Monday, February 4, 2013

Are books dangerous?

When I was at university I took a paper that examined the impact of television on its audiences. There were studies that suggested the material that was shown on television had such an impact on those watching that it could alter their personality. The researchers of these studies believed many television shows made audience members more fearful of the world and strangers. They also suggested that the violence shown on television made people more violent in their daily life.

They even had statistics to show how many more gun incidents had occurred after gun related drama on television and how many terrorist attacks were of a similar nature to those shown in television shows and movies. The researchers were basically saying people copied the violence they saw on TV.

These studies were largely conducted from the 1950s to the 1980s when television was relatively new. Now, books are obviously much older than television yet in the past fifty or so years it seems they've changed somewhat, content wise. We see a lot more sex, drugs, violence, and profanity in all mediums now. I think the internet has really changed the way we conduct ourselves as citizens of society. We're a lot more uncontrolled and open and this is bleeding into film, TV and books.

For the most part, books aren't really controversial. They generally don't make the news ... well unless it's 50 Shades of Grey of course.  But overall, books don't have a bad rap. They're that traditional form of entertainment that could be seen as "good" and "pure". When you read, your brain is working, unlike when you watch TV which requires less brain cells than sleeping (or so said my anti-tv, anti-microwave room mate from my college days).

So what I'm wondering is, do you think books have the potential to have the same effect as what these researchers believed years ago. In fact, do you believe this could still be correct about television? Especially now that we have the internet. Do you think the content of books could be dangerous and action provoking? Could the violence in books give readers ideas of violence? Or do you think books are just opening our minds to the world of imagination?

This is just a thought that kept me awake last night.


  1. This is just my opinion, but I think if we believe books have the power to be inspirational and to change lives for the good, we also have to believe they can be dangerous. I don't think we can attribute one kind of power to them and not the other. Take a look at a book like Mein Kampf. Personally, I believe a book containing Hitler's political ideologies is dangerous, and I think history would support that (which is more than a little ironic when you consider how many books the Nazis burned). And that's only one example of a book that influenced people in a very destructive way.

    That being said, I'm certainly not advocating for censorship, because that's a very slippery slope and an issue that gets extremely murky.

    I can see why you were pondering this one. Great post topic, Samantha!

    1. Thanks for your comment Erin! It's certainly a difficult question because you don't know where to draw the line!

  2. Very interesting point... I've never thought of this before.

    I don't see how books could be any different than television. Both are supplying the reader with ideas, and if it's a good book, the scenes that play out in the reader's head can be just as realistic, or more so, than any show or film. Now, I can't make any conclusions because I'm not looking at any data, but I would be skeptical of anyone claiming that television (or the internet) has caused society to become more violent or immoral.

    1. Hi Aaron! I agree with what you're saying. I read quite a bit of research done in the 1970s that was saying television was causing a 'fearful society' and that television shows were giving people more ideas about violence etc. I'm not sure how true this research really was or if it was just a hypothesis they were desperately trying to prove correct. But I agree, I'm not sure how books would be any different or create any ideas that television doesn't, except perhaps the fact there is more censorship on TV. Who knows! Interesting question to ponder...