One could rightly ask what effects the media have on today's society in terms of thinking and behavior. Do they form opinions, evoke antipathy, or generate aggression? If so, one may wonder to what extent they manipulate people. Is it the case that if people watch TV, listen to the radio, or grab a newspaper, they will most certainly be severely deformed as to thinking. This is hardly so. Still, the media can be used for unethical purposes, those which are occasionally undetectable, those which generally require some background information to be able to see through them. Using this kind of information, we will see how people are generally responsible for their own ways of thinking rather than the media controlling their thoughts.Question arises then, who the media are really meant for. In fact, the media equally need people from lower classes and others from middle or upper classes. It makes no difference in people's eyes whether the media are neutral or not, however, when we hear about, for example, a catastrophe in the Far East with a high total number of casualties. It does make a difference, nevertheless, when global economy issues or war resolutions are being discussed. It has actually happened several times in the history of mankind that some kind of media leakage caused huge problems and conflicts between global superpowers. One example is the Zimmerman Telegram (1917), which basically evoked the United States's declaration of war against Germany in WW1. What happened was that during the Mexican - American War (1846-1848), the Foreign Secretary of the German Empire, Arthur Zimmermann, sent a coded telegram to the German ambassador in Washington, Johann von Bernstorff who, at Zimmermann's request, forwarded it to the German ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. The telegram was basically about Germany's possible support of Mexico against the USA. It was first intercepted and decoded by British cryptographers and then revealed in the American press on March 1, causing a public outrage. Though not having been the only reason for the U.S.'s entrance into the war, the Zimmerman Telegram contributed to this step to a large extent (Wikipedia.org). The media, thus, no doubt can even start wars and debates all around the world.
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Media coverage, however, is usually not about coded messages. Forms of aggression, anger, and dissonance are shown day by day on national commercial and state-run TV channels, often scheduled on weekday afternoons and evenings when underage youngsters are free to watch them. What people see on television, therefore, can truly evoke strong impressions, but, on their own, they are not able to force people act like they would never do anyway.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming. The first 2 years of life are considered critical time for brain development since electronic media can prevent children from exploring, playing and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development (KidsHealth.org).
In conclusion, parents should limit the number of hours their children spend in general in front of the TV. What is transmitted to people via the media is often only a question of money; in today's highly commercialized world, it is not the traditional values that shape TV programmes anymore. If some shows are viewed by millions of people every time they are aired, no wonder the leaders of a channel will not cancel a show that makes enormous amounts of money. As Richard Collins, James Curran, Nicholas Garnham, Paddy Scannell, Philip Schlesinger and Colin Sparks remark in their book Media, Culture and Society: A Critical Reader, "TV companies make their money from selling audiences rather than programmes" (325). Clearly, it is all about business. Consequently, what is broadcasted will never be solely important values. Influenced by deeply emotional effects, be they positive or negative, youngsters are indeed exposed to the dangers of the media, but, question is, is it really that bad? Not at all. "Despite the bias of the presumption of effects and the evidence drawn from metaanalyses, not all scholars agree that media have effects in all areas", not, for example, in children's cognitive development (Perse, Elizabeth M. 8). Aggression, crimes, and people with shocking behavior have existed so far, too, they were just never transmitted to the society by the media. Yes, there will always be some criminals following the patterns of certain movies in which murders and crimes take place, but that is just unavoidable. It is not the movies, video games, or bizarre TV shows that make criminals criminals, rather, they are already criminals in their minds, they just take ideas and inspiration from what they see. Murders and other crimes have much less to do with the media than it is thought. Similarly, the Columbine High School massacre (1999) was not carried out because of some video games or action movies, such a statement would be insane and ridiculous. The perpetrators of history's fourth bloodiest school massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, did actually play video games all the time, they even took some patterns from the Doom series as enthusiasts, but, again, it is not the video games that made them killers but their mental disorders. They certainly watched TV and played video games, for they were young adults. "It is difficult to imagine events more terrible than our young people deliberately killing each other”, says Jonathan L. Freedman in his book Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence (3). According to him, after such an event many may say "it was the parents' fault" or "Satanism and witchcraft" (L. Freedman 3). Truth, however, is often much simpler. Was it for what we see every single day through the media, every second person would turn out to be a serial killer one day. If someone wants to take somebody's life, they will do so eventually. In fact, it is not a matter of visual influence at all. Who is responsible then for all those gruesome acts in the world is a hard question. I think nobody really is. Of course, criminals do deserve their punishments, no doubt about it, still, it is always easy to point at somebody, and say they are responsible for what others did. I think it is just a characteristic of human nature. Putting the blame on somebody else, that is what we have been doing ever since the beginning. Stereotypes, lack of knowledge, and biased thoughts just make things worse. It is sure, though, that with the possible disappearance of the media, the world would just be almost the same (or even worse) in terms of crime rates. Of course, it would be equally silly to say that the media do not have any kind of influence on society. Moreover, they have the power to shape certain behavioral patterns, but it is generally very limited. There is no problem with controlling what can be transmitted to people all over the world until it is reasonable and consistent. All things considered, the media are a complex entity which could not ever be supervised entirely. This is what those making constant attacks on the press should understand. Instead of pointing at one another, it should be realized by people that even if the media have direct effects on people, much more depends on the human nature and the social background one faces in their lifetime.
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"How TV Affects Your Child." KidsHealth.org. The Nemours Foundation. n./a. Web. 14 April 2010. <http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/tv_affects_child.html>.
"Zimmermann Telegram." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 13 April 2010. Web. 14 April 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimmermann_telegram>.
Collins, Richard, James Curran, Nicholas Garnham, Paddy Scannell, Philip Schlesinger and Colin Sparks. Media, Culture and Society: A Critical Reader. London: Sage Publications Ltd., 1986. Print.
L. Freedman, Jonathan. Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002. Print.
Perse, Elizabeth M. Media Effects and Society. Manwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2001. Print.