Some Thoughts on the Common Snob

The claim that fictional violence causes real violence is a fantastic claim to make. There is no reason to believe this is true and every reason to believe it is untrue. The claim fictional violence causes real violence is a form of snobbery and snobbery is terribly common.

Some persons like to feel superior to other persons. They like to think their ‘taste’ in this or that is ‘better’ or more ‘refined’ than the next person’s. You probably don’t do this yourself, though you might have spotted it in others.

In any case you will have heard or read, at least once, that violence in movies might cause real violence to happen. It is quite common for the popular press to suggest this. Those who take their opinions from the popular press tend to agree. These days certain Playstation and X-box games (and some song lyrics) are said to do the same because many of them have lots of fictional violence.

Consider only movies for a moment. The most violent movies will show more than just violence (and not every movie has violence in any case) so do the non-violent things shown in movies cause persons to copy them in reality? This tends not to be claimed. This makes the claim about violence weaker, not stronger, because it gives violence a special status when it is but one thing movies show, so the argument should be put which explains that special status.

Be aware that when a person claims ‘X’ is harmful they are also claiming every other letter of the alphabet is harmless. That they might not spot this in understandable.

This means when a person claims movie violence might cause violence in real life, and they leave it there, they are also claiming the violence in novels, plays, poetry, radio-drama, musicals, opera, painting and sculpture is harmless.

There could be two reasons for this. Either they have thought about it sufficiently to discount other forms of fiction or there’s another reason.

So what could another reason be?

Both Stephen King and Jack Vettriano are disliked by critics. Why is this? It might be because everything they write and paint is rubbish – perhaps the critics are right? – or perhaps it’s because what they write and paint is worse than rubbish? What they write and paint is popular. If something popular also has artistic merit then the critic is surplus to requirements. He is ridiculous because he is pointless. It is therefore important that what is popular must not have artistic merit. Much criticism involves the critic taking time to elucidate the depth and breadth of his cleverness. Many critics have wonderful imaginations. The critic is easier to forgive because their snobbery is connected to their employment.

You might have spotted a pattern, here. With critics, what is popular lacks artistic merit; with the common snob, it is harmful.

The common snob (probably for good reasons) might feel uncomfortable discussing the artistic merits of this and that but is quite at home stroking their chin while telling you the violence in movies might cause violence in real life. It’s a way to get a superiority fix while staying under the comfort-blanket of public opinion.

In other words, doubly shameful.

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