By Jane Genova

The slaughter of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown has made even libertarians start to think that maybe it’s time to bring back censorship of pop culture, at least for youth.

Youngsters embed themselves in media, a force that helps them get their arms around finding their place in the world. We Baby Boomers got through whatever, thanks to the Beatles and “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.” Adam Lanza, age 20, like the murderers at Columbine, was not yet an adult. That maturation process, experts conclude, doesn’t end until the mid 20s.

Studies on adolescent development and the media show, as Marjorie J. Hogan, M.D. discusses in MD CONSULT, that “ … exposure to media violence leads to aggressive thoughts, emotions, and behavior, and also to fear and desensitization.”

Some Youth Especially Susceptible

She adds, almost as if she were thinking back in 2005 about boys like Lanza, “Certain youth are more vulnerable to violent media messages and images …”

We know that that such youths tend to include the socially inept who take refuge in video games, music, social networks, films, and comic books.
Increasingly, much of that pop culture includes violent themes or even the playing out of violent action. Violence, like sex, seems to sell, and quite well.

With America’s reverence for freedom of speech, the concept of censorship leaves a bad taste in our mouth. For Baby Boomers, it brings back memories of the Roman Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency reviews of books and films that were verboten. When former second lady Tipper Gore advocated warning labels on music that she called profane, she was derided by the cool crowd.

Well, maybe the Catholic hierarchy and Gore were on to something. Maybe they were protecting human beings from their worst instincts. Thought leader on spirituality Deepak Chopra has revived as a mainstream idea mankind’s shadow side. Since from infancy on we learn from observing and imitating, what happens if we’re left to mimic violence?

Purchasing Power Can Be Used

Censorship can happen in many ways, some less distasteful than others. The easiest and most effective is through the power of the pocketbook, that is, refusing to purchase pop culture with violent memes or actions. If only adults do that, it will still put a dent in their revenues. Then things get difficult, of course. How to reach youth in a way that won’t bomb, like the ham-handed early television outreach regarding illegal drug use, is a tough nut to crack.

It’s up to public relations at its most creative to figure out what campaigns will do the trick. The answers could range from having youth themselves push back on the violence to taxation on violent pop culture products. With children afraid to go to school, time is not on the side of America.


Jane Genova, president of Genova Writing, Coaching and More, New Haven, Conn., specializes in executive communications and social media. She is a contract blogger on careers for AOL Jobs and published the book “Over-50: How We Keep Working.” She can be reached at Mgenova981 [at] aol [dot] com or 203-468-8579.