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How Media Violence Influences Mass Shootings

Photo by Jay Rembert on Unsplash

How Media Violence Influences Mass Shootings

By Movieguide® Staff

Tragedy struck multiple times this week, with mass shootings occurring in both Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado.

When shooters attack, the nation sits seemingly dumbfounded that another senseless tragedy has taken the lives of loved ones. While some people turn to prayer and others to gun control talking points, the answer could be found in research about how violence in the mass media has drastic effects on those who consume it.

Violence in media has a profound effect on the people who watch it, as Movieguide® Publisher Dr. Ted Baehr discusses in his book, The Culture-Wise Family.

“The power of modeling, practice and reinforcement in human learning predict that media violence increases the likelihood of real-life violence,” Baehr writes.

“There have been hundreds of thousands of psychiatric, psychological, sociological, pediatric, and medical studies researching the effects of the mass media on behavior, including laboratory experiments, field experiments, correlational studies, and longitudinal studies. So much research has been conducted in this area that one United States senator said that the influence of the mass media on violent behavior is now irrefutable,” Baehr continues.

According to Baehr, mass media violence is that violence portrayed by any of the methods of mass communication, including television, movies, video games, toys that are mass produced, comic books, the Internet, CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and computers. Most of the research has to do with television, movies and pornographic materials.

“Using deductive reasoning, researchers posit the basic principles of human learning and then see if any of them predict a causal relation. Using inductive reasoning, researchers study the real-life behavior of a person after that person has been exposed to a measurable degree of excessive violence, pornography or another media influence,” Baehr writes.

This has proven to be true in the case of Atlanta shooter Robert Aaron Long. Long’s former roommate said that Long suffered from a sex addiction and felt immense shame about his pornography addiction.

Baehr’s research included reporting on a study where researchers at the University of California projected that “depictions of pornography and violence. . . have the greatest impact on persons already predisposed to favorable attitudes about sexual violence, or who have very poorly formed attitudes, such as adolescents or school-age children.”[ii]

Furthermore, Baehr saw that an FBI study of 36 sexual murderers (sadomasochists) reveals that 82% of them reported “daydreaming and compulsive masturbation” in childhood and adolescence. [iii] These behaviors are obviously encouraged by pornography, which was their highest sexual interest.

These studies prove, unfortunately so, the importance of media discernment in everything we consume. Gun control will not solve issues with mass shootings — only a nation on its knees in repentance can begin to repair the damage. Teaching our children to hold a Christian/biblical worldview will lessen these tragedies as they grow in media wisdom.