What do violence and food have in common? More than you would ever think.
Gluten free pasta, vegan cheese, vegetarian chicken, sugar free soda – they all sound like a bunch of oxymorons don’t they? The American food industry has recently been facing a growing sense of scrutiny as Americans realize the health consequences of our nation’s general eating habits. They are in a frenzy to point the blame at someone, mainly pointing the food corporations. These abstract new products are the food industry’s way of defending itself and providing a potential solution.
The media exploits news of animal abuse in farms and slaughterhouses. With a click of a few buttons, we have access to horrifying videos of slaughterhouse workers kicking chickens and throwing live baby chicks onto conveyor belts to be killed.
When we see this, we immediately place the blame on the workers, themselves, claiming we don’t understand how people could treat animals in such a cruel way. Workers themselves, pass on the blame to the leaders of the corporations, blaming them for the rules and regulations that they must abide by.
On a trip to the grocery store, we see a box of Kraft Mac&Cheese dinner that contains the food dye, yellow 5, to give it its inviting appearance.
As we check nutrition labels and read ingredient lists while making our other selections, we are upset by the sweeping amount of artificial and genetically modified products that fill the shelves. We automatically blame food companies for only focusing on profit, not considering the harmful effects of such food. Then we come home in the evenings to watch the evening news and hear about cases of salmonella and e.coli infecting children, even taking the lives of some. We angrily rant about the lack of food safety inspecting from the United States Department of Agriculture.
The parents, the media, the government, the school, the mental diseases, the guns. In the case of violence in our nation, specifically the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, these are the people and things we usually turn to in order to place blame. However, it is not only us. The media follows in our footsteps and now partakes in doing so.
The day of and the few days following the massacre, reports from local news stations flooded people’s television screens. A majority focused on finding someone to blame. Interviews were twisted and manipulated to get a conclusion out to the people. One article described the shooters to have targeted ethnic minorities and jocks (Obmascik). Another stated that Eric and Dylan were part of the Trench Coat Mafia, describing them as Goths who wore dark clothing with swastikas drawn on and listened to Marilyn Manson. The writer of the article also makes the indirect reference that the rock artist was connected to and therefore partially to blame for Eric and Dylan’s desire to kill (Greene). In short, they were looking to find something in them to blame. They could blame racism, or even Marilyn Manson to explain how two high school students could do such a thing.
As investigations continued to progress, the search to place blame continued. David Cullen, the author of Columbine, a book compiling years of investigation regarding the shooting, slyly puts the blame on mental illness. Although he tried to remain objective, throughout the book he clearly uses puts Eric’s possible psychopathy and Dylan’s depression to blame.
Even outside the realm of school shootings, one of the biggest blames for all the violence in our nation is the extensive portrayal of violence in the media. Whether it is violent TV shows, video games, or simply the prevalence of violence in news stories, our exposure to it takes a toll psychologically. It has been proven through psychological studies that young people who are otherwise known by their peers to have low levels of aggression reportedly have higher levels of aggression in both their thoughts and actions after exposure to violence in the media (Alia-Klein). So we put the blame on the filmmaking industry for exposing us to violence and essentially creating more violent people as a result.
However, it is important to take a step back before we point our fingers and quickly place blame on one thing. These issues, and most others in our nation right now are complex. Logically putting blame on one thing is simply impossible. Before we blame racism and Marilyn Manson, we must look at all the details and take in account that Eric and Dylan just wanted to kill as many people as possible. Before we blame the government for looking over our tainted meat, we should take into account that some of the US Department of Agriculture members are also the leaders of the biggest food corporations in our country.
It is comforting to place blame in something to give ourselves peace of mind in regards to issues that we do not fully understand or know how to fix. However, we need to accept that no one knows exactly why greed has turned into us abusing animals or why Eric and Dylan felt the need to kill their peers. And that is okay.
Furthermore, we also need to potentially examine ourselves to see if we are perpetuating any of these problems. Are we partially to blame for the deterioration of our nations food quality or the rise in aggressive behavior due to violence exposure? We complain about the effects of violence in the media, but shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead are among the most popular. We complain about preservatives in our food, yet we’re the ones popping frozen dinners in the microwave between classes and during our lunch breaks. If everyone were to take a quick look at themselves and take one step toward the solution in their personal lives, we would be much better off than ignorantly pointing the blame at an external factor to allow ourselves to sleep better at night.
Alia-Klein, Nelly, et al. “Reactions To Media Violence: It’s In The Brain Of The Beholder.” Plos ONE 9.9 (2014): 1-10. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.
Greene, Susan, and Bill Briggs. “Carnage Puts Spotlight on Trench Coat Mafia.” The Denver Post 21 Apr. 1999: n. pag. Web.
Obmascik, Mark. “Massacre at Columbine High – Bloodbath Leaves 15 Dead 28 Hurt.” The Denver Post 21 Apr. 1999: n. pag. Denverpost.com. Web. 2 Jan. 2015.