Television Is the Scapegoat, Not the Evil

CARL T. ROWAN

July 08, 1993|By CARL T. ROWAN

Washington. -- I'm feeling plenty damned aggressive these days in my irritation over misguided campaigns to blame television and the movies for the violence and carnage that devastate our society.

I'm appalled that liberal Democrats such as Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois and Rep. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts are spreading the nonsensical notion that Americans will, to some meaningful degree, stop beating, raping and murdering each other if we just censor what is on ''the tube'' or ''the big screen.''

I'm even more dismayed that Messrs. Simon, Markey and others think they've solved something by getting TV network executives and Hollywood brass to promise to precede some TV shows with a crawl saying, ''Due to some violent content, parental discretion is advised.''

This is a con job that would put most rip-off artists to shame. This is America once again engaging in escapism beyond anything movies and TV shows can provide. I mean escapism from the truth about what makes American children (and their parents and grandparents) so violent.

So what if Representative Markey is right about how many acts of violence an individual sees on television before age 18, or whatever? The truth remains that the most destructive people in this land learn about violence and find rage in the settings of their everyday lives, not from a TV program or a movie.

There are more than 14 million American children now living in poverty whose daily lives are surrounded by the physical violence of aching hunger and the spiritual violence of hopelessness. These children rarely live a week without seeing drunkenness, parental quarrels and fights over joblessness, or even murder victims on glass-strewn, blood-splattered sidewalks. Rapes, incest and other sexual abuse are what really happens to them and their siblings.

Perhaps television's greatest contribution to their rage is that it shows them how cheated they are as compared with other American youngsters.

A girl in New York or other ghetto areas cannot go to a public swimming pool without fear of male thugs ripping at her swimsuit or pawing at her. Nothing on television can be so horrifying as this reality of life.

We have a record number of 883,593 inmates in this nation's prisons and jails, most of them from poor, minority communities. The children, brothers, sisters, cousins of the incarcerated learn early to hold in contempt the privileged who drone on and on about ''law and order.'' No TV portrayal of violence can create as much aggression in an ''outcast'' youngster as a cop who hurls racial epithets at him or her.

America has the highest divorce rate of any country in the world. Every year a million children see their parents separate or divorce. The children see in their homes violence and verbal abuse unmatched in emotional impact by anything they watch on television. As for vulgarities, 7-year-olds in traumatic family situations learn quickly every four-letter word of sex, gender hatred and violence ever used on any TV show.

The politicians won't, or can't, deal with the real-life social problems that promote violence in America. Racism and class snobbery prevent them from standing up against an economic and social system that creates a permanent underclass.

So they try to make TV programs and movies the scapegoats! How pathetic!

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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