George Gerbner and the Mean World Syndrome

Essay by AveUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2004

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George Gerbner

George Gerbner was born in 1919 in Budapest, Hungary, immigrated to America in the late 1930s due to his hatred of the fascist Prime Minister. Gerbner obtained his U.S. citizenship and earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley in 1942. He earned a Ph. D. from the University of Southern California, in the process writing the first-ever master's thesis on the subject of education and television, and begins a long career in academia studying the effects of television on its viewers (particularly the effects of violence). He worked for the San Francisco Chronicle as a copy editor, reporter, columnist and assistant financial editor. The ex-poet, motivated by his hatred of fascism, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943. He volunteered for the Office of Strategic Services and ended up in a group of fifteen men trained in the techniques of blowing up bridges and roads.

However, on January 15, 1945 one of his missions goes awry. The young man and his OSS comrades, under heavy fire from Slovenia, parachuted into enemy territory. The war took a bloody toll on the young man's brigade. But America prevailed. And the ex-poet, now a decorated war hero, fell in love with a woman named Ilona and moved to New York.

In 1964, he became the dean of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn State archives). Here, he devoted over 40 years studying the effects that television has on its viewers until his retirement in 1989. Much of Gerbner's research was influenced by his up close and personal accounts with the fascist regime in Hungary. The

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restricted and violent society motivated his vast efforts to reform television into a tool, not a weapon. Now he is seventy-seven years old,