Vanity Fea

Too much attention to fictional violence


Too much attention to fictional violence

—says Jonathan Gottschall in The Storytelling Animal, arguing that fictional violence is not what leads to real violence. And I agree in part, but

There's an issue still

Your point is well argued and at least partly right. The representation of violence is involved with the nature of society in ways which cannot be simplistified by a foregone solution. But there remains one highly significant issue for debate. Does the representation of violence act like an addiction for our attention? Does it engage far more attention than it's worth? Isn't the proliferation of scenes of violence in films and video games one of the lowest ways to engage and hook up attention (a kind of cheap pornography for the most part). Shouldn't our best attention be directed elsewhere, and cheap representation of gratuitious violence be discouraged (especially by intellectuals with a social responsibility) more systematically? There is no possible end to the debate on the artistic necessity of representing violence. And yet I think that violence, real or fictional, attracts much more attention than it deserves. Ignoring cheap fictional violence and turning your attention elsewhere is a way of fighting a real evil resulting from violence, too— the evil of wasting our attention on the worst things and keeping it away from the best things.
(Plato puts forward a similar argument in the Republic).

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