Violent Media Could Get Hammered at House Hearing

Witnesses: NSF Chief Suresh, Opinionated Ohio State researcher Bushman

The Republican-led House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies  Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Youth Violence Research next week that could prove problematic for broadcasters pushing for parental education rather than government regulation of the media.

The lone researcher witness recently blogged that the media are in denial about the link between violence and media violence and "might be reluctant to admit that they are marketing a harmful product," likening them to tobacco companies.

The March 19 hearing features two witnesses, Subra Suresh, the director of the National Science Foundation and Dr. Brad Bushman, Ohio State communications professor and researcher. Bushman is notable for studies challenging the "myth that violent media have a trivial effect on aggression." The NSF studies cite him more than a dozen times and include one of his co-written papers along with its study, which Bushman links to on his website.

Subcommittee chair Frank Wolf (R-Va.) last month released an NSF advisory committee Youth Violence report that identified violence media as one of three major risk factors in mass shootings.

Wolf has said he thought President Barack Obama should have focused more on violent media and mental health in his efforts after the Sandy Hook school shootings to tackle the problem of real-world violence.

Among Bushman's blog postings for Psychology Today, according to his website, is "Why Do People Deny Violent Media Effects?". In it, he points to a study positing that "heavy viewers of violent TV shows in first and third grade were three times more likely to be convicted of criminal behavior by the time they were in their 20s, and were significantly more likely to abuse their spouses and assault others."

He also talks about denial in the entertainment industry: "In 1972, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a warning about the harmful effects of TV violence. Since then, the scientific evidence has grown even stronger, but news reports claim less harm. Indeed, most Americans aren't even aware that the U.S. Surgeon General issued a warning about TV violence in 1972, perhaps because the mass media has not publicized it. The entertainment industry might be reluctant to admit that they are marketing a harmful product, much like the tobacco industry was reluctant to admit that cigarettes are harmful."

In a report, "Media Violence and Youth Violence," he says: "Educating parents about the research on violent video games is also important," but calls it "an uphill battle, however, because the source of news and information for parents is the mass media, and the mass media are reluctant to report that violent media are harmful."