The news media, quick to find a cause for why a lone gunman would kill his mother, drive to a local elementary school, and kill 26 people (20 children) before killing himself, has turned to the usual scapegoat: video games.
Fox News wastes no time in trying to connect TV, Facebook, and computer games to the horrific actions of Lanza. As transcribed by Kotaku, a Fox News segment hosted by Megyn Kelly with guest analyst Dr. Keith Ablow waste no time pointing the
finger at the consumption of various types of media:
Kelly: The real question to you is why have there not been more things like this in the past and what is making them seem to come out now?
Ablow: You know you and I have both spoken about this on and off the air, and I fear that our level empathy just as a culture, as a society, is being diminished by things like reality TV and like Facebook that seem to take people to a kind of
fictional realm. I guess you could add gaming to that, computer games.
Later in the segment Ablow says that:
...such that now people feel less for one another, they can think of them almost as third parties, or entertainment figures or animated creatures, and for the people among us who are vulnerable to acts of violence who are violently ill, if
you will, that means they consider others even less than ever before.
On another tack, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee told Fox News viewers that the separation of church and state was to blame for violence in schools. Huckabee said of this latest US atrocity:
We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?
Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we wouldn't have to call him to show up when it's all said and done at the back end.
While Fox News is blaming media and godlessness, other networks are using the tragedy as an opportunity to call for stricter gun control laws and for more funding for mental health services.
Amid the shock and grief that followed the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been unsurprising calls for stricter regulation of guns and rifles.
Now the National Rifle Association has decided that its strategy in the blame game will be to deflect the blame onto violent media.
An industry source relayed this strategy to Fox News:
If we're going to have a conversation, then let's have a comprehensive conversation If we're going to talk about the Second Amendment, then let's also talk about the First Amendment, and Hollywood, and the video games that teach young kids how
to shoot heads.
If you really want to stop incidents like this. Passing one more law is not going to do a damn thing. Columbine happened when? In 1999. Smack in the middle of the original assault-weapons ban.
However the lobbying group did addthat it is willing to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.
Public relations experts who have experience working with the gun industry expressed horror at the National Rifle Association's response to the Newtown shootings.
The group's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, struck a ranting tone, blaming the video game industry and media for exposing youth to a culture of violence, and calling for armed police or security guards in schools: The only thing that
stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, LaPierre claimed.
He spoke of video games and movies:
There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people, through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat
, and Splatterhouse .
Then there's the blood-soaked slasher films like American Psycho and Natural Born Killers that are aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder
as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it entertainment.
But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?
In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes every minute of
every day of every month of every year.
Public relations professionals reached by The Huffington Post said the timing of his message, which broke a week of silence in the wake of the tragic murder of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, could be an irredeemable
mistake for the group.
On the eve of the entertainment industry's White House meeting to discuss gun violence in films and video games, Motion Picture Association of America president Chris Dodd told The Hollywood Reporter that his industry will consider voluntary
guidelines but will vehemently oppose any government restrictions on content.
Dodd and spokesmen from various sectors of the entertainment industry will meet with Vice President Joe Biden, who has been charged by President Barack Obama with recommending legislation to curb gun violence.
We want to explore what we can do to provide parents and others with the information for them to make choices on what they want to see and what they want their children to see. That's a legitimate space for us to be in. It's all voluntary. What
we don't want to get involved with is content regulation. We're vehemently opposed to that. We have a free and open society that celebrates the First Amendment.
After a particularly vitriolic attack on the media industry for violent games and films, the US National Rifle Association has launched its own shooting game for the iPhone and iPad.
The game, which simulates a shooting practice, has been approved for children from 4 years old.
NRA: Practice Range , billed as the NRA's new mobile nerve center, says it strikes the right balance of gaming and education and delivers a one-touch access to the NRA network of news, laws, facts, knowledge, safety tips,
educational materials and online resources .
The player can practise shooting at targets, including some in the shape of coffins, and has a choice of nine firearms. Some of the guns can be upgraded for $0.99 each. The game is available in the UK.
There have been calls for gun law reform after 26 children and teachers died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. US Vice-President Joe Biden is expected to make recommendations on gun control to the White House on Tuesday.
Last week Biden met with video game makers to discuss gun violence in popular media.
