Today on the bus downtown I was reading my latest Entertainment Weekly, and there was an article talking about how the entertainment industry is under increasing scrutiny for gun violence in the United States and different perspectives on the debate. Not long after that, my friend and fellow blogger Matt Williams posts an article about how two Swiss human rights organizations have recommended taking certain aspects out of video game violence because in the real world those same aspects might constitute war crimes if performed (for said post, please click this link: http://storiesbywilliams.com/2013/02/10/war-crimes-in-video-games/#comment-8258).
Has the world lost its mind?
First off, the movies, TV shows, books and video games are all fictional. FICTIONAL! Not real, never happened, the product of someone’s imagination and transferred to us using words, visuals, and (increasingly) technological gizmos. If you can mistake something in a movie or a video game for real, I think that points to some underlying psychological disorder.
And that’s the problem here, isn’t it? People with psychological problems getting their hands on guns, and often they get them through legal means more often than they get them illegally. In fact I read the other day an article about a man who was released from a mental institution after being incarcerated for murdering his mother. Not long after he got out, he bought up a ton of assault weapons and wrote in an online diary that he thought about killing all the time. It wasn’t until a police officer noticed the man had bought the guns, realized who the man was, and that he shouldn’t have guns in the first place did the man get arrested again. Seriously folks, we need more help for the mentally ill and better protection from dangerous weapons.
By the way, nowhere in this article did video game violence come up.
In fact, not a lot of killers are actually influenced by the entertainment industry to become killers, if any at all. Eric Harris was a sociopath who influenced Dylan Klebold, a manic depressive, into becoming a killer. Adam Lanza seemed to have Asperger’s syndrome and a few other problems, plus access to a bunch of guns in his mother’s house. The guy who shot the Sikh temple in Wisconsin was a neo-Nazi who believed he was doing the world a favor. The guy who shot up the first responders in New York was inspired to kill by Adam Lanza! The guy who kidnapped the child off the bus in Alabama seemed to have a thing for conservative pundits on the radio (not very entertaining, right?) and possibly suffered from a persecution complex. And James Holmes? Well, I’m not so sure The Dark Knight is wholly responsible (I have my own theories on what drove him to murder, but I’m not a psychologist, so unless asked to tell I’ll just hold off).
In fact, our psychological state of mind is based on biological, sociocultural, and environmental factors. So if James Holmes’s biology, culture, environment, and his social circle was defined by The Dark Knight, then maybe we might have to examine the entertainment industry. Besides, there are no studies that indicate a link between video games and gun violence. Not even a correlation, which is only a possible indicator of causation. Emphasis on possible. And the people who say that there is a link that just hasn’t been found yet, such as Wayne LaPierre, are usually in favor of gun rights or are actually paid to advocate for gun companies. Should we really believe these guys when they say the guns they own and try to sell say that guns can’t be apart of the problem our society is facing?
Besides, I still believe that humans are rational beings with the power of choice. Most people know that killing is wrong, that firing a bullet at someone means they probably won’t get up again if they’re hit, and that the soldiers in video games or the serial killer I created or Bruce Willis’s character in the Die Hard films are not real and therefore so is the gun violence, which means the cool gun violence in those examples are as real as the tooth fairy. And most people choose not to kill others. Those who do, and do it with assault weapons are, like I’ve said before, are mentally ill and need pscyhological counseling.
So stop blaming the entertainment industry. Yes, there’s more violence in media these days, but that’s a response to both the world and what the world wants in its media, but if we start censoring our TV shows and video games and movies, I think we’re doing more to set up a totalitarian state than we are by confiscating dangerous weapons. And where does the censorship end? When media is dull and boring? It’s a horrible direction to go down.
So let’s not censor. Instead, let’s actually work to create a safety net for those with mental illnesses that make them dangers to themselves or to others, keep military-grade weapons out of the hands of citizens (even well-intentioned ones), and institute universal background checks. That’s a responsible response to the wave of violence the United States is facing right now.