Hands Across The Border

Canadians Concerned About Violence in Entertainment (C-CAVE)
News release
November 30, 1999

Toronto, November 30, 1999: In 1992, Dr. Brandon Centerwall wrote that "... long-term childhood exposure to TV is a causal factor behind approximately one-half of the homicides committed in the United States, or approximately 10,000 homicides committed annually," and that "... if, hypothetically, TV technology had never been developed, there would today be 10,000 fewer homicides each year in the United States."

The United Nations, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, National Institute of Mental Health, American Academy of Mental Health, and the U.S. Surgeon General, have all made definitive statements about the relationship between childhood exposure to visual violent images and later manifestation of real world aggression and violent criminal acts.

Beginning in 1952 and continuing to this day, Canadian and American politicians have struck committee after committee and held hearing after hearing to study the problem of media violence and recommend solutions; a partial listing is attached . For fifty years, every major medical and mental health association in the United States has told the American violence industry that they were harming society and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

The response from the industry has been to increase the level of violence in their products year after year, for fifty years, gleefully leaping on each new advance in technology as a means to intensify the violent experience for the consumer, and even gloating about it in their promotional material. "Kill your friends guilt free" "We took what was killer and made it mass murder", "Psychiatrists say it's important to feel something when you kill" -- all advertisements for video games.

The violence industry has gotten away with this because -- with a few notable exceptions -- politicians on both sides of the border have been too craven to take the industry on. And American courts have given the entertainment industry almost blanket immunity from liability. All that changed this year with decisions in two cases: a lawsuit against Paladin Press for publishing a "hitman" manual that provided a blueprint for the murder of three people, including a child, and the Supreme Court giving the greenlight to a lawsuit against Oliver Stone and Time Warner over a shooting attributed to Natural Born Killers. Both cases opened the door for the $130 million lawsuit filed in Paducah, Kentucky this past April by Jack Thompson.

For fifty years, violence has been used as a cheap, industrial ingredient -- but the price is about to go up.

Bringing this legal strategy to Canada is not about making lawyers rich; it's an act of desperation by ordinary people who have been betrayed by politicians and left defenseless against a powerful and ethically bankrupt industry that has been busily force feeding violence to children from cradle to boot camp for half a century. We are paying the price now, and the price is much too high.

Sad to say, but it must be said -- the violence industry has been aided and abetted in this destructive behaviour by many in the news media who repeatedly misinform and mislead the public about the status of the research by using words such as "inconclusive", when it is anything but. Most parents would not knowingly buy toxic products for their children, but most parents don't know, and so the violence industry flourishes, while children pay the price.

We hope this forum today will mark a turning point, that politicians at all levels will find the courage to tackle this industry. To that end, C-CAVE has compiled a list of recommendations based on Dave Grossman's concept of Education, Legislation, Litigation. No one initiative provides all the answers, but together they can be effective in curbing the tide of violence that engulfs us. And the tide must be turned.

In the foreword to Television Violence: Fraying our Social Fabric, a report issued in 1993 by the Standing Committee on Communications and Culture, it was noted that the Roman circuses evolved over several hundred years from places of mild entertainment to places where hundreds of thousands of people died, and the reason the circuses became more and more bloody, more and more grotesque was because of the public's demand for more and more violence.

With the introduction of "reality" specials on television and the distribution of "death" videos, we have devolved to the Roman circus stage, where people can sit in the comfort of their homes and watch other people suffer and die for their entertainment. The tide must be turned.

We thank our American friends, Dave Grossman and Jack Thompson, for volunteering their time to come to Canada and share their expertise. Rest assured, the information will be put to good use. Special thanks to Scott Newark, Tim Danson, Steven Sofer, Julian Fantino and Priscilla de Villiers for their assistance in making this event a success.

Forum Participants

Priscilla de Villiers
Rose Dyson
Tim Danson
Recht & Freedman
Julian Fantino
York Regional Police
Dave Grossman
Killology Research Group
Scott Newark
Office for Victims of Crime
Moe Sihota
B.C. Minister of Social Development and Economic Security
Valerie Smith
Jack Thompson