Emergency Service

Media, Games, Internet Shape Our Violent Views

While society struggles to explain the inexplicable in the wake of the latest mass shooting deaths, we can’t help but ponder the impact of visual stimulation on those who kill in mass.

Whether it is the news video of crumbling World Trade Center towers in the wake of an attack on America or two presidents proudly claiming credit for assassinating terrorists leaders, we have a visual image of the events. Death is nothing more than “collateral damage.”

When the cute newsy intones, “The next images are graphic,” it is code for “gory shots of killing or dead bodies coming up next!”

The producers of video training simulators for police and military are the same folks who make BILLIONS of dollars selling violent video games like Grand Theft Auto, and the Call of Duty games–all glorifying killing. “Kills” are the score card.

A police administrator of national standing confided that thanks to these games, bad guys often have the same skill levels as coppers they confront. Didn’t the “barefoot bandit” learn how to fly using a video simulator?

Like the millions of guns already on the streets, there is no way to stop violent video games. We don’t have the answers, but we can sure see the problem.

Faith, family, civility, respect, mental health delivery, elimination of drugs, gun bans, an end to violent video could all work.

If you know how to control any or all of those, perhaps society will survive. Until then, the genie has escaped the bottle and is running rampant.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Rod in SE Boise
    Dec 16, 2012, 2:24 pm

    Much of the evil in our society can be traced back to bad parenting. It’s as simple as that. We can’t ban books, movies, games, or even guns. Maybe we can prevent stupid, lazy people from reproducing.

    I saw an interview with a guy who wrote a book on the Columbine shooting and he said that about 6% of teenagers are clinically depressed and are responsible for much of the mayhem (much more than the anti-social psychopaths like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacey, and other serial killers). Depression is easy to diagnose and treat, yet no school I know of screens kids for depression.

  2. Normally, your views are right on the money. But you are pretty far off on this one. I fear you may be falling for two of the worst media illusions: 1) that somehow the evils of humankind are different today than they have been since the beginning of time, and 2) that things are more violent now than they were “in the good old days.” It’s a classic case of perception distorting reality.

    For starters, even the most casual review of statistics shows that the earth is now far less violent on average than at any time in recorded history. Remember that the the plague, crusades, slavery, civil war, WWI, WWII, and the deadliest U.S. schoolyard killing (45 people in 1927) all happened before video games, violent movies, and most importantly, the 24 hour news cycle even existed.

    The horror that happened in CT is beyond comprehension. I spent Friday crying and holding my kindergartener as tight as I could. But let’s not forget that thousands of children die every day around the world in equally horrible circumstances. Because this particular evil is so concentrated, so politically polarizing, and then diluted over the media 24/7, it somehow seems more “real” to us. But, is it any more real than the hundreds of children killed in Pakistan by U.S. drone strikes? Are their deaths somehow less horrible or “real”? Are the thousands upon thousands of children murdered and militarized in various civil wars in Africa somehow less important? Or do they simply make a less salacious news story for us to consume because it’s “over there”? And what about the hundreds of babies and small children killed every year right in the U.S. from neglect and abuse?

    Please let me pause to be clear—in no way do I intend to diminish the horrific tragedy that unfolded on Friday. I just want to put it into context and argue that the death of ANY child is equally horrible.

    Video games, music, and media are a mirror of the human heart, not a motivator. I’m not religious, but I’d be willing to bet Cain never played a single round of Call of Duty before whacking Abel over the head. You could take away every piece of electronic entertainment in the entire country, and guess what: murders, rape, suicide, and every other societal malady would still be in full swing. A quick search for countries that are statistically suffering from far more internal violence than the United States brings up places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; places where nobody is playing any sort of video game or watching a 24-hour news station.

    In closing, I invite you to turn off your television and internet for a week, and tell us after that if things seem quite as bad. Be very, very careful about how much you let the 24/7 cycle of bad news warp your perspective. And be even more careful about forgetting that, despite the tragic, inhuman atrocity that happened on Friday, there was exactly one evil person involved, and dozens if not hundreds of amazing, wonderful, angelic human beings who, when put to the ultimate test, did what was right. That fact gives me hope, and that fact lets me believe that the world, with or without video games or tv, is still a wonderful place worth fighting for.

    EDITOR NOTE–Ryan, well said and we are in agreement. The senseless death of a child anywhere is still senseless.

  3. Ryan – I agree with parts of what you said, but I am struggling to determine the nature of your overall point. Cain and Able aside, it is true that humans have and will commit unspeakable acts upon each other, no matter what safeguards and precautions we put in place. It is also true that worldwide many more children die everyday due to violence than just this past Friday.

