Retired Lt. Col.: Violent Media Has Bred A Generation Of Killers
from the not-to-subtle,-huh? dept
I can understand why someone who watches the news on a daily basis might shake their head in dismay. I get how it must feel necessary to put the blame for tragedies like Sandy Hook somewhere, anywhere, even if the eventual target of ire is misplaced. There’s probably a certain ill-conceived synergy in pointing at violence in movies for a horrific theater shooting, even if the jury is at best out on the concept of violent media causing violent behavior. But when you hear someone so arrogantly sure that all of this wrong thinking is right and then using that arrogance to pompously try and scare the shit out of everyone, it deserves pushback.
So push back in your own way on Retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, whose hobbies amount to telling anyone that will listen that violent media has bred a “generation of vicious, vicious killers.”
“This generation is going to give you massacres in the domestic environment and in the work environment,” he predicted, with unrestrained outrage, after ticking off a sobering list of mass murders — particularly those that have occurred on school grounds and university campuses — which have plagued American society in recent years.
It’s a scare tactic that would be absolutely compelling were it not so absolutely wrong. Nevermind that no conclusive link between violent media and mass violence has been demonstrated, the fact of the matter is that in the long view, mass shootings are decreasing. As is violent crime in general. If one wanted to play the correlation game, they might happily state that violent media is decreasing violent output. I personally won’t go that far, but it’s fairly difficult to square Grossman’s claims with reality.
“There is a generation of vicious, vicious killers out there,” he told his audience. “The video games are their trainers. They’ve been playing Grand Theft Auto every spare moment since they were six years old.”
Oh, please. Who the hell could listen to Niko’s voice for years without killing themselves long before they killed anyone else? And besides, if these children are killers and the games their trainers, given the statistics already noted, then the little bastards are really bad at being killers and the games are a poor training manual, since none of this seems to be coming true. But if you thought Grossman had emptied his scare-clip at you already, you’re wrong.
His views were no more subtle when he turned his sights to the international scene. A dozen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the energetic and charismatic speaker sees life-threatening threats emanating from Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and Iran. What will the next 9/11 look like, he wondered aloud, before answering his own rhetorical question: “We’re going to get nuked.”
Lovely, and perhaps it will someday happen, but he forgot to mention something: if you look at the number of terrorist incidents in America throughout history, you’ll note that the sharp increase in their occurence is non-existent. An enterprising commenter can graph the whole list out from that link if they like, but here’s a brief example. We live in the year of our lord, 2013, so let’s just start in 2012 and count how many terrorist incidents happened every ten years back:
- 2012 – 3 incidents, 9 killed
- 2002 – 14 incidents, 15 killed (note: the beltway sniper is counted as 11 separate incidents, which is stupid. This number should be 3 incidents total.)
- 1992 – 2 incidents, 1 killed
- 1982 – 6 incidents, 3 killed
- 1972 – 7 incidents, 6 killed
- 1962 – 1 incident, 44 killed
- 1952 – 0 incidents, 0 killed
Now, my use of 2012 as a starting point certainly is convenient in leaving out 9/11, but it’s useful to note that outliers don’t dominate the statistics. I should also note that this list ignores Pearl Harbor as the site of a terrorist attack, which seems incorrect in a way. The idea isn’t that we can’t be concerned about terrorism of any kind, be it Islamic fundementalist or the home-grown Aryan Nation variety, but if you make it your business to go around scaring people like Grossman does, you shouldn’t leave out the more comforting facts simply because it is inconvenient to your narrative.
The next generation is not one of killers, this generation is not having to deal with terrorism in a way never before required, but it may be true that the media is more like Grossman and less like myself in that they enjoy scaring you for profit. Beware the man or woman who makes simple proclamations, because they’re usually forgetting to tell you something.