Self-Paced Tutorials - Scholarly vs. Popular - Article 1

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Title: Violence--blame it on the media. By: Mcintosh, James C., New York Amsterdam News, 12/14/2006, Vol. 97, Issue 51.

What would make a large group of young people rampage through the tranquil Union Square area in early December in a melee that left one youth dead and another with seven stab wounds in his back? One short answer is the New York media. The rampage story moved the story of the police murder of Sean Bell right off the front pages. That answer will of course not suffice for the sociologically minded.

Initial tabloid rampage stories postulated gang involvement. Later stories suggested that young women had been dissed (disrespected) and that young men had tried to defend their honor. Research has indeed shown that there is an increased likelihood of murder between males engaged in conflict when a female is present. It has also been noted that most murders that happen outside of the context of robberies or similar crimes are over the single issue of respect. Sometimes this issue is disguised by a dispute over a debt, or territory or a transgression, but when it all boils down the real thing that people, especially the descendents of slavery, will fight about is the perception of respect.

Is it possible that some of the youth grew up in violent households and that this contributed to the initiation of violence? The short answer is: Yes, with a disclaimer. Research has shown that children who grow up in violent homes have a seventy-four percent increased incidence of committing crimes against a person. However, since 1992 what researchers have had to face is that the majority of children are growing up in violent homes. For it was in that year that the center for Media and Public Affairs reported that the average American child witnesses over 200,000 acts of violence on television including 16,000 murders before the age of 18. According to the National Television Violence Study, 66% of children's programming has violence. Three quarters of violent children's programs demonstrate unpunished violence. Fifty-eight percent of the violence occurring does not show the victim experiencing pain. In this context is it any wonder that youths could (cartoon style) hit each other in the head with bricks and stab each other with knives without really understanding the gravity of what they had done?

After all, 10 days before this youth rampage, hadn't adult police rampaged, leaving the same death toll in Queens using 50 bullets against three unarmed men and an armed phantom the perpetrators recalled 48 hours after the incident? That being said was there any more appropriate place for the youth to have such an inappropriate rampage as the allegedly tranquil Union Square? For Union Square is the exact place where a hundred people were injured in 1930 in a police rampage against people demonstrating against unemployment. Similar but smaller police overreactions have occurred in the same spot, but none of the majority media writers made reference to that history of Union Square. However, the unconscious mind is a powerful thing. The echo of all 50 bullets from the Bell story remained in the rampage story as every tabloid writer, even the ones who saw a 4th man with Sean Bell, estimated exactly 50 as the number of youth involved in the Union Square rampage.

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By James C. Mcintosh

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