As I was preparing for my trial for “corrupting morals“, I spoke with a number of university professors who have done research on the subject of violence in media, and whether violent content can cause aggression. I’d like to share the fruits of my research, because I believe the findings of the scholars I will quote need broader exposure, as they can put the speculation on the effects of violent content on the internet to rest once and for all.
The material I will quote is from peer reviewed, academic studies by respected university professors, and thus doesn’t constitute my opinion, but rather a scientific, evidence based, well established collection of facts backed up by thorough research, testing and verifying. Most of the academic papers I will quote were published in subscription based periodicals for academics, and are therefore not readily accessible by the general public. I have PDF copies of each quoted paper, which were provided to me by the authors themselves. I will also quote authors whose wisdom has been tested by time.
Can Violent Content Cause Aggression?
To cut straight to the chase – the most seductive and bogus justification for censorship – that expression has the capacity to cause actual harm, has been thoroughly debunked and proven unsupported by academic research. According to the academic papers, people with prior aggression can be attracted to violent media, but violent media don’t cause aggression. Similarly, people without predisposition to aggression may be interested in gory videos out of inherently human curiosity, but even for them it doesn’t do anything to increase their anti social behavior.
A study by Joanne Savage and Christina Yancey from Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University in Washington, DC, published in Criminal Justice and Behavior magazine, Vol. 35, No. 6 in June 2008, studied the effects of media violence exposure on criminal aggression, and concluded that the relationship between exposure to violent media and serious violence has not been established. The study also notes that in recent years, during which time the technological advances allowed a greater chance that someone seeking out violent programming can find it, violent crime rates have been falling and not increasing.
A study by Prof. Johannes Breuer et al, from Department of Communication at University of Munster in Germany, published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture magazine Vol. 4, No. 4, in 2015, researched evidence for a selection effect of violent video games and physical aggression among adolescents. The study suggests that youth with prior aggression can be attracted to violent games – which is known as a selection effect, but that violent games don’t cause aggression – ie. no causal effect was established.
Study by Prof. Christopher Ferguson from Department of Psychology at Stetson University, published in Perspectives on Psychological Science magazine, Vol. 10, No. 5 in 2015, studied the influence of violent video games on children’s mental health, and likewise concluded there’s little evidence for a link with antisocial behavior. Or as Prof. Ferguson stated in an email to me: “…something being offensive is different from it being harmful.” I can’t even begin the express the gratitude I have for all the support Prof. Ferguson provided me with during the course of my prosecution.
In 2009, Prof. Ferguson published a research paper in Aggression and Violent Behavior magazine on correlation between pornography consumption and sexual assault rates, and concluded that available data rules out a causal relationship. In the paper, Prof. Ferguson noted the following:
Available research and self reported and official statistics might provide evidence for the reverse effect – the increasing availability of pornography appears to be associated with a decline in rape. Whatever the explanation is, the fact remains that crime in general, and rape specifically, has declined substantially for the last 20 years. Concurrently, availability of pornography has increased steadily in the last 20 years. These data give the impression of a catharsis effect – that exposure to pornography may actually provide a means to alleviate sexual aggression. Of course, this association parallels a broader downward decline in violent crime in general, as well as increasing depictions of violence in the media in general.
A Canadian study by Prof. Taylor Kohut from Western University in London, ON, published in the Journal of Sex Research in September 2015, came to the same conclusion. While researching whether pornography users held more gender egalitarian attitudes toward women than non users, the researchers found that:
Instead of demonstrating strong association between pornography use and support of non-egalitarianism, the current findings actually suggest weak associations in the opposite direction. Compared to non users, participants who reported viewing a pornographic film in the previous year also reported more positive attitudes toward women in position of power, and less negative attitude toward women in the workforce. Consequently, the study finds that pornography users are useful allies in the struggles that women face in obtaining among other things public office, economic independence, and bodily integrity.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the contents that appear on the BestGore.com website can have an emotional reaction in viewers, or be disturbing. However, I also note that if mere expression could cause actual harm, and required protection by the state, I’d long be dead. Because I haven’t had any protection by the state from mere words, and I’ve been threatened with death hundreds of times, I’ve been called everything in the book, and nobody came to my defence.
As enemies of intellectual freedom, censorship efforts are a form of manipulative repression that’s supported by hazy legal definitions, attacks on materials based on personal responses to them rather than their inherent qualities, efforts to promote or preserve orthodoxy rather than to admit free exchange of ideas, fear of mass communication of ideas rather than a fear of the ideas themselves, legal statutes and decisions based on class prejudices rather than fact, and attempted restrictions based on perceived harm or threat of harm rather than on hard scientific, causal evidence linked to harm.
One of the prime achievements of Best Gore, is that it exposed how our confused puritanically-violence-addicted society simultaneously reels in disgust at “obscenity” and yet spends more time concerned with the topics of sex and violence than most other social concerns.
The act of viewing content on Best Gore actually and rightly involves personal choice and individual freedoms. Censorship on the other hand operates on the assumption that the thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs and fantasies of human beings ought to be a subject of moral judgment and ultimately social and government action.
And as Prof. White notes in The Anatomy of Censorship, censors cannot demonstrate that the material “actually poses a danger to society.” And therefore, censors have to “forcibly suppress” because they cannot “convincingly demonstrate” that the material is harmful:
Censorship arises when and precisely because someone cannot convincingly demonstrate to others that the opinions which offend him or her are indeed truly false or dangerous. If they could, there would after all be little or no need for censorship.
Prof. White continues:
Getting government off the business of censorship and re-allocating the funds regularly spent on it would:
- a) Unburden the legal system (legislative and judicial branches), and
- b) Re-deploy law enforcement agents to better confront “the real dangers and serious crime citizens face.”
For the real evil in the world comes not from the disagreeable people, but from those so convinced of the absolute rightness of their opinions and beliefs that they would impose what they think and feel upon others. It is they who must account for their actions. For it is they who are most definitely in the wrong and from whom little good ever comes.
George Bernard Shaw ever so astutely noted in the preface to Mrs. Warren’s Profession, that:
All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.
1,600 years ago, St. Augustine of Hippo observed that the sexual organs move independently of the will. Sometimes they respond to what we do not want them to respond to, and other times they remain unresponsive when we want to employ them. From this disobedience of the flesh, mark of a fallen state, none are exempt, not even the guardians of our morals.
A censor pronouncing a ban, whether on an obscene spectacle or a derisive imitation, is like a man trying to stop his penis from standing up. The spectacle is ridiculous, so ridiculous that he is soon a victim not only of his unruly member but of pointing fingers, laughing voices. That is why the institution of censorship has to surround itself with secondary bans on the infringement of its dignity. From being sour to being laughed at for being sour to banning laughter at what is sour is an all-too-familiar progression in tyranny, one that should give us further cause for caution.
We spend enough time by ourselves, hidden from the eyes of others, doing the things that we do when we are by ourselves, to know how little of it we can honestly lay claim to. As Mark Twain remarked in Notebook: “Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.”
Take away the right to publish obscenities, and you take away the right to expose government’s abuses. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.
There could have been a lot of government’s deception exposed, if not for 2 and a half years of prohibition on my right to freedom of expression, including 16 months of prior restraint.
Violent content does not cause aggression. People with predisposition may seek out violent content, but those without predisposition to violence, will not become aggressive by watching violent content. In contrast, people with predisposition to violence may get their “fix” from watching violent content, instead of getting their fix by directing physical violence at actual people.
Should there be interest in this type of posts, I’d share more of the notes I made as I was preparing for the kangaroo court.