“Rage on the Radio” When radio commentators go too far

26 Oct

When a radio journalist goes too far with his or her comments what responsibilities lie with him or her if the audience violently reacts to it as Jim David Adkisson did? It is the same issue that other media also have to deal with, like films judged violent or rappers that would encourage listeners to violent behavior through their lyrics, or yet video games, like GTA, accused to get some young gamers violent and to reproduce what they do in the game in the real world. What is the responsibility lying with mass media when some people getting out of control after having listened, viewed or played something that was not politically correct, seem violent or obscene?

Theories that  predict media will have an immediate and potent influence on their audience have been outdated for a while now and most of us agree to say that many other factors, including an individual’s environment for instance, affect the way someone will interpret something on a particular medium.

Jim David Adkisson was a low skilled and little educated man. He was also probably really lonely and was unemployed. What he heard on the radio describing liberals as “evil” might have been a detonator for him. He decided to shoot these people in the Unitarian Universalis Church, Tennessee, because Adkisson associated them to the liberal movement as they were social oriented and openly welcomed gays and lesbians in the church. But the detonator is the last part of a bomb, many components were there before he decided to go kill “liberals”, such as his lack of education and his low IQ. I agree however, that for that kind of people, hearing repeatedly violent words may be of a huge influence.

However, though media cannot be considered responsible for every individual reaction, it should not be authorized to say all and anything on air, only for a matter of respect and ethic. Again, the job of a journalist is to relate OBJECTIVELY information and not to say someone should die just because he or she does not have the same opinion with the journalist. But as usual, economic matters, like audience for instance, win against professional ethic, and some journalists get stuck in a vicious circle that makes them going further and further in their comments to get a higher audience rating.

Let’s remind also that the First Amendment allows freedom of speech only, and only if it does not endanger someone’s life and physical integrity. The radio commentators who appear in the Bill Moyers’ report are, in my sense, out of the law, and should have been fired AND fined for what they said.

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