    However, should that mean that we don’t even try to fix a clear problem within our society? We shouldn’t be comparing ourselves with conflict and war torn Iran, Afghanistan and Syria. We should be trying to better things here in America. I don’t think violent video games are the root of the mass shootings and gun violence that plague our society, but I’m open to considering studies and potential changes in that realm that may help. Same with firearms. At a certain point, enough is too much to bear. The current system is not working. It is simply not sufficient to claim that killings will always occur no matter what. So will drunk driving, but we still enforce those laws and try to change that culture and mindset of someone who will get behind the wheel that is impaired.

    In the end, I fear nothing will come of this latest tragedy because of the toxic nature of today’s politics. I hope that I am wrong.

  4. TSA coming to a school near you!

  5. Diane Sower
    Dec 17, 2012, 5:50 am

    I don’t recall this type of violence being reported after world wars one and two. And now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared Yosemite Sam and the Road Runner off limits because of violence. Are you kidding me? Yes, there is too much violence in our society. We can boast that with our high numbers in prisons compared to all other westernized societies. But they watch the same movies that role out as well as us. I’m not blaming victims here, as that would be unthinkable, but I remember the bullying my son went through in grade school because of his size, and because others could simply do it. I think a life time of this, along with schizoid tendencies and behaviors fits in with people who begin making plans to create mayhem probably in their early teens. It’s a double edged sword. For some, there is no reason. For others, you should sit back and see the bullying that goes on. It’s out of our scope of imagination. And in our state the patrol officer is licensed to carry a loaded weapon. One person with a loaded weapon to try to nail these sons of bitches might help, if he weren’t the first target.

  6. I believe there is not one, single answer or solution to this issue.

    We in the United States are now experiencing what other countries have had to endure for decades. The violent, senseless death of innocent men, women and children.
    Wether by an individual, terrorist group or government. What I also fear, is that ultimately, we may be powerless to stop it.

  7. I don’t know how much moderating you have to do, Dave (I doubt much) but the Statesman must be green with envy at the quality of the comments on your blog.

    EDITOR NOTE–Eric, on behalf of all the GUARDIAN readers, thanks for the kind words. I do very little moderating–only to keep the name callers at bay, but I have always been proud of the level of discussions here.

  8. My Two Cents
    Dec 17, 2012, 2:16 pm

    I think it is silly to blame violent games or even a violent society. Kids without mental illness, or those without a propensity toward such problems, play the games without the slightest problem. It is those with underlying problems who perhaps are inappropriately impacted by the games. Does every kid in a house that has a lighter set the house on fire? No. But some do. Does every kid in a house with a gun act out inappropriately? Of course not. But some do. Unfortunately it is far more complicated than blaming television or movies or video games, or even bad parenting. I have no answers. I am a supporter of the ownership of guns, but I think maybe we do need bans on these types of assault weapons that fire rapidly and can kill so many in so short a time. Who realy needs an AK47 to defend their home?

    EDITOR NOTE– Two Cents, the lighter on the table or the gun in a drawer are as harmless as the CD of the violent “MATURE” rated shooting game. When the game is played and it becomes part of the lives of children, disturbed teens, or adults is when it is bad. If the lighter is used to play with fire or the gun is used in a reckless manner to shoot street signs those objects become harmful.

  9. I am more of a believer in society failing in the area of mental health. I think we need to take a major look at this area and make some real changes.

    I’ve played video games and RPG (Dungeons and Dragons, etc) all of my older life, and I have no urges to kill people. There are some types of games that are focused more on killing (often called first person shooter) that I don’t like, and certainly there are some movies that really go over the top on violence that I don’t like, but I have never had the urge to kill anyone and I am certain that I never will have such an urge.

  10. I second what eric049 said. Most “comment boards” are painful and discouraging to read, if the topic is at all controversial, but the opinions here are thougtful and sincere. (Most comment boards offer ample evidence that our level of civility has deteriorated over a generation or two. I worry that we’ve lost our way.)

    I cried on Friday, for the first time in years. I have a granddaughter that will be 6 next month – that baby is truly the light of my life! The notion that a human being could aim a rifle at innocent little children and start pulling the trigger – that is far beyond horrifying! Jesus said it well – it would be better to tie a millstone around the perp’s neck, and throw him in deep water.

    I own several guns. I keep them well-secured. If I thought that giving up my guns would prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again, I’d surrender them in a heartbeat! But the reality is, having the law-abiding citizens turn in their guns would have negligible impact on criminal use of firearms… and it might have the opposite effect.

    If I thought that outlawing violent video games or movies would prevent such a tragedy, I’d be on board! But again… the vast majority of people are able to process fantasy and reality, and differentiate between the two.

    How do we prevent deeply-disturbed individuals from harming innocents? I don’t think we know. If we did, we wouldn’t be discussing it, we’d be doing it.

