Monday, January 17, 2011

Advertising Violence

(Billboard in Tucson, Arizona. Image found on Deus Ex Malcontent.)

"...when you saturate the air with hate you cannot control who breathes it in," Dan from Pruning Shears explains in his post about the Arizona massacre. Take a few minutes to read his post, but I'll summarize his insightful points about advertising as best I can.

Advertising works. That's why Coke, Pepsi, Ford, Apple and everybody else advertises when they have a product to sell. In fact, they spend billions of dollars on advertising, often not even knowing which ad "sticks" and which is wasted. But it is a fact that increased spending on advertising will lead to increased sales of the product advertised.

And so when you look at the political climate in Arizona, the violent imagery used by Sarah Palin, the "Second Amendment remedies" suggested by Sharron Angle, the violent fantasies presented by Glenn Beck, and the Arizona Tea Party favorite who urged followers "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly"... it becomes bloody obvious these people are advertising violence.

And it works -- even if you can't draw a straight line from any one advertisement to the reprehensible act -- it works.

So the "alleged" shooter, Jared Loughner is mentally ill? I have no doubt that he is. But that doesn't make the crime an "isolated incident." David Neweirt proposed there is a level of moral and ethical culpability when violent speech has the following features:
  • It is factually false, or so grossly distorted and misleading as to constitute functional falsity.
  • It holds certain targeted individuals or groups of people up for vilification and demonization.
  • It smears them with false or misleading information that depicts them in a degraded light.
  • It depicts them as either emblematic, or the actual source, of a significant problem or a major threat.
  • It leads its audience to conclude that the solution to the problem manifested by these people is their elimination.
Crazy talk incites crazy people.

I get the feeling that some people honestly believe that if we never find a direct connection between Loughner and any pundit's violent rhetoric, then somehow violent speech is vindicated, acceptable and righteous. It is not.

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