Skip chips to stop violence the problem's not in the set

July 16, 1995|By ROGER SIMON

The real problem I have with putting v-chips in television sets is that it will knock Bible stories off TV.

V-chips screen out violence. So that means we won't have David bumping off Goliath. Or God slaying the Egyptian first-born. Or Samson bringing down the house on the Philistines. Or Jesus lashing the money-lenders from the Temple.

But Bill Clinton thinks this chip is a good idea.

And he backs a law making v-chips mandatory in every new TV set in America.

(The chip also can screen out sex, by the way. So forget about the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah.)

Why do we need a v-chip?

Because TV is a major cause of violence in our society.

And if we banish violence from TV, we will banish violence from our lives.

(This is called comedy. Maybe they'll have a c-chip for this pretty soon.)

Shakespeare, too, will have to go, of course. There are more deaths in Hamlet than in your average hour-long cop drama.

And I have long believed that "Romeo and Juliet" is the primary cause of teen suicide today.

Disney is certain to be v-chipped out of existence. There are scores of examples, but take just one: Bambi's mother gets shot. (And tell me the Menendez brothers didn't shoot their mother and father because they saw it first in a Disney movie.)

I wish we had the v-chip a few years ago. Because then millions of viewers would have been saved from one of the most violent series ever to hit the tube, a series in which 529,000 Americans were killed.

That's right. Ken Burns' "The Civil War" probably had the highest body count of any show in TV history.

And I wonder if Susan Smith was watching it in reruns before she decided to drown her two children. Or maybe she just grew up watching "The Three Stooges."

I kid you not. Those who really believe that TV causes violence are always quoting a study by Leonard Eron, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois.

He interviewed 875 TV viewers in the third grade, then at age 19 and then at age 30.

And Eron concluded that those early in life who watched television shows with violence tended to become more troublesome than those who did not.

Among the shows Eron deemed violent in the 1960s were "The Three Stooges", "Gunsmoke" and "77 Sunset Strip."

Plus cartoon shows, of course.

"Characters blow up and are back together in the next sequence," Eron said. "Kids learn early."

So if we had v-chips 20 years ago, chips that would have blocked out the Roadrunner handing that Acme bomb to Wile E. Coyote, I'll bet you the federal building in Oklahoma City would be standing today.

That is what our politicians believe. (Which makes me wish we had a p-chip.)

But allow me to express another opinion, before we have a d-chip that screens out all debate in America:

There has never been a study that has "proved" violence on TV "causes" violence in real life.

And if you look at last week's top five TV shows, you will find that comedies dominate the tube.

The top four shows in order were: "Friends," "Seinfeld," "Grace under Fire," and "Roseanne."

So if violent TV shows cause our kids to be violent, how come funny TV shows don't cause our kids to be funnier?

Does violence exist on TV? Sure it does. But TV reflects violence in our society; it does not cause it.

Politicians insist, however, that if we ban violence on TV we will be safer.

I say baloney. (And where's the b-chip when we need it?)

Only one TV household in three has viewers younger than 18 in it, but under this proposed law every new TV must have the v-chip.

Is that what Bill Clinton meant when he promised us a less wasteful government?

There is another flaw with the v-chip idea: It has to be activated at home.

Which means that parents who can't keep their VCRs from flashing 12:00 are supposed to outwit kids who surf the Internet.

Right.

We do need laws that address the problem of violence in America.

But we need lawmakers who are going to deal with what is happening in our streets, not with what is happening on our screens.

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