    My heart is sick. I hope we’re not damaged beyond repair. God, PLEASE bless America!

  11. There may be a correlation between the violent video games and the mass killings, but that does not dictate CAUSATION. There are many factors involved that force a developing mind to become dysfunctional, deviant, and destructive. If a person is capable of committing such acts, then their whole environment is to be scrutinized, such as what was their home life like? How they were able to obtain weapons that are designed to kill nothing other than humans? What was their connection (or lack of connection) to a social support system, and then the availability for aggressive behavior, (sports video games, or a desire to be a cop…). But to effectively diagnose anyone with a mental illness you have to wait until the brain is fully developed, which can take up into the late twenties. This brings to question what type of society are WE creating that would facilitate such actions from a person whose brain is not fully developed, or capable of being developed? This is indirectly the fault of all people, as we are all in one way or another supporting the degradation of society, by watching violent movies, supporting the police, attacking without compassion anyone who we disagree with, and permanently destroying the lives of those we think “deserve it”. We created a society of “do as I say, but not as I do” then get upset and question those who DO act as we do, (or more accurately do as they THINK we do).

  12. I have reached the saturation point with the media scraming for more gun control. I would offer that we need more control of people with mental issues.

    I am old encough to remember when President Reagan in his efforts to cut the federal budget closed down a large number of mental institutions and simply turned these people out on the streets. I would also submit that when this happened it created an up-tick in the shootings we see today.

    The assanation of President Kennedy created a tipping point for the end of guns sent via mail order. You could get a gun for as little as $10 and a coupon from a comic book, Sport Afield, or other magazine advertisement.

    President Reagan was the victim of a mentally unstable person who obtained a gun.

    I would submit it is not the guns causing the problems but the closure of mental facilities and lack of options for dealing with mentally unstable people causing all manner of random killings with guns. I can think of not instance that the assaults on school kids, political figures and most other mass killings with guns weren’t well thought out but the people with mental issues. We need to rethink putting these folks in a safe environment where they can be monitored and live in a safe secure environment.

    I would also submit for your consideration just how many gun related killings like what we have seen happened prior to 1986 and the closure of mental hospitals.

  13. @FH: The large government run mental hospital institutions were shuttered because of the horrific human rights abuses, including medical experiments. The few which remain open still have these problems from time to time. As you mention, they were also money sucking dinosaurs.

    Today most people in the regular prison system have a mental illness issue at the foundation of their problems. So many of the people who would have gone to the MH are in the prison now. Had this kid lived a few more years without mommy’s protection, he’d likely have been arrested for something and started his prison career too.

    This particular mass killing event happened because Mom was as much a nut as son and didn’t control her guns very well, and didn’t see the danger either. I think over the coming months we will discover how several people considered this event a possibility but did not act. Even still, how much of your civil rights are you willing to give up? Very slippery slope. Look at how anti-terror laws have become so omni-intrusive and huge expensive.

  14. Evil can’t always be explained. Which is part of the problem in these cases. People naturally try to find the source of the problem to fix it. No matter what you do an evil person will find a way to hurt people.

    The problem with mental health is the subjective nature of the diagnosis. Maybe there is a way around it, but I don’t know. We see this in courts all the time. One doctor says they are competent, the defense can then pay another doctor to say the opposite. Which one is right?

  15. True evil is done by those who think they are doing good.

  16. http://www.tactical-life.com/online/products/srm-arms-1216-semi-auto-shotgun/
    clearly we need this for duck hunting. Made in Idaho to.

  17. The 2nd amendment doesn’t say anything about hunting.

  18. Got to agree with erico49. I’ve read it a number of times and I don’t see hunting there. Not even implied. Lets see, it does say Militia, and Security of a Free State, the right to hear Arms shall not be infringed. Nope, no hunting there. So lets go back to the day when this was written. The Military carried Flintlocks. The general public carried… Flintlocks. Fastforward a hundred years, the Military carried repeating rifles and the public carried…. repeating rifles. Fast forward a hundred years, the Military carries fully automatic rifles as their basic defense. the general public not so much. Limited to semi-auto unless you are willing to pay and go through a lot of red tape. Smells of infringement to me. Some states have limited to 3 rounds maximum carry. Stinks of Infringment to me. Gun control is not the answer. Think about it. What if every some brainless schmuck gets stoned out of his head and runs over 6 people. State say’s, you gotta blow into a breathilizer from this point forward before your car will start. But not just the schmuck. Everybody has to have this installed and follow the process. Does that sound like a viable solution.

  19. LJ, thanks for your comment, I have been searching for reasons and meaning, and your comment that not all evil can be explained helps put it into perspective.

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