Brutality-Desensitization Process Nearly Complete

In This Section

Vol 35 Issue 17

Eleven-Year-Old Used As Human Shield In Dodgeball Game

SPARTANBURG, SC—The U.N. is condemning the actions of Spartanburg fifth-grader Joshua Fife, who on Monday violated the terms of the 1949 Geneva Convention by using classmate Doug Wiersbicki as a human shield during a gym-class dodgeball game. "The terms of civilian protection, as outlined in the Geneva Convention, were clearly violated by Fife's placement of Wiersbicki in the direct line of heavy dodgeball fire," U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said. "Whether in Kosovo or Mr. Brundage's gym class, the use of innocents as human shields must not be tolerated."

Senior-Center Residents Debate New Anchorwoman's Ethnicity For Fifth Straight Evening

ST. PETERSBURG, FL—Ferndale Senior Center residents debated new Channel 27 Action News anchorwoman Sonya Luntz's ethnicity for a fifth straight day Friday, with Edward Bloch, 81, steadfastly holding to his "Mexican" theory and Muriel Simmons, 83, leaning toward Hawaiian or Indian. "If you ask me, she looks Oriental," said Jack McCallum, 79, watching Luntz on the 6 p.m. newscast. "Orientals have that shape to their face—I saw it in the war." Luntz's ethnicity will be put to an official senior-center vote this Thursday.

Nation's Legislators Resume Unfettered Whoring

WASHINGTON, DC—The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal safely behind them, members of Congress are finally clear to resume their unfettered whoring, Beltway sources reported Monday. "Thank goodness this terrible scandal is over at last," said U.S. Rep. Fred Hutchinson (R-PA), accompanied by two women identified as "Bunny" and "Chantal." "With the national spotlight finally off the sexual indiscretions of its elected officials, my fellow legislators and I are once again free to gleefully hump all manner of mistresses, secretaries and hookers with impunity." Hutchinson then had sex with the women.

Universe Ends As God Wakes Up Next To Suzanne Pleshette

CHICAGO—The 15-billion-year-old universe came to a surprise-twist end Tuesday, when God woke up next to actress Suzanne Pleshette. "What a crazy dream I just had," God said to Pleshette at the conclusion of the popular, long-running universe. "I was the Creator of all things, I had this crazy Son who was always getting arrested and wouldn't get a haircut, and My children were always hurting and killing each other in My name." Pleshette reassured God that He had imagined the whole thing and urged the beleaguered, well-intentioned deity to go back to sleep.

Pamela Sue Is Going Au Natural!

Item! Pamela Sue Anderson Lee is all over the news again! Devoted Harveyheads may recall that about six months ago, I reported that the former Baywatch Babe had help of a surgical variety in a certain chest area. Well, I have it on good authority that she recently underwent surgery again, this time to get rid of those "helpers." I, for one, have to say that she is a gorgeous gal with or without any chestal assistance, and I applaud her decision to go au natural. Kudos, Pam!

Home At Last

For the first time in several months, I woke to find my-self back in my dank, urine-smelling bed-chamber at the Zweibel Estate. How glorious a sight to be-hold! For a second, I almost believed that my horrific experiences were but a terrible night-mare, yet I was almost mad with joy to be reunited with the many possessions I had once so taken for granted. Hello, big stuffed moose head! Hello, chafing-dish! Hello, meerschaum pipe! Hello, blotting paper! Hello, armoire! Hello, cupsidor! Hello, iron-lung! Hello, enema-bulb! Hello, socks!

I Don't Even Remember Writing The Tommyknockers

So, I'm doing this book signing for The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon at the Barnes & Noble on Manhattan's Upper West Side last week, and this woman comes up to me, gushing about how The Tommyknockers is her "absolute, all-time favorite book." The name really didn't ring a bell, but I figured I must have written it, seeing as this woman is bothering to tell me how it's her all-time favorite, so I just kind of play along like I know what the heck she's talking about.
End Of Section
  • More News
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage

Technology

Technology Unfortunately Allows Distant Friends To Reconnect

WAYNE, PA—Providing them the tools necessary to bridge a gap that both individuals say they were more than willing to maintain indefinitely, sources confirmed Monday that the advent of modern technology has unfortunately allowed distant friends Mere...

Fun

  • Night Out Consecrated With Opening Exchange Of High-Fives

    CHARLOTTE, NC—Kicking off the evening with their customary expression of excitement and camaraderie, a group of friends reportedly consecrated their night out on the town Friday with a ceremonial opening exchange of high-fives.

