June 8, 2007

Lesson in resisting violence - a response to the Jordan Manners shooting

Last night (June 7, 2007), I spoke to a class of art students at George Brown College on the impact of media violence. I referred to the article below, which was sent to me by C-CAVE and Sfp member Shirley Farlinger. Of the class of 42, one student, the aunt of 14 year old Jordon Manners, shot in his west end school last month, came in late. It was her first time back at class since before her nephew was murdered.

The last thing this group of mature students needed is "to have their awareness raised" . They were already well informed and articulate on media issues but were worried and anxious to hear about real solutions to the problems. Indeed, Miami lawyer Jack Thompson's name came up as someone who has launched numerous class action lawsuits against producers and consumers of harmful cultural commodities in the past, so far, unsuccessfully.

I question the value, as reported in the mainstream news, of a committee getting $600,000 to investigate the causes of violence at Jefferys Collegiate Institute where the shooting occurred. Sounds like a desparate attempt to "been seen" doing something constructive. Millions of dollars of tax payers money have already been spent researching the problem of rising levels of youth violence. It is time to act.

In advocating for legislative changes, the Coalition should join those of us calling for the resignation of CRTC chair, Konrad Von Finckelstein who has not only decided that regulation of ads on TV should be left to the viewer in charge of the remote but seems oblivious to legislation in the province of Quebec banning ads to children 13 years and under on the basis of research showing harmful effects. We need a chairman who has the guts to extend the legislation throughout the rest of Canada.

Also, another, strengthened, bill must be introduced into the House of Commons to invigorate the Broadcast Act so that violence not only on TV but in other cultural products as well, can be better regulated. Based on the way MPs voted on the bill defeated in January, only the Bloc and the NDP are dissatisfied with Industry Self Regulation with Ron Cohen guarding our kids with his industry run Broadcast Standards Council. Researchers at Laval University have already demonstrated this is not working. In 2004 they released findings that the incidence of violence on Canadian TV had increased 286% in 10 years, 81 % prior to 9:00 p.m - the watershed hours established in the 1990s to protect kids.

Any finally, any discussion of tax cuts in upcoming elections should include promises to eliminate shelters, exemptions and funding thru Telefilm and provincial film and TV development funds for extremely violent and pornographic productions which have recently been extended to include video games. And Mayor David Miller must start connecting the dots in his Safe City Committee Meetings. City Hall now has the power to deny permits to violent and pornographic productions in Toronto but refuses to tamper with the economic activity. Such hypocrisy has to stop if we are to come up with real solutions to the escalating problems of youth violence.

Rose Anne Dyson, Ed.D.
Chair: C-CAVE and the Media Working Group - Science for Peace (University of Toronto)
Editor- The Learning Edge
Author of MIND ABUSE: Media Violence In An Information Age
Co-author of MEDIA, SEX, VIOLENCE and DRUGS in the GLOBAL VILLAGE and Terrorism, Globalization & Mass Communication