Hot Button Issues in the Media

Given my recent college graduation and the turmoils plaguing the media with COVID-19, George Floyd’s murder, and everything else going on in the world, the ideas of the media and some of the controversy surrounding it have been swimming around inside my head for a while. I can’t stop thinking about it, so apologies if you’re tired of my rants regarding the media and how I feel about certain things…

All forms of media have continuously dazzled, informed, misled, and influenced people for as long as there has been an audience and a storyteller. Evolving every single day, the media has come a long way from the simple reporting and information grab that it originally provided. The media has evolved so dynamically that it can drastically change overnight at a moment’s notice. This, of course, is not limited to just the simplest of media in just any form; it relays a message centered in the very idea of all mediums. One particular aspect of the media has become an intricate part of storytelling that has engaged and caused an oblivion of sorts to people of all ages. Sex and violence has become rampart in all forms of our lives, and the media has taken hold of it with even more vigor. Without original intention, sex and violence in the media has and will continue to shape the contour of the landscape that is media consumption.

With the invention of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg paved the way for centuries of relationships between storyteller and audience. Even though the media might have started with simple written works, it has become abundantly clear that the media has evolved beyond anything that any writer during the time of Johannes Gutenberg could have imagined. The evolution of the media is an integral part of the modern day world, wherein the internet has shaped and formed everything we see around us. While issues may still exist with the media, it has played a definitive role in the everyday lives of people.

Drastic changes can be seen throughout the years in media. These changes are not limited to just the technological developments, but also the content produced by the media, which is also the main issue at hand. One of the major incidents that stands out in media history was one of the first instances of indecency and the backlash that followed it. A show called NYPD Blue, a police show that aired from 1993 until 2005, was one of the first shows to be fined by the F.C.C. for indecency. The show aired an episode in 2003 that showed male buttocks on screen. The fine carried a hefty fee of $55,000, and it set a strong precedent for all future shows.

The fine was eventually lifted, but the precedent was still put in place. Looking back on the few seconds of nude screen time puts a harsher view of reality into the limelight. Current day television shows and news outlets show far more graphic content on a daily basis. This simple change in the desensitization of America as a whole has uprooted the foundations on which the media was built. Without the implications of what the media does to the people, no changes would have ever been put in place, and even now the changes have become severe.

Drastic repercussions can take place if too much sex or violence is consumed by children. Whether the consumption takes place via video games, movies, television, books, radio, or otherwise, the consequences could technically have dangerous implications. Children will not only suffer the desensitization of material that should not be consumed in the first place, but that they also might become violent, aggressive, and irresponsible. One particular example is the Columbine shootings and how both of the young men touted their love of video games that involved shooting. Arguments have raged over the years as to whether or not claims like this hold any inherent value, but the idea and rhetoric still stands, regardless of the studies’ outcomes.

According to the journal article linked above, children will begin to think the world is far more dangerous than it actually is. A lack of empathy could follow desensitization, and human emotion would cease to exist if too much violence is consumed. Adults can suffer the same mishaps as children when consuming a large amount of sex and violence, but their evolved intelligence can also shape the values of the future. Even though the article is from more than ten years ago, the idea of desensitization still holds merit and truth today.

Even with increased intelligence, adults are subject to the same lack of empathy and irreparable damage of consistent sex and violence. The American people are consistently shown more and more material not meant to be seen by anyone, regardless of its fictional nature. Continued consumption of said material ultimately leads to the same negative impacts on adults that can be seen in children: desensitization, lack of empathy, and a false sense of danger in the world.

In order to better minimize those repercussions, the article in the previous paragraph recommends putting the charge to parents and policymakers to teach the youth a strong sense of media literacy. By better monitoring and teaching children the dangers of constant exposure to the content seen on the internet, television, movies, radio, and otherwise, it can help put a stopper on the influx of negativity seen in the world. Perhaps an excellent exercise would be to give teenagers and children a media literacy challenge, wherein they are challenged to better shape their consumption of the media by analyzing the organic nature of it.

 Smaller scale changes have taken place within my own interpersonal relationships due to changes in the media regarding violence and sex. When I was a child, I would peek around the corner at the mature content of the movies that my dad and grandparents would watch. Nowadays, kids are more likely to have already seen a good majority of the things that I once tried to sneak peek as a child. The effects of the current media conveyance of sex and violence has taken its toll on myself.

First, with the sexualizing of both male and female celebrities in the news, it has become commonplace for our lives to be ridiculed if we do not follow those standards. I personally look at men with near perfect physiques and immediately think that they must have amazing personal lives with gorgeous women. Second, our standards in a significant other are shaped by the idolatry placed on the sexual aspects of those in the media. After seeing how we are supposed to look and act in the media, we assume that we need the same in reality. Finally, with the glorifying of sex in the media, we begin to shape, form, and attribute our sexual lives in cadence with what the media tells us. You could even go so far as to say that the sexual health of America has been seeped in violence, linking the two as one overall conglomerate.

While people are directly affected by the media in regards to their everyday lives, ethics and laws must eventually be analyzed and discussed. What constitutes an ethical breach when sharing photographs of either graphic or personal nature? On one hand, Bradley Wilson, a renowned professor of communication and journalism says, “Readers and viewers continue to be attracted to gruesome stories and photographs, which sell papers and magazines and result in more views online.” Unfortunately, the attraction of more readers does not bring about acceptance for images that may breach the law.

Via the United States Constitution, the press has the freedom to write and publish whatever they want, but recent years have shown stricter guidelines. Some of the guidelines set forth are egregious yet necessary stipulations for the protection and privacy of the common public. This can be seen as one of the few direct results from an event back in 2014.

In 2014, a large leak of celebrity nude photos and videos were released across the internet from an iCloud hack. A professor at UNC analyzed the entire affair of leaked celebrity nude photos and noticed several changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how it was integrated into social media, leaked photos, and suppose sexual crimes. Anonymous people released thousands of nude photos of female celebrities. Because of this, new ideas and reformations had to be placed on the release of photos without the original consent of the owner. If a photo is not published on the internet, it is the technical property of the photographer and/or the person being photographed. Permission must be granted by one or both of those parties for the picture to be published on the internet.

 The largest difficulty here lies in the fact that ethics cannot be defined or set as a general whole. Each person decides on his or her own definition and belief on what ethics are overall. Dictating those ethics into every single person’s personal life would be nigh impossible, so the idea of privacy and general inherent rights play a pivotal role in photographic ethics. It is my personal belief that the law coincides with ethics; people generally and universally understand what is right and what is wrong, thus the principles of ethical and moral dilemmas fall under each person’s own judgement.

The media has taken the world by storm, and in this case, it is a violent and sexual storm of atrocity, desensitization, and corrupted mindsets. With the conveyance of information evolving over centuries of adaptations and inventions, it has become overwhelmingly evident that the ease of receiving information is only going to grow. Many different aspects to modern day media exist. Ultimately, it relies on each and every person to understand the lawful, ethical, negative, and positive consequences of the way sex and violence is advocated in everyday life. Regardless of how the media is portrayed or consumed, each person must take account for his or her own life, find the balance between fact and fiction, and understand that reality is far different than anything we are told or shown.

Of course, providing completely misleading and false information via mass outlets is an entirely different story…

*As an addendum to the entire post, I am of the belief that violent video games and movies do not make people become more violent. I am also of the belief that sexual aspects of the video games, movies, and otherwise do not cause a person to be come a sexual deviant. Instead, I believe there are certain negative aspects to violence and sex in the media, although it is more subtle than just flat out being violent or sexual in nature.

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