This month, the media swooned over another study on violence funded by the left-wing Robert Johnson Foundation. The study arrived at the ground-breaking conclusion that movies today contain more violence than movies in the 1950’s. With such an obvious and intuitive conclusions, why was this study even done? Ostensibly, it was to pressure MPAA to update its rating system. The study is also, though, the latest effort by one of the researchers, Brad Bushman, to push tenuous conclusions about violence.
Brad Bushman is a Professor of Communications at Ohio State University. Mr. Bushman has a long history of arguing that violent media causes aggression and violence in youth. He is perhaps most famous for concluding Bible reading can contribute to aggressive or violent behavior. Science is not on his side. Reams of studies contradict his hypothesis. Undaunted, he continues to conduct “studies” that are rigged to produce the results he desires and is tireless in his promotion of the results to the media.
Bushman’s latest effort is another example of him using “research” as a vehicle to advance his preconceived notions. Mr. Bushman somehow jumps from evidence of the existence of increased violence in modern films to the conclusion that by watching these films, youth “may” be becoming more aggressive or violent. This is, of course, the conclusion he intended to reach.
He doesn’t offer any proof or statistics linking the increased violence in films to an increase in youth violence. Perhaps because violence committed by youth has been on a dramatic decline for more than a decade–the very same time frame in which many of the movies Bushman cites as being most violent were popular.
Rather than address current reality, he cites a half century old study known as the “weapons effect” as proof that these films “could” be making youth more violent. Problem is, many studies since the mid-sixties have failed to replicate the same results, yet alone confirm them. As many social psychologists will testify, there are many variables that influence youth behavior. As Josephine Antsey, chair of the Department of Media Study at Buffalo University puts it, “There is a complex relationship between society, individual behavior and media. If it was simple, if, for instance, children’s behavior was provoked only by games, books an TV, we would have no problem raising them. We’d just give them moral stories about picking up their rooms and sharing with their friends and we’d be done.”
Mr. Bushman consistently seeks to obscure the unsubstantiated nature of this claims by seeming to agree with Professor Antsey’s point of view, saying of violence in films, “It may not be the only factor, and it may not even be the most important factor, but it isn’t a trivial factor — and its one we can change.”
By saying it isn’t the only factor, he tries to create a perception that it is, in fact, a proven factor, but Mr. Bushman’s study doesn’t produce a scintilla of evidence to prove it.
Facts don’t seem to matter so much to Mr. Bushman as mush as conclusions. Perhaps his willingness to espouse a certain political view is why Mr. Bushman is such a popular guest when talking heads need a good quote on how movies or video games caused the latest violent episode or when advocates of censorship need someone to testify at a committee hearing.
The purpose of this so-called study was to advance his political agenda. Mr. Bushman believes that he knows best what media you and your family should be exposed to. The tragedy is that an uncritical media publishes his results as if they were truth and spread the Bushman Gospel far and wide. Anyone who can conclude that the Bible can increase violence will conclude that dozens, if not hundreds of factors, increase violence.
Mr. Bushman has made a living drawing conclusions that are easily dismissed if one looks at the facts. So don’t be fooled by his latest revelations. Mr. Bushman knows how the grab the spotlight more than he knows what causes violence.