WHY don’t government lackeyst do a Google search on the things they intend saying before they blurt them out?

Admittedly, Hlaudi Motsoeneng doesn’t care what people think of him; or, seemingly, about the asinine and trite things that come out of his mouth. His assertion that showing violent protests on TV news leads to more violence is as absurd as it is that he remains in his position, despite the public protector’s and two court rulings which said he was illegitimately in charge.

I asked The Google: “Does watching violence on TV cause people to be violent?” and got a mostly negative answer to the question.

“Watching violence in the media does not cause crime,” summed up the second result, from Psychology Today.

“Violent tendencies reside within the personality, whether or not the person watches programming depicting violence. The television programme, the movie, or the video game do not turn him into something alien to his basic personality,” wrote Dr Stanton Samenow, about “the absurdity of such a thesis”.

The first result, from the American Psychological Association, was a more measured finding, quoting several bodies of research, finding that “exposure to media violence is just one of several factors that can contribute to aggressive behaviour”.

As The New York Times wrote after the horrendous Sandy Hook School shootings in 2012, “what’s missing are studies on whether watching violent media directly leads to committing extreme violence”.

Summing up a “comprehensive review of the literature on media violence” by scientific journal The Lancet in 2005, the paper wrote: “The weight of the studies supports the position that exposure to media violence leads to aggression, desensitisation toward violence and lack of sympathy for victims of violence, particularly in children.”

The key word is “desensitisation”. If anything, over-exposed South Africans are desensitised to the violence we see on SABC news.

The role of violence in computer games, for instance, has formed part of the criticism of these games for as long as I have been a technology journalist. I don’t play games in the genre of “first-person shooters”, but I do know lots of mature grown-ups who do. None of them has become violent because they kill aliens in Halo or steal cars in Grand Theft Auto. Millions of people play these games every day. Millions more watch violent movies about rogue special forces operatives who become bank robbers. None of them suddenly begins to burn schools.

I was invited onto an SABC radio show about 10 years ago where an upset parent raved about video-game violence. Do you let your four-year-old watch a cartoon channel, I asked, to which she replied “of course” as if I was an imbecile. I will admit to taking delight in pointing out the hypocrisy of this. Watch half an hour of cartoons and tell me they aren’t filled with a disproportionate amount of (albeit cartoonish) violence and mayhem. Wily Coyote is regularly blown up, as the Road Runner lets him fall off the edge of a canyon and plunge to what would be certain death even for someone with Motsoeneng’s nine lives.

As The New York Times says: “Though exposure to violent media isn’t the only or even the strongest risk factor for violence, it’s more easily modified than other risk factors (like being male or having a low socio-economic status or low IQ).”

Motsoeneng would understand that last factor particularly well; especially as he tries to dumb down the state media ahead of the local elections in August and tries to hide the huge rise in violent service delivery protests. It’s called censorship.

There is a reason that the SABC is often called “his master’s voice” and Motsoeneng has come to epitomise that old record-label phrase. It is both an insult to the country’s intelligence and a grievous assault on our democracy that he continues to get away with it.

Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @shapshak

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