'Video Games Do Not Cause Violence,' According To Former FBI Profiler
from the political-ax-grinding-to-continue-unabated dept
The national discussion about links between video games and violence continues. Unfortunately, most of the loudest “discussion” seems to be taking the form of proposed legislation that takes the view that the connection is a foregone conclusion. There’s a wealth of misinformation to draw from, especially if one wants to believe that video game violence leads to real life violence, and many of these pundits and politicians have already found all the “evidence” they need to justify their push towards video game regulation or flat out bans.
One of the voices sure to be ignored in this debate is one with actual experience with violent individuals. Former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole had this to say about the subject during a panel discussion hosted by CBS News.
“It’s my experience that video games do not cause violence,” O’Toole told CBS News. “However, 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 violence,” she added. “We see them as sources of fueling ideation that’s already there.”
O’Toole’s statement echoes what many others have noticed while researching video games and violence. Violent video games don’t craft new killers. However, they may encourage pre-existing tendencies. The push to censor or punish violent video games in order to prevent violence ignores the source of the problem, opting instead for an easily-accessible scapegoat.
As another panelist pointed out, violence statistics simply do not track with the rise of the video game industry.
Texas A&M International University psychology professor Christopher Ferguson pointed out that youth violence had recently declined to the lowest level in 40 years at a time when video games had become more violent.
As Ferguson sees it, this backlash against video games is nothing more than another moral panic; a periodic societal reflux that has attempted to lay the blame for societal woes on various handy villains in the past, like rock music, pinball and Dungeons & Dragons (among others). Ferguson point out the “attention” paid to comic books in the 1950s, which Congress and psychiatrists blamed for everything from juvenile delinquency to homosexuality.
Tragedies often lead to instant reactions and moral panic as legislators and special interests alike seize on parts of culture they distrust or misunderstand. This leads to a lot of “working backwards,” as we’ve seen in a number of bills that have been introduced post-Newtown.
“We’re in a mode of worry about — or panicking about this type of media. We may do some putting the cart before the horse, and we may see some people sort of starting with a conclusion and trying to assemble data in a very selective way to try to support that conclusion.”
Fortunately for gamers, the Supreme Court has already taken a firm stance against the government regulation of video games, viewing this as a violation of First Amendment rights. This, combined with studies that have failed to show any direct link between violence and video games, helps keep legislators from doing much more than making a lot of noise about the subject. But they’ll still keep trying, at least until the next bit of blamable culture comes along.