May 15, 1999
LINK BETWEEN VIOLENT ENTERTAINMENT &
WASHINGTON Former Education
Secretary William Bennett showed a Senate hearing clips of ''The
Basketball Diaries,'' the film that inspired a 14-year-old to kill students
in a Kentucky school. It featured teen idol Leonardo DiCaprio blasting
classmates with a shotgun.
Bennett then ran excerpts of ''Scream,''
seen by millions of teens. In an opening scene, a teenage girl is forced to
watch her jock boyfriend tortured and then disemboweled by two fellow
students seeking revenge. After his stomach is cut open and he
dies screaming, the killers repeatedly stab Drew Barrymore, torture her, cut
her throat and hang her body from a tree for her parents to see when they
''Had enough?'' Bennett asked. ''That's what a
lot of American parents have had. Enough.''
Denver Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput also
told the committee of being ''completely stunned'' by seeing a film, ''The
Matrix.'' In one scene the heroes wear leather trench coats ''in a
violent, elegant, slow-motion bloodbath'' as they ''cut down about a dozen
people with their guns.'' He wondered if Mr. Harris and Mr. Klebold had seen
the film. ''If so, it certainly didn't deter them.''
The Catholic prelate noted that people of faith
have been involved in music, art, literature and architecture for thousands
of years ''because we know from experience that these things
shape the soul. And through the soul, they shape behavior. The roots of
violence in our culture are much more complicated than just bad rock lyrics
and brutal screenplays. And it's clear that the Columbine killings were
planned well before ''The Matrix'' ever opened.
''But common sense tells us that the violence of
our music, our video games, our films and our television has to go somewhere
and it goes straight into the hearts of our children, to bear fruit in ways
we can't imagine, until something like Littleton happens.''
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, recalled that many
Americans ''were justifiably outraged when it was discovered that tobacco
companies marketed cigarettes to children. I believe that we should be
equally concerned if we find that violent music and video games are being
marketed to children.''
That's exactly what they are doing. Sen. Sam
Brownback, R-Kansas, who organized the hearing before the Littleton
massacre, said the ''teen-slasher'' films such as ''Scream'' are rated R
(not recommended for teens under 18). ''But the teen cast and high school
setting indicates that the targeted audience is precisely the same people
who are supposedly discouraged from seeing it: teens.'' Theaters
never block underage kids from R films.
More disturbing is the violence in video games
because a game player takes active part in violence. The higher the
body count, the higher the score in such games as ''Postal'' which offers
the fun of blowing away innocent bystanders, training children to be virtual
The ads for these games appear in ''Sports
Illustrated for Kids'' and game magazines.
What can be done about it? The CEOs of
companies that make these products, Time-Warner, Seagrams/Universal, Sony,
all refused to testify at the hearing. They did not show up at a White
House meeting on youth violence, either. Only Jack Valenti,
president of the Motion Picture Association came to both meetings. His
answer: ''Mother, father, ministers, rabbis, priests, principals and
teachers must construct within the minds and hearts of children an
impenetrable moral shield'' to give them a clear sense of right and wrong.
He's right, of course, but movies and games
should not shoot armor-piercing bazookas through the shields we parents try
to construct in our kids.
. Instead, what is desperately needed are
''comprehensive codes of conduct adopted by the different entertainment
industries themselves...much as the broadcasters did from the 1950's to the
1980's with the old National Association of Broadcasters TV code,'' proposed
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz in a New York
The nation's major Internet providers recently
pledged such a step, a filtering tool that is one click away for parents.
AOL already offers it. Problem is, ''with 99 percent of the
filters that are out there, there is an override code or a 12-year-old who
is sharp can figure it out,'' says Rev. Don Wildmon, a United Methodist
pastor and president of the American Family Association.
Therefore, AFA offers a better alternative.
Buy your Internet access through AFA for $21.95 a month that offers the same
unlimited access, but with the server filtering out all violent games,
sexually explicit or hate material and chat rooms except a few that are
It is not just kids who need protection. Wives,
if you fear your husband is into Internet porn, AFA has your answer. Call
601 844-5036 for information.
Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.