Video Game Killers
by Francois Tremblay (e-mail: FTremblay@liberator.net) [May 5th, 2000] (part 2 of 3)
In part I, Exploiting the Children, I examined a phenomenon that I dubbed "Columbine innocence" -- our (probably instinctual) tendency to reject symbols of violence when confronted with acts of violence. I also asked, what have we learned from this incident? Nothing, of course.
It is a peculiarity of humans that we are the only beings who are aware that we make mistakes, and then we do them again. Gun control is part of this problem, but our behaviour towards culture in general is abysmal. Suddenly everything that composes the environment of teenagers that has remotely to do with violence must be sued, purged and destroyed. This seems to be further evidence for my hypothesis that violence engenders an equal and opposite violent reaction.
On an article from Newsweek, Steven Levy does admit that this rampage "seems less an exercise in fixing liability than tossing random darts at the violence-fixated cultural landscape." But he then proceeds to accuse the Internet, Hollywood, video games, Doom, media coverage, and our "violent culture" in general. I hate to be the Master of the Obvious once again, but there were no video games during the Dark Ages. Such outrage against the world of fantasy, as I pointed out before, is misguided. Even children know very well the difference between fantasy and reality at the level of entertainment. It's not because you can find schematics for bombs on the Internet or strategies to kill people by playing the newest version of Quake that you're going to walk on the street and start killing people.
“The fact is that musical groups, porn sites and violent movies are not responsible for anything but their own content.”
We observe that the real reason these excuses are used is that it opens the door to vicious attacks against freedom of speech. The gullible public does support these wild ideas, and so does our judiciary system. It opens the door to persecution of musical groups and anti-Internet laws. As ex-prosecutor turned lawyer Jack Thompson says: "We intend to hurt Hollywood. We intend to hurt the video game industry. We intend to hurt porn sites". The intent is clear enough, and so is the strategy. Fortunately, the judiciary still upholds some parts of the Bill of Rights, albeit in a pick-and-choose haphazard way reminiscent of Buffet Christians. The fact is that musical groups, porn sites and violent movies are not responsible for anything but their own content. Now, studies do show that these factors influence child behaviour: I do not deny that, and I will explain it in a bit. But first let me clarify the point of media coverage, because it is a particularly difficult one.
I say it is a difficult point because the media in general does exaggerate. Of course I support freedom of speech, even their freedom to attack freedom of speech and action like hyperactive hyenas that just found a pack of gazelles on Prozac™. By saying that everything around us is responsible for individual actions -- everything except the intentions of the killer -- the media feed the anti-culture movement. Parents of a girl murdered at Columbine have used the event to peddle a religious "diary" written by their girl one year before, and the media gobbled it up. The Freedom Forum reported appalling breaches of security when, for example, children still inside the school during the shooting were questioned in order to reveal their position while being on the air, or when the escape of students, helped by SWAT teams, was transmitted live on television. Furthermore reporters have thrust microphones in front of survivors as soon as they reached safety. Stereotypes abounded during coverage. What particularly made me cringe was the pictures of tall blonde vixens and girlfriends of jocks shown in various news outlets, crying crocodile tears. It's child exploitation, it's tacky and it's cheap.
But the real hypocrisy of the liberal media is to pretend to be against killings and attacking respectable citizens with titles like: "Get a backbone, America: Ban all handguns." These people are not innocent: they have the blood of victims on their hands.
If we're going to hypocritically finger-point to unrelated things, we might as well point to a more likely culprit: religion. Religious altruistic values are taught to our children without a smidgen of healthy selfishness or skepticism instilled in their minds. How can we teach our children not to kill their classmates when we venerate verses like these?
“According to the police at the time, bomb-making materials and a shotgun were lying in plain view in the bedroom of one of the boys. ”"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (I Samuel 15:3)
Or when we get our children to listen to movies based on the following biblical atrocities:"Every living thing that moved on the earth perished--birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind" (Genesis 7:21 - the Flood)
"At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well" (Exodus 12:29 - God strikes against Egypt)
"For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household" (Matthew 10:35-36 - the life of Jesus)
Harris and Klebold did indeed want to destroy their school utterly and slay "both man and woman". From societal studies, we do know that religious belief is a factor that aggravates the criminality problem. We seem to have a more solid thread of solution here. However, like other horror movies or stories, as well as the more secular video games or musical CDs, it does not explain the whole story -- as for all other factors, a religious belief or a bible does not squeeze a trigger. There is a reason why children get influenced by such beliefs and not others. Furthermore, almost nobody claims to approve or follow God's prescriptions to Saul today (or most of God's commandments): those who do are considered to be insane and disconnected from reality, for good reasons. An exception to this would be more primitive African and Asian countries, where religious wars are still in force today.
What is the real cause of these crimes? We might think that looking at what pushed Harris and Klebold over the edge may indicate to us what the causes may be. We find that they were cruelly persecuted by "jocks," as most students are, but more so because of their odd attire and behaviour. Klebold was also angry at his extended family. Once again, these complaints are easy to understand -- school and parental supervision is usually lacking in trouble cases. Bad schools and bad parents usually don't care what happens, as long as the school or family unit keeps running.
Imagine the kind of neglect we're talking about here: a clique of children gets constantly harassed by jocks, "treated like scum," and nobody raises a finger -- in fact they received special treatment from school officials. Add to this cult-like set-up two kids whom feel alienated from their school and families. They buy legal parts and start to make pipe bombs and propane bombs under the nose of their parents. Where exactly were the parents during all this? According to the police at the time, bomb-making materials and a shotgun were lying in plain view in the bedroom of one of the boys. Parents have a responsibility to keep children in check until adulthood in certain respects, and intentions of murder are without a doubt part of these respects. So should the parents be held responsible? Partly, yes. Bad education goes a long way towards making trouble cases.
Read the third part of this series, The Consequences of Relativism, which discusses the various causes of crime and their concrete consequences.
[Visit Francois Tremblay's personal pages at http://www.objectivethought.com.]
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