Brutality-Desensitization Process Nearly Complete

CAMBRIDGE, MA—The desensitization of U.S. citizens to acts of brutal violence—an ongoing process by which Americans become increasingly inured to savagery and mayhem—is nearly complete, sociologists at Harvard's Media Research Laboratory reported Monday.

American Focus

According to a study by the prestigious think tank, less than 3 percent of Americans retain a capacity for shock, revulsion and dismay when faced with violent dismemberment, beheadings, or other displays of sadistic, inhuman cruelty. The human mind's ability to be disturbed by such atrocities, the study found, will most likely vanish from the American psyche by the summer of 2001, if not sooner.

"Within a short time, the sight of a blood-soaked man fleeing in terror, a hysterical woman begging for her life as she is beaten by attackers, or even a tight close-up of a shotgun-blasted, sucking chest wound on the evening news will no longer provoke any response beyond a dismissive yawn," said Media Research Laboratory director Dr. E. Phillip Kindler. "What we had long considered a normal reaction of panic, fear or sorrow—the negative emotions traditionally elicited by such horrific displays—is very nearly a thing of the past."

Kindler then illustrated his point by showing an audience a video clip of a man's head exploding from the 1980 David Cronenberg film Scanners. Though the footage was considered deeply disturbing at the time of the film's release, it evoked little more than derisive mutters of "boring" and "totally fake-looking" from the assembled crowd. One audience member was so unmoved, he consumed an entire chili dog during the once-gruesome scene.

The phenomenon of brutality-desensitization, Kindler said, was once exclusively the domain of soldiers who experienced such horrors firsthand. In recent years, however, it has spread to all sectors of society, causing a paradigmatic shift in the way Americans absorb and process images of violence.

In the wake of tragedy, police remove massacre victims from the Columbine High School parking lot.

This numbing effect, which began with the ascent of mass media around the turn of the century, has been accelerating exponentially in recent decades, aided by such genocidal atrocities as Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, as well as skyrocketing crime rates at home. These factors, combined with the continued merging of entertainment and violence, from the still-popular Faces Of Death videotape series to action figures with lifelike spilling viscera, have altered public perception to the point where, in a recent study, 17 percent of participating 9-year-olds fell asleep when shown footage of Iraqi soldiers shooting Kurds in the head.

"When I was 11, I saw the famous chest-bursting sequence from Alien on HBO during a slumber party at a friend's house," the study quoted one 30-year-old test subject as saying. "At the time, it totally freaked me out. But today, even a kids' videogame like Mortal Kombat makes that scene look tame by comparison."

In many sectors of American society, particularly urban settings, the brutality-desensitization process is already complete. "To be honest," Kindler said, "it's been complete since the late '80s in most inner-city communities, where daily shootings and stabbings blend seamlessly into rap lyrics and action movies depicting them."

However, the study found, the process is now nearing completion in even the most privileged suburbs.

"Right now," Media Research Laboratory associate director David Alland said, "there are 15-year-olds in Littleton, CO, whose faces are more glazed over than those of hardened Vietnam veterans."

According to Alland, while the extraordinary public reaction to the massacre at Columbine High School seems to indicate a rise in Americans' capacity to be horrified by senseless violence, precisely the reverse is occurring. What we are actually witnessing, he said, are the final stages of brutality-desensitization.

"As images of panicked children running for their lives, their arms held behind their heads, are replayed 24 hours a day for millions of people on the major news networks, society will experience more backlash desensitization than a thousand Keanu Reeveses in black trenchcoats could ever possibly generate," Alland said.

What's more, Alland said, with U.S. lawmakers responding to the tragedy with calls for increased militarization of school zones, including greater police presence and the arming of teachers, the process will only accelerate.

"In early-stage desensitization, we see a regression to ape-like responses of adrenaline and aggression, in which the violence becomes thrilling instead of horrifying," Alland said. "But this is not what we're finding in our research. Instead we're finding a lot of late-stage desensitization, with Americans, unlike apes, exhibiting no emotional reactions at all."

"Far from a nation of bloodthirsty beasts," Alland said, "I foresee the America of the future as a society of emotionless, robotic drones incapable of empathic response. The bad news is, these drones will regularly go haywire and blow each other away with automatic weapons. But, on the positive side, nobody will really mind all that much when they do."

Next Story

Onion Video

Watch More