Over the past few years, i’ve found my zeal for reading the news rather, shall we say, “lacking.” Indeed, having found my reservoir of f*cks thoroughly depleted, i’m afraid I have none left to give. Thus, we have the eight kinds of awful that is Sandy Hook: a dreadful series of events set in motion by a walking tub of human sewage, his Rambo complex, and of course, the murder of twenty-six schoolchildren. Meanwhile, amidst the kerfuffle between the “from my cold, dead hands” wing of the NRA and politicians trying desperately to appear proactive, the issue was in dire need of a scapegoat. Sadly, Marilyn Manson wasn’t around to be popular for the occasion, so America’s Wise One’s turned to the only scapegoat within arm’s reach: video games.
The argument goes that digital violence cultivates actual violence – a notion that needs no exploration, as Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said in an interview with Nancy Pelosi last week. In between repeated shots at Hollywood, Wallace stated simply that “we know” it is the case. Pelosi countered, stating that Japan has “the most violent games […] and the lowest mortality from guns” – something that she believed might be due to the difference between American and Japanese gun laws. She went on, echoing the call for comprehensive, scientific studies on the link between violent video games and real-world violence, stating that “I don’t think we should do anything anecdotally […] the plural of anecdote is not data.”
The video can be viewed at this link, with the relevant snippets starting around the 9:55 mark. For the rest, yours truly enters the wild world of “Rantsville U.S.A.” after the jump!
In the interest of full disclosure, i’m not exactly on Chris Wallace’s holiday card list (that’s right, I invoked the “H” word) but as long as we’re broaching the issue culpability, I find Wallace’s “no, i’m not just a right-wing hack” journalist face rather farcical – glass houses and whatnot. Indeed, if you’re looking to identify a factor that helps these tragedies occur, I would take a long look in the mirror. Granted, you won’t – nor will your network, chasing those delicious, delicious advertising dollars that simply scream “this bit of mass murder has been sponsored by KFC” – nor do the aforementioned parties seem as though they will ever approach future shootings – and sure as night follows day, they will occur – with anything more than all the passion a machine can offer.
But alas, it’s not fair to pick on Fox News – however cathartic it might be. Ever since Manson – and in fact, long before – mass media has turned butchers into anti-heroes. It’s win-win: journalists get the prestige of tackling a tragedy – donning somber tones with complimentary somber expressions, waxing poetically about the humanity of it all, or pointing the finger at everyone but their industry – viewers turn in with rapt attention, and those who do evil find their reward, in the form of headlines from every major news outlet in the country.
The inspiration for Lanza’s acts will forever remain a mystery, but as an old clip from Charlie Brooker’s “Newswipe” reminds us, the old cycle brings with it a disturbing message: if you kill enough people, we will give you the attention you crave. The grander the act, the more newsworthy it becomes; the more vicious the slaughter, the more memorable the story. It’s a win-win: Viewers get all the death porn that can be absorbed in twenty-four hours, and all the while, the world of business – whether it’s the news corporations, their advertisers, or their respective shareholders – rakes in the money. Meanwhile, the next psychopath learns, once again, that the Invisible Hand of the free market – yes, Chris Wallace, as in the good old fashioned “magic of the marketplace” – will pat him or her on the head for a job well done.
Perhaps i’m being a bit cynical, but as long as there is a profit motive, and as long as audiences across the globe tune in like so many lemmings to receive the latest bit of vapid trivia about a given tragedy, there will always be motivation for deranged individuals to commit the most gruesome of acts. Again, the complexity of a killer’s psychology is such as to prevent us from jumping to conclusions – including painting the media as the sole motivator behind such crimes. Yes, Adam Lanza played Call of Duty. No, that does not make him a killer-in-waiting, any more than his fascination with military technology did – though if so, then I imagine there are going to be a lot of NRA members on the collective watch list. Nonetheless, if one is going to search for exacerbating factors, let’s be sure that we’re looking at something concrete.
After all, if history is any teacher, Wallace and his colleagues will be there in the wake of the next Sandy Hook, once again sending a haunting message to perpetrator: “You did something that mattered.”