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Jewish World Review Sept. 25, 2000/ 24 Elul, 5760

Suzanne Fields

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Consumer Reports

Targeting teenagers for money -- THE CONNECTION between watching violence and actually taking a knife or gun to someone is not clear. The data runs to different directions. There's no last word.

The television networks insist there's no connection at all, and if that's true the networks owe their advertisers refunds. They charge them a lot of money on the theory that television commercials persuade people to buy a lot of stuff.

On the other hand, certain studies suggest that watching violence inoculates a young person with such fear and loathing that he won't actually turn violent himself. Other learned studies suggest that watching violence plants "how-to'' seeds for committing violent acts, desensitizing young psyches and lowering the threshold for enjoying it.

That's why the latest Federal Trade Commission report on its investigation into the marketing of violent video games and movies to children is both maddening and frustrating. We can believe the findings are valid, but we don't know exactly what to do about them beyond being outraged, not merely at the what's being marketed, but also at the marketers.

Al Gore and Joe Lieberman threaten the purveyors of violence with regulation six months after they take office if Hollywood doesn't clean up its act, but they know the First Amendment won't allow that, and the marketers of Hollywood trash know that, too. But Al and Joe took it all back, anyway, just to assuage hurt feelings in Beverly Hills.

The ambiguity lends itself to hypocrisy, as Joe Lieberman in particular has demonstrated. He made his reputation in Washington as a friend of beleaguered parents -- promising that "parents shouldn't be forced to compete with popular culture to raise their children.'' That was before he felt the need to pander for cash. "Al and I have tremendous regard for this industry,'' he told that famous Beverly Hills bash-for-cash. He and Al will be no more than gentle "nudges,'' employing the Yiddish term for gentle naggers. That's having your Hanukkah gelt and spending it, too.

Al and Joe cheerfully forced a California congresswoman to cancel her fund-raiser at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles during their convention. But when $4.2 million swag was at stake the other night in Beverly Hills, the venue didn't matter.

Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney and the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in the Reagan administration, asked an obvious but simple question in her recent testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee: "Shouldn't people of stature hold (the purveyors of trash and violence) to account?''

Women, she suggests, are now in a position to be heard as never before, and should focus on practical ways to shame those who traffic in violence against women. The rapper Eminem, for example, celebrates the pleasures of raping and murdering his mother. His records are produced and distributed by Interscope, owned by Seagram. Two women sit on Seagram's board. Lynne Cheney challenged them to take up the issue of corporate accountability, citing Eminem as evidence of corporate irresponsibility.

Mountains of persuasive data tell how an abused child is prone to grow up to be a violent adult. Many such children don't. It's impossible, given the rough tools of social science, to make the cause and effect connection. A lot of things make an impact on the lives of different children. We're discovering there may be a genetic component in human violence, but short of discovering something specific, such as a brain tumor or evidence of paranoid schizophrenia, we can't be certain of what it is.

Money, and lots of it, makes cleaning up the swill a difficult task. Teenagers are going to spend $160 billion this year and a lot of it is spent on music and movies, a 60 percent increase over three years. Creators of violent fantasies in movies and records want their piece of it, and to hook the kids for tomorrow. When some of this cash overflows into the pockets of politicians, the clean-up gets all the more difficult, corroding the convictions even of good men. That's clear enough, if the causes of violence aren't. You could ask Al Gore and Joe Lieberman about that.


09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate