Monday, November 3, 2008

Are Advertisers and Entertainers Cultural Pollutants?: Relevant Debate

A Reuters report about the findings of a recent RAND research organization study quotes the lead researcher, Anita Chandra, as saying, "Our findings suggest that television may play a significant role in the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the United States." They aren't prepared to categorically say that sexually charged programming and explicitly violent games have a direct causal link, but they believe their results build a stronger case that cautions that it certainly doesn't help.

While this shall certainly strengthen the argument of advocacy groups that decry the increased sexuality and violence in the culture, and reflected by, or in their view partially driven by, our entertainment, many still strongly feel the causal factors lie in lack of education and equally decry the imposition of values and restriction of choice.

Judy Gruen, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, framed the debate in an interesting way. She asserts that the increasing sexuality and violence in the culture, and in entertainment and advertising, amounts to "cultural pollution" with adverse physical and psychological health effects dangerous to the culture at large, comparable to environmental pollution. As such, she suggests that as we address environmental pollution with collective action and mandates, cultural pollution demands the same degree of urgency, and perhaps the same methodology.

What's your take? What role should our government and cultural institutions play, if any, in addressing the issue?

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