Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Culture of Murder.

(From Grand Forks Daily Herald, December 10, 1888.)

The Culture of Murder.

How Impulsive Organisms Are Prepared to Do Dark Deeds.

No fact is more patent to science than the direct effect of influences exerted through the medium of the senses upon the brain—that particular part we of the organism whose function we call “mind.” Darwin, Ruskin and all the great students of development have labored to bring this fact within the cognizance of the general thinking public. That they have failed is only too painfully evidenced by the persistence and surprising ingenuity of the practice of cultivating homicidal propensities, and collatorally murder, by a refined use of the art of mural decoration.

While we empower the police to put down with a strong hand the exhibition in shop windows, and the censor of stage plays and spectacles to interdict the parade in theatres of pictures and scenes of an “immoral” character, because it is recognized that these have a tendency to corrupt the mind of youth—and age too—nothing whatever is done to restrain the daily increasing evil of pictorial placards displayed on every boarding, and of highly wrought scenes produced at nearly all the theatres, which not only direct the thoughts, but actively stir the passions of the people in such way as to familiarize the average mind with murder in all its forms, and to break down that protective sense of “horror” which nature has given us, with the express purpose, doubtless, of opposing an obstacle to the evil influence of the exemplification of homicide It cannot be disguised that even the most sensitive nature is to some extent brutalized by the display of these pictures.

We are none of us as shocked at the spectacle of a knife driven into the chest of a young woman, and do not recoil as violently from the idea of this form of murder, as before the display on all sides of an elaborate, nearly life size picture of the deed. Nor do two men grappling, together and stabbing each other, or one man shooting another with a revolver, strike us as presenting spectacled of such hideous enormity as they would have done had we not been familiarized with these scenes by impressive placards staring us in the face at every turn. It does seem strange—passing strange—that this murder culture by the educationary use of the pictorial art has not been checked by public authority.

We have no wish to make wild affirmations, but knowing what we do, as observers of development, we can have no hesitation in saying that the increasing frequency of horribly brutal outrages is by no means unaccountable. The viciously inclined are, in a sense, always weak minded—that is to say, they are especially susceptible of influences moving them in the direction their passions incline them to take; and when the mind (or brain) impressed through the senses, and particularly the area of sight, in such manner as to produce menial pictures, either in waking thought or dreams, of homicide, the impulsive organism is, as it were, prepared for the performance of the deeds which form the subjects of the consciousness. We are, of course, writing technically, but the facts are indisputable, and we trust they will be sufficiently plain. It is high time that this ingenious and persistent murder culture should cease.— Lancet

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