Social Science, Media Effects & The Supreme Court: Is Communication Research Relevant After Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association?
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Social Science, Media Effects & The Supreme Court: Is Communication Research Relevant After Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association?

  • Author(s): Calvert, Clay
  • Bunker, Matthew D.
  • Bissell, Kimberly
  • et al.
Abstract

This article examines the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's

2011 ruling in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association for the

future use of social science evidence and communication research to

supply legislative facts supporting laws that target harms allegedly

caused by media artifacts. The Brown majority set the bar for the

relevance of social science evidence exceedingly high - perhaps too

high, the article suggests - while Justice Stephen Breyer, in contrast,

adopted a much more deferential approach in a dissent that embraced

the evidence proffered by California. The article also reveals an

apparent inconsistency in Justice Antonin Scalia's approach to social

evidence when comparing his majority opinion in Brown against his

opinion just two years earlier in Federal Communications Commission

v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. Ultimately, the article asserts that

communication scientists hoping to influence both legislative bodies

and jurists should view Brown as a wake-up call to do two things: 1)

educate lawmakers and jurists about whether and when social science

research can adequately resolve complex questions about media-caused

harms; and 2) jettison research that lacks real-world generalizability

and legal relevance.

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