On Friday, in what is perhaps the most violent crime committed in a US school in recent memory, a gunman entered a Connecticut elementary school and opened fire. Out of the 26 people brutally massacred, 20 of these were children ranging from the ages of 6-7.
While details are still sparse, the gunman (whose name I feel should not have been released and should fade in anonymity) has been painted as a previously quite and intelligent individual with no criminal record. What could possibly drive an otherwise sane man to commit the unthinkable?
Media outlets have already tried piecing together what could have sparked this man’s rampage and, of course, leading the way are video games. “The Sun” paints a fine line between painting the individual as a “nerd” who would never arouse suspicion, and someone who was a “loner” that only played video games. In the “The Sun” article posted by “The Drudge Report” which can be found here, the gunman is described as the following,
“(Suspect’s Name) belonged to a technology club at Newtown High School that held computer gaming parties. Gloria Milas, whose son Joshua was in the club with (suspect), hosted one of the parties once. She rembembered (suspect’s) elder brother Ryan saying at one meeting: ““My brother has always been a nerd,” and added “he still wears a pocket protector”. Joshua Milas, who graduated from Newtown High School in 2009, said (suspect) was generally a happy person but that he hadn’t seen him in a few years. “We would hang out, and he was a good kid. He was smart,” Joshua Milas said. “He was probably one of the smartest kids I know. He was probably a genius.”
While this is far from a damning indictment of video games as the spark that drove the gunman to the point of insanity, further reports take it a step further, calling for a ban on guns and violence in video games in order to curtail this kind of violence. According to the CNN post by Nicole Saidi, one of the most popular suggestions in ways to prevent school violence is non other than taking away violent video games, a suggestion so popular it had an entire section dedicated to the issue,
5. Cut down on violence in the media
Some readers were concerned that fictional violence might be having real-world effects.
“If they want to ban guns, why not ban them in movies, television, and video games?” asked reader Bill Smells. “Why do we allow the media and entertainment industries to glorify weapons and killings? If we’re going to start regulating and banning weapons, why not start by aggressively banning and preventing the abuse of weapons in media.”
“Why do we allow our children and young adults to buy video games that put them in the position of being rewarded for shooting and killing other players? I think it’s time Hollywood enact their own self-imposed ban on using weapons in any films or television productions. This would definitely reduce all kinds of violence. So why haven’t they taken this bold and progressive step yet?”
So while the investigation is on-going and the media is quickly trying to find a scape goat in which to bury their hypocritical guilt by inappropriately casting blame on video games (of which I’m sure we will see more of in the near future), I have the following suggestions that I would think could reduce the likelihood of such heinous acts from repeating themselves.
1) Stop trying to find what set these people off and hold them accountable to their own actions. We live in a society where all too often we think that actions one take are mysteriously channeled from some extraneous source like movies, video games, God, etc. We find the problems that affected the individual without really focusing on what they did. We need to keep it simple and blame the individuals that acted out and not spend time trying to find what caused them to do this. I’m pretty sure if we look hard enough, we will find that they were just crazy all along. While Resident Evil 6 made me upset, there is no way that it could drive me to do something violent (Plus I actually kind of liked RE6).
2) If the people are so against violence in the media (especially video games and movies), why not tackle the largest source of media violence I can think of…The News! While CNN is quick to suggest that violence may be the cause of the person’s decent into madness, I venture that the very reporting media itself needs to share some accountability. In searching the homepage of CNN on December 16th, I found the following news articles popularizing violence:
…And for those of us who are concerned, of course they have violent videos posted as well…
Ironically there is nothing on Syria, but that is another topic all-together. We grow up in a society where data consumption is constant. From waking up and checking the news on our smartphones via RSS feeds, to watching TV for latest updates, to checking with our favorite news organization online on our computers, we are inundated with violence and hate pretty much all of the time. It is is my humble opinion that years of being told how horrible and violent the world is plays a much larger role in someone killing kids than video games ever could. Additionally I realize the irony in posting these links while talking about the harm in disseminating these stories, but what can I say, I don’t want to risk plagiarism.
3) The one thing that most of these madmen want is to be remembered in infamy. Their life (which was horribly middle class, btw) sucks so much that they only way they can make it better is to do something so horrific that people will remember them forever. They do this knowing that the media will soak up every drop of juicy detail they can get their hands on. This is why it is my opinion that the names of such individuals should never be released; they they should fade from history into complete obscurity. Knowing there would be a media black-out might play some small part in stopping these kinds of crimes.
4) Get rid of Jack Thompson. People listen to politicians and activists, and Jack Thompson’s video game hate agenda is in full stride with the latest shooting. Even though we still know very little about what actually happened or caused the gunman to go crazy, good old Jack still decided to Tweet the guys over at Joystiq and most likely the rest of the gaming industry, “blood in YOUR hands” following the shooting. It is this kind of witch-hunting that pulls everyone away from the real problems like gun control, school security protocols, and mental health evaluations. Oh Jacky…why do you hate us so?
While video games are admittedly violent (some extremely so) I can’t help but feel that a vast majority of people who could bring themselves to killing would have done so with or without the use of video games. Violent crime existed prior to Pong and I’m pretty sure it will exist after video games (just a hypothetical, I don’t think video games are really going anywhere). Violence is in human nature, programmed in our head from our early days of hunter/gatherers and we try our best to control it. A horrific thing happened in Connecticut on Friday and the families involved need time and answers to help with their grief, but something tells me there could be no solace in answering the questions of, “Why did he do this?” simply with…”Black Ops 2…”
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