School shootings and cultivation analysis: on confrontational media rhetoric and the history of research on the politics of media violence

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Purpose – This chapter maps the conceptual territory that research on school shootings shares with cultivation analysis.

Methodology/approach – It outlines the history of cultivation analysis, which used the statistical methods of content analysis and survey research to argue that television violence was rampant and sexist, and that this had the effect of making audiences fearful. The point of this history is to show that the model was conceptually grounded in critical approaches to media, and established questions about the ideology of media violence that set the grounds for school shooting studies.

Findings – In particular, the chapter focuses on similarities between cultivation analysis and ritual theory, and the cultivation thesis that violence represents gender hierarchies, as the two most obvious points of intersections with studies on school shootings. It suggests that these intersections help explain why a “school shooting” frame was deployed to other sorts of media violence, and debates about the effects of media violence, using Jared Loughner's attack on Gabrielle Giffords as a case study.

Practical implications – Emerging concerns about the effects of aggressive news punditry and political commentary can be addressed by reflecting on what studies of school shootings say about the more general politics of media violence, and cultivation theory is an invaluable resource in this endeavor.

Originality/value of paper – Academically, an engagement with cultivation theory underlines how school shooting studies contribute to critical media research in general, by demonstrating the validity of “second generation” models of media influence in the digital age.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSchool Shootings
Subtitle of host publicationMediatized Violence in a Global Age
EditorsGlenn W Muschert, Johanna Sumiala
Place of PublicationBasingstoke UK
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781780529189
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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