April 24, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Does gory entertainment cause violent crime? Is censorship the solution? Yes and no, says philosophy professor Sissela Bok in Mayhem: Violence as Public Entertainment, which tackles these questions at a historical moment when the U.S. has one of the highest homicide rates of any industrialized country and Natural Born Killers has reportedly inspired more copycat killings than any other movie. Bok considers censorship ineffective and proposes public debate as a remedy, citing Norway and Canada as models for reform. Although her prescriptions are vague, her fair-minded analysis of media mayhem from the Romans to the V-chip brings welcome clarity to a daunting issue. B+

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