George Gerbner of the Cultural Environment Movement (CEM) spoke to an overflowing audience on violence in the media on July 14 in a session co-sponsored by Science for Peace and Canadians Concerned about Violence in Entertainment (C-CAVE). That he kept the group fully engaged on an evening of a record high temperature day was a measure of how engaging the talk was. Mr. Gerbner discussed violence as a demonstration of power and the links to gender and race. He pointed out that violence is not reflected in audience popularity but it appeals to the media, particularly the television media, because it is inexpensive to produce and is transportable to the global marketplace and thus highly profitable. There is clearly a de-sensitizing of people around violence. In addition, Mr. Gerbner pointed out that the heavy use of violence by the media is, in effect, a social training exercise which helps to define society’s power relationships and that this is a major reason why white males grow up expecting to have power.
The proliferation of violent images in the media and their impact on our society is one aspect of CEM’s broad concern that today’s dominant story-tellers are no longer home and community but rather global conglomerates whose primary interest is profit. They want to move toward a realistic democratic media to place media/cultural issues on the social-political agenda. Their approach involves building a new coalition made up of a wide range of individuals and groups with interests in the media, in the US and other countries. They will work to raise public awareness of the issues, to put pressure on governments for regulation, and with the media to make the necessary change itself. Those wanting more information on CEM can write to them at P.O. Box 31847, Philadelphia, PA, USA (tel/fax 215-387-5303).