President Barack Obama has also announced that he will lay out his plans for tackling gun violence later this week.
When the NRA-branded iOS app NRA: Practice Range launched earlier this week it carried a rating of ages 4+.
Well it looks like Apple has reviewed the rating (no doubt after the game gained national attention by the mainstream media and some harsh criticism from several high profile politicians) and deemed that it was just too low.
The game now carries a rating of ages 12+, meaning that your young children are no longer able to play the app for free. Apple's ratings descriptor for the game says that it contains Frequent/Intense Realistic Violence. That descriptor is
debatable given that the realistic simulation only contains target shooting.
For the past month, the US focus on gun control laws has been unprecedented.
Vice President Joe Biden was assigned the task of meeting with various powers that be to discuss what can be done to reform our gun laws. One of those entities was a conglomerate of representatives from the video game industry. What Mr. Biden
took away from those meetings, however, may or may not surprise you.
After reviewing the Vice President's findings, United States President Barack Obama signed a twenty-three point executive order for Congress to act upon and address the issue. Nowhere in the order does it propose any changes which need to be
made to video games in this country. Just sensible measures like banning assault weaponry.
However the games industry has not got off entirely unscathed. President Barack Obama called on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to conduct a study on whether there is a correlation between gun violence and violent video games and
other forms of media.
Video Game Labelling Bill
GamePolitics has also learned that a new video game labeling bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Representative Jim Matheson has introduced bill HR 287, which would require ratings label on video games and prohibit the sales and rentals of adult-rated video games to minors.
US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had a good debate against the Fox News argument that violent video games are responsible for mass shootings in the United States.
On Fox News Sunday , host Chris Wallace challenged Pelosi on this plan, saying she should instead simply go to her friends in Hollywood and shame them into action:
As part of your plan, you call for more scientific research on the connection between popular culture and violence. We don't need another study, respectfully. I mean, we know that these video games, where people have their heads splattered,
these movies, these TV shows -- why don't you go to your friends in Hollywood and challenge them? Shame them, and say, 'Knock it off?'
Pelosi responded that Democrats wanted concrete scientific evidence in order to write the best legislation possible, and countered that Wallace's assumption about violence in the media could be incorrect:
I understand what you are saying, Pelosi said. I'm a mother, I'm a grandmother. But, they -- not Hollywood, but the evidence -- says that, in Japan, for example, they have the most violent games and the lowest death -- mortality -- from guns. I
don't know what the explanation is for that except they may have good gun laws.
When looking at the other largest video game markets around the world, there appears to be no statistical correlation between video game consumption and gun-related killings. Max Fisher at the Washington Post recently examined some of this data
and found that:
countries where video games are popular also tend to be some of the world's safest (probably because these countries are stable and developed, not because they have video games).
Reports say MPAA chairman Chris Dodd has warned against efforts to regulate violence in films and instead suggested that the film industry will work with the White House on voluntary steps to help parents decide what movies and TV shows are
appropriate for children.
Campaigners and state lawmakers have been suggesting that the marketing of violent movies and videogames should be restricted.
Asked whether Hollywood there is too much violence in videogames and movies, Dodd said the industries give people enough choices across the spectrum, but warns that if you start to get into the business of trying to regulate content,
that is a very slippery slope. Dodd said that the focus should be on giving people the information they need to make their choice of what to watch, adding that we are working to provide whatever support and assistance we can to
the White House.
Dodd said more attention should be paid to mental health, noting that is the space where we really need attention.
A former FBI-profiler and risk assessor has spoken out about perceived causal links between gaming and outbursts of violence, warning US viewers that trying to establish that connection is to ignore the true causes of tragedies like December's
shootings at the Sandy Hook school in Connecticut.
Having reported that perpetrator Adam Lanza had several games at his house when it was searched by investigators, TV company ABC broadcast a panel discussion about the issue.
Whilst various conservative and pro-gun lobbyists had laid the blame for Lanza's actions at the door of videogaming, former FBI analyst Mary Ellen O'Toole offered a different perspective:
It's my experience that video games do not cause violence. However, she continued, it is one of the risk variables when we do a threat assessment for the risk to act out violently.
It's important that I point out that as a threat assessment and as a former FBI profiler, we don't see these as the cause of violence, we see them as sources of fuelling ideation that's already there.
