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A Critique of Karen Wright's "guns, Lies, and Video"

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A Critique of Karen Wright's "Guns, Lies, and Video"

In her short article "Guns, Lies, and Video", Karen Wright lays out an overview of the issue of the relationship between media violence and real life violence. She writes that there is considerable debate on the subject, with some experts claiming there is strong evidence for a link between media violence and real aggression, and some experts claiming there is none. According to Wright, determining how media violence actually relates to real aggression is complicated by many factors. Wright also cites several studies, including a long-term study that implies a correlation between exposure to media violence and violent behavior, and a study that determined that violent video games trigger a unique pattern of brain activity compared to otherwise equally exciting nonviolent games. Wright concludes that while authorities on the subject recommend parental control rather than censorship, adults should be careful, as they are also susceptible to the effects of media violence.

Wright provides a good overview of the issue of the relationship between media violence and real-life violence; however, her article has some inadequacies, especially regarding the nature of video games compared to movies, television, and music. Wright strives to appeal to the pathos of the audience throughout her article. A pathos type of argument is one that tries to appeal to the emotions and values of the target audience. Wright makes the assumption that her audience members are good people who don't want their children to become violent members of society--and it is just these values that Wright petitions throughout.

In her introduction, Wright brings the reader's attention to video games--specifically, she contends that the prevalent practice of allowing children to play violent video games while forbidding them to play with toy guns is questionable, because it seems to assume that toy guns encourage violence while violent video games do not. (par. 1) Wright then points out that there is strong evidence for a correlation between "media violence" and "real aggression," (par. 2) and in the same paragraph points to an unnamed expert's estimate that 10 percent of juvenile violence can be accounted for by violence in TV, movies, and music. However, Wright fails to elaborate on the difference between video games and passive media such as movies and television.

Later in the article, Wright states that "...those who grew up with the Three Stooges or Super Mario Brothers may have trouble seeing their youthful pastimes in a sinister light. But televised violence has been a topic of national consternation almost from the first broadcast." (par. 5) Again, Wright implies the interchangeability between television programs and video games, using a video game (Super Mario Brothers) and televised violence as interchangeable parts of a logical sequence.

Wright fails to establish how exactly video games are related to movies/television/music (passive media), aside from the fact that they belong to the categorization "media." Granted, she does cite a pediatrician, Michael Rich, as having said that "...with video games, you're not only passively receiving attitudes and behaviors, you're rehearsing them" (par. 3). However, Wright fails to point out that there is a possibility that such a difference (passive vs. active) could make all the difference between a positive and a negative correlation. She also points to a long-term (17 years) study on the effects of television viewing on aggressive behavior, but fails to point out that there are no long-term studies that specifically concern the effects of video-game violence.

Wright implies that violence in video games, in movies, and in television can all be lumped together under the label of "media violence." She treats movies/television and video games interchangeably. It is, however, possible that the interactive nature of video games makes them so different from more traditional media that it would merit consideration as a wholly different category of behavioral



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