Television Violence


Vintage television commercial for the Johnny Seven–a seven-in-one toy gun

The first distance public television broadcast from Washington, D.C. to New York City occurred on this date in 1927.

From “Violence and Television”:

Many people think they are being practical about social problems when they think they have located a cause. . . But every such located cause turns out eventually to be one more symptom of the problem, and not a cause at all. . . First there were dime novels and penny dreadfuls; then there were movies, then comic books, and now television. One can always find some evidence for such arguments, but the evidence is seldom conclusive. . . Some people are always looking for something to trigger them to violence, and such stimuli are not hard to come by in any society. This is not an argument for diminishing the seriousness of the social effects of violent television programs, as so many of their producers say; it is merely an argument against regarding television violence as the cause of social violence. For as soon as a cause is thought to be located, the next step is “take it away; censor it; ban it.” This would be a logical inference if the cause diagnosis is sound, but it isn’t; there are too many causes. Censorship is itself violent, or counterviolent, solution: it assumes that you’ve caught the real villain and are justified in doing what you like to him, which is precisely the fallacy of violence itself. (CW 11, 158-9)

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