During the same discussion, Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor at Texas A&M University, pointed out that rather than increasing as games have become more violent, youth violence has actually receded - although he claimed no causal
connection there, either.
A state lawmaker in New Jersey, Linda Stender, is planning to introduce legislation that would prohibit public spaces such as amusement parks, movie theaters, bowling allies, or restaurants from making video games rated mature [17
rated] or adults only available to play.
Under the proposed legislation, business owners could face fines of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for repeated offenses.
In a statement introducing the proposed legislation, state Assembly Stender claimed that while violent video games don't necessarily cause violent behavior, they can play a role:
Children today are exposed to violent images more than ever. Violent video games can desensitize children to violence and give them a warped version of reality where violence and death have no consequences outside their TV screens.
However her proposed legislation could face legal problems not only because video games are considered a form of speech protected under the first amendment, but also because the mature ratings she is appealing to have not historically
been applied to the arcade games she is specifically targeting anyway
New jersey State Assemblyman Sean Kean has introduced two bills that stem from reports that Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter behind the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn, owned some violent video games,
including games that carried a '17' rating, mature.
Kean's legislation would restrict the sale of video games rated mature or adults only to minors.
Officials in several states have attempted to pass laws that would prohibit the sale of certain video games to minors, but none have succeeded. Citing First Amendment protections.
The first bill proposed by Kean would prohibit retailers from selling video games that are rated mature or adults only to anyone under 18. The second would require the presence of a parent for a minor to purchase a violent video
Any retailer found to be in violation of either bill would be subject to a $10,000 fine for the first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent instance; be forced to cover any punitive damages to the minor who purchased the game; and could
be on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist order from the state Attorney General's Office.
Though both of Kean's pending bills are currently backed by a small cadre of Republicans. Assembly members from the other side of the aisle have also taken on the violent video game debate. Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender (Union) is
preparing a bill that would ban violent video games from public places such as arcades.
No study has ever shown that violent video games result directly in actual violence, let alone mass shootings. That doesn't mean it isn't possible, though the numbers suggest it's very unlikely.
Analysts estimate 18 to 20 million copies of Rockstar's GTA V will be sold worldwide by the end of March, 2014.
It's possible that someone who buys and plays the game will later go on to carry out a horrible shooting. Should that happen, it will almost certainly occur in America, which boasts far and away the highest number of mass
shootings (and shootings in general) while boasting no higher rate of video game consumption.
The article also has a knock at tabloid reporting in the Daily Telegraph and notes:
The Telegraph's Nick Allen described the [Washington] shooter's darker side which saw him playing violent zombie video games in his room, sometimes from 12.30pm until 4.30am. Is it odd to describe a mass murderer's darker side
not as his killings or other unstable interactions with people, but as an activity he shares with millions of other people?
Florida's House of Representatives passed a resolution Tuesday declaring pornography a public health risk. The resolution called for education, research, and policy changes to protect Florida citizens -- especially teenagers.
The bill's sponsor, Ross Spano, said that research has found a correlation between pornography use and mental and physical illnesses, difficulty forming and maintaining intimate relationships, unhealthy brain development and cognitive
function, and deviant, problematic or dangerous sexual behavior.
The vote followed an earlier session in which Florida legislators declined to hold hearings on a bill banning high-capacity magazines and assault rifles such as the one used last week by suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz to kill 17 students and
teachers at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Meanwhile in Kentucky politicians have returned to the 1990s tactic of blaming video games for violence. Kentucky governor Matt Bevin started the show a couple of days after the shooting, and on Wednesday, Rhode Island state
representative Bobby Nardolillo took it a step further.
Nardolillo proposed legislation that would put a 10% tax on video games with an ESRB rating of Mature or higher, Rolling Stone reported . That tax revenue would be used to fund counseling, mental health programs and other conflict resolution
activities in schools, according to the press release on Nardolillo's Facebook page. Both Nardolillo and Bevin have high ratings from the gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.
But I'm not sure that blaming porn and video games is a good direction for the gun lobby. Surely if they consider that video games and porn causes the mental health issues that lead to killing sprees, then surely they should recognise that
there are people that should not be trusted with guns. And as video games and porn are so ubiquitous then the only safe policy is that nobody should be trusted with guns. QED