Violence, pornography, and the election

John Beyer, the Black and White Minstrels fan who compares himself to St Paul, is complaining that there is not enough violence and pornography in this year’s general election campaign. According to his latest news release, he has written to the three party leaders to ask them where they stand in relation to his opinions on the media.

Parliament legislates on a range of social and moral issues and these have yet to feature very much in the Election campaign. Many people care deeply about standards in entertainment and are concerned about the portrayal of violence, the use of obscene language and the display of nudity and sexual intimacy on television

He goes on to demonstrate the fundamental fallacy which underpins his obsession:

The latest statistics on the portrayal of violence on television again show that violence involving firearms is the most common followed by violent assaults – precisely those crimes that are on the increase.

Spooning heck! Talk about confusing correlation and cause.

There is more – calling for the G8 to stop pornographers abusing the internet, complaining that parents have to take responsibility for the protection of their own children (!) – all presented as a call to protect the “weak” (TV viewer, internet user, Christian) against the “strong” (TV and film industries). I wouldn’t recommend it.

16 Responses to “Violence, pornography, and the election”

  1. Christopher Shell says:

    ‘Talk about confusing correlation and cause’.

    This is just the issue: whether it is a mere correlation or an actual cause. This needs debate (and reliance on former stats) rather than prejudgment of the issue.

    The very concept of ‘correlation’ overlaps with that of ’cause’ insofar as the world is not split up into ‘things’ which cause ‘things’ (ie effects). Rather, the world is a vast interlocking causative web – and wherever there is a correlation at all, one can say for sure that there must be some reason for the correlation. Correlations don’t happen by accident.

  2. Joe says:

    That PhD you keep on about clearly isn’t in statistics; this is a pretty elementary fallacy. Simple numerical correlation is meaningless unless a clear causal relationship can be established. There famously exists a close correlation, month on month, between ice cream sales, the incidence of rape, and deaths by drowning; by Mr Beyer’s ‘logic’, this mean that ice cream causes rape and drownings. (Or perhaps that rape and drownings cause ice cream.)

  3. Dan Factor says:

    John Beyer refers to the many people who are “care deeply” about violence, nudity and sexual intamacy on Television.
    Who are these people, apart from self appointed moral guardians like himself and his preesure group?
    I wonder why he refers to nudity and sex on screen as something which is harming society. Sex and nudity are natural things.
    I have my own theory, that Beyer subscribes to the Victorian idea that sex is something which should be seen as dirty and porngraphic rather than natural and exciting. He wants media producers to show sex as something which should be only be used to produce offspring rather than something which can be used as a means of enjoyment, otherwise it’s porngraphy in his book.
    What Mr Beyer wants is a parliament theocracy where the law makers control what we do and do not see on our own TV screens and DVD players. Beyer believes the public are so illeducated that they will be brainwashed into doing anything by the media. That is why he wants the government to hold our hands.

  4. Christopher Shell says:

    Read my comments carefully.
    I said that a correlation proves a connection (which it does), not that it proves causation.
    One can see it in terms of a family tree. The parent is the cause of the child. The two children have no causative connection with one another. But I am affirming (where you are denying) that the two children are, none the less, still related.

  5. Christopher Shell says:

    ‘Sex and nudity are natural things’.
    The above statement is false without qualifications. They are natural in certain contexts. They are unnatural in other contexts.

  6. ‘Sex and nudity are natural things’.
    The above statement is false without qualifications.

    LOL. How can nudity not be natural? We are not born with clothes on, neither do clothes grow on trees. They are worn as protection and for warmth. Social requirements for clothing have arisen from our need to wear them for these reasons, not the other way round.

  7. Christopher Shell says:

    Of course! These are two of the most fundamental things in nature.

    But to refute John Beyer’s point, you would have had to be using ‘natural’ in another sense, which was the sense I took you to mean.

    Let’s speak of natural-1 = ‘basic to the natural world’ and natural 2 = ‘normal and therefore good’. I thought you meant ‘natural 2’, which would have been more relevant to the argument. But in fact you meant natural-1.

    Natural-2 is an incoherent concept, since nothing is good by virtue of being normal. All sorts of bad things are also normal.

    Natural-1 is a coherent concept, and moreover sex and nudity do indeed fall into the set of things which are natural-1.

    But John Beyer knows very well that they are natural-1. Where has he suggested that they are not?

    He is not treating the question of whether they are natural-1, but the question of whether they are good, helpful or beneficial in all circumstances. We can all think of circumstances in which they are none of these three things.

