Blaming Video Games For Mass Shootings Is Ridiculous; Stop It
from the nice-try dept
Mike just wrote about how, in the wake of the abhorrent mass shooting that occurred in upstate New York over the weekend, some of our leaders have begun the normal cleansing ritual: blame the things we already hated for the new bad thing that happened whether that makes any sense at all or not. In the case of the previous post, both public servants and buffoonish Sunday news talk hosts discussed how this was all the fault of Section 230 (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) and everyone’s favorite boogeyman, social media. It is abundantly clear to anyone with a brain that these two scapegoats were already targets for those now blaming them. Apparently, these people were simply lying in wait looking for a trigger so that they could shout “Social Media! Section 230!” and they decided that 10 people losing their lives in a racist attack was just that sort of thing.
As Mike said, it’s ridiculous and it should stop. The alleged shooter in this instance wrote a manifesto of absurd length, patiently detailing out his motivations for his actions. Those motivations largely concerned race, false theories about the replacement of white people within the country, and hate. To read those musings and then choose to blame an entity entirely absent from discussion is deeply cynical.
But if you thought this was going to end with social media and Section 230, well, you haven’t been paying attention. Because some trains are never late, some folks, who would very much like to obscure where this alleged mass murderer got these ideas about race from, would like you to assume this is also the fault of video games.
In case you cannot view the embedded tweet, I can summarize the Fox News host’s two main concepts. First, the host wonders aloud what could possibly be going through the mind of someone like the alleged mass murderer. Second, he suggests that these mass shootings have all gotten so much worse at the same time that video games have become more realistic and violent.
Let’s do this in reverse order. Casually tossing in some correlation with video games and mass murders being “worse” is quite pernicious. If Fox News has any data it would like to cite, then it should do so. As someone who has reported on this topic for something like a decade now, witnessing how gun rights groups blame gaming, politicians from one side of the aisle blame gaming, and even major media groups tacitly blame gaming, I’ve also noticed how the actual facts concerning the link between gaming and violence mostly amounts to a spectrum of “doesn’t really matter” to “definitely doesn’t matter“.
So why are a Fox News host, and others on the right, bringing this up while also feigning curiosity as to what was going on in the shooter’s mind? Quite possibly it’s because that host knows damned well that the shooter’s manifesto contained ideas quite similar to some Fox News hosts and other like-minded networks.
On May 14, a man allegedly shot and killed 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, using weapons adorned with white supremacist messaging. A writing uploaded online before the attack, and allegedly from the shooter, invoked the false “great replacement” conspiracy theory as the motive for the attack. The conspiracy theory claims that certain people, particularly Jews, are trying to “replace” white Americans and remove them from power. It was originally popularized in far-right online spaces but has since been espoused by some high-ranking Republican politicians such as Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, as well as conservative media personalities like Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.
Now, I want to be very, very clear here: to date, there has been no indication of the alleged shooter name-checking any of these hosts or networks or politicians in his writing. Instead, he indicates he found content on some backwater sites. But that isn’t really the point. The point is that the hosts and politicians mentioned above have very much parroted sanitized versions of “great replacement” theory in broadcasts viewed by millions of people. That sort of speech, evil as it may be, is protected speech. But it’s quite silly for those working for those same networks to simply ignore that issue nearly entirely and instead point at video games as the cause of the shooting. As Fox News has done, for instance.
This is purposeful, there can be no doubt. Extreme cable news outlets know what they’re doing. And, in some small part, they have blood on their hands. That they choose not to alter their programming, even as the crime scene is spattered with the blood of innocents and the bodies are being fit for coffins, is equal parts infuriating and unsurprising.