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Letter imperfect

10/29/2000 07:00:00 PM Eastern

The V-chip, which someone once presciently predicted would be the Betamax of the '90s, was adopted in 1996 thanks in part to a study that purported to find "a strong relation between early television violence viewing and adult criminality." That's what an impressed Congress was told, with bar charts for emphasis. Now, according to a 15-year study of violence studies (reported last week on ABC), it turns out that the "strong" causal relationship "established" by that violence study was drawn from three-that's right, three-cases (out of 24 known violent criminals tracked, out of an original 800-plus sample of kids).

University of Toronto Professor Jonathan Freedman is releasing his report, which concludes that none of the 200 or so violence studies support the causal relationship that was the underpinning of the V-chip. Although the study was funded by the Motion Picture Association of America, Professor Freedman points out that he has been knocking holes in violence studies since before he took MPAA money (translation: His science attracted their money, not the other way around). He is joined in his attack on violence studies by Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Richard Rhodes. "There is no good evidence that watching mock violence in the media either causes or even influences people to become violent," Rhodes told ABC. One of these days, instead of pointing fingers at media violence, politicians will lift a few more hands against the real thing.

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