    However did the false equation of natural with good/beneficial come about? One finds it everywhere, even in the doctor’s surgery, and doubtless also in the psychiatrist’s.

  8. Joe says:

    And please read my comments carefully – I was finding fault with Mr Beyer’s logic, not yours. He was quite clearly implying a direct causative relationship, specifically that (in this case) the portrayal of gun violence in any context whatsoever on television leads to actual gun violence in real life.

    But since you mention your logic – the fact that it would be accurate to infer a relationship in the example you give is wholly specific to this example, rather than being somehow illustrative of some quality inherent to all correlations, and especially not to those previously under discussion.

  9. Christopher Shell says:

    Actually, whether we like it or not, the main way of cutting down on any bad thing (whether drugs, gun violence, you name it) is simply not to view it as an option at all. Anyone who has grown up in an environment where it is not seen as an option is hugely less likely to indulge in it. Why? Because we all love to be normal, to ‘conform’. (I’ve always puzzled over the logic of ‘everyone’s doing it’ – why does it always seem to be BAD things that everyone is doing? Odd! Quite apart from the fact that even if everyone were doing it, that would be no reason to do it unless it were intrinsically worth doing.)

    So in that sense, JB is right. Television does not prescribe what we do. Rather, it presents a worldview: certain things are seen as normal (whether or not they are actually normal – let alone right), and certain attitudes as well (no doubt the attitudes of the kind of people who work in television).

    It’s a short step from being perceived as normal to becoming widespread.

  10. Christopher Shell says:

    Joe – the point is well taken. Icecream sales, drowning and rape all rise in summer. Summer is therefore the ‘parent’, and the three ‘children’, though indirectly ‘related’, are (like some real children) as different as chalk and cheese. However, understanding of the precise relationship is advanced by sketching this family tree rather than by denying it.

  11. tom p says:

    No. There is no relationship between increasing ice cream sales and increasing rape. They are just temporally coincidental. There is no ‘parent’, just a ridiculous argument.

  12. Christopher Shell says:

    Clearly both would rise in the summer. Therefore summer is the parent and they are the children. And children (tho’ often as different as chalk from cheese) are related, albeit not related at one remove but at two removes.

  13. G. Tingey says:

    Sexual intimacy and nudity on TV?
    Almost enough to make go out and get one – I gave TV up over 20 years ago, as the information-content, even then, was neagtive ….

  14. jason.c says:

    We all must pray our father that is
    in heaven in order to stop wathing
    this sin.Ok,we all have different sins,
    but this seems to be a powerful weapon
    from that,we all know who is.So now our
    defence could be this-by praying.We must have
    faith first,in order to work,becouse god
    knows us well-he is waiting for us,waiting
    to receive our praises and to talk with him.
    Religion could be our most powerful defence-for
    who believes well.We must pray our friend,our
    saviour-jesus not only for help,but to thank
    him also.Children these days,have a loss of discipline,
    and responsability from there parents,i’m telling
    you this becouse,I think that is why teenegers -especially
    girls,woman whatever…are dressing badly;That’s why boys,
    man whatever are having these temptations,Not everyone,
    becouse many like these ways.I end here,to tell you
    if we really love each other,we must pray for each other,
    I wish i could continue,but i have a million more to say,THANKS.

  15. jason.c says:

    I wish that all people could read comments from someone who really wants to help,its beautiful.I want to get more deeper here in this subject

  16. jason.c says:

    I wish that all people could read comments from someone who really wants to help,its beutiful.I want
    to get more deeper,if you want,here in this subject[porn].For some is good,for some is bad.let me take
    people who doesn’t want to watch this sin,becouse they are good people and are being tempted everyday .
    Becouse of this.On the other hand people,that want this sin,are destoyng themselves.Let me take wise people
    that are also responsable of pornography,are wating money for sin,others use money to help for charity.Which one is right to you?Let me take women,some of them also married[a shame],are giving themselves for money-they don’t
    care about themselves-not even movie stars-you think that money is going to forgive them,or god will?
    One day jesus said:-“No one can serve both money and god in the same time-Which one will you serve?[luke16’13]
    So god comes first and always will,in all that we do,see also[luke12,2-9],thanks,i hope you understand these words,not from me,but with the help of jesus,thanks jesus-say-I WANT TO LOVE YOU JESUS_BECOUSE WE ARE SINNERS_JESUS ALREADY ANSWERED US,amen