as the blame game began; gun owners, the mentally ill, and filmmakers. It triggered a lot of finger pointing by various lobbyists protecting their own constituents from government regulation and overreach.

The National Rifle Association, defenders of the Second Amendment, argued simply that banning assault weapons, or mega clips, or adding a national gun owner registry would not have prevented any of the recent mass killings. Those laws would only apply to law-abiding citizens. They would not hinder criminals or the deranged from committing their heinous acts. A compelling case made during the debates was that guns don’t kill…disturbed people kill.

The American Psychiatric Association stayed below the radar during the controversy; perhaps due to the political correctness that has shaped our societal dialog about the mentally ill. To label them potentially “dangerous” would be an affront to our social sensitivity. Mental health diagnoses are also wrapped in mystery, and very difficult to pin down into nice neat categories that can predict a threat.

Another group that escaped public scrutiny was the entertainment industry and the effects of violence in films and video games on our social norms. The entertainment media and news media are birds of a feather; many times owned by the same corporate parent. Twentieth Century Fox is owned by News Corp., Disney is parent to ABC, NBC and Universal are siblings. Warner Bros. and Time Inc. are co-dependents.

Add to that, the new head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is former Democratic Senator from Connecticut (the state of Sandy Hook), Chris Dodd. In preparation for congressional discussions about violence in movies, Dodd told The Hollywood Reporter that his industry “will consider voluntary guidelines but will vehemently oppose any government restrictions on content.”

Since then, the MPAA, in a meager attempt to offer a solution, modified the design of its ratings box, without adding any new information. According to Dodd, “The rating block has a new look and makes the descriptor box more prominent.” The bottom line is there is no new information about the violence, sex, nudity, drug/alcohol use, or profanity in a movie. Essentially, nothing changed except the size of the box. Dove has historically filled this information gap with its detailed content analysis included with every movie review.

There is no clear consensus to this “cause of violence” debate, except the universal agreement that Government cannot protect us every minute, without onerous regulations that would greatly restrict the freedoms we cherish. As members of an open society, we must cherish our unalienable rights to live as free people. However, at the same time, we should remain vigilant of our surroundings, alert to incidents or behaviors that seem out of place.

Above all, each of us must keep our personal values intact and contribute in some small way to a more civil society, by recreating the wonder that Alexis de Tocqueville discovered when he observed that, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”