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There’s Always Another Scapegoat

December 17, 2012

For the Party of Personal Responsibility.

In the aftermath of yet another heinous mass shooting, fueled by our nations barbaric health care system and outrageous gun culture, the key proponents of both are out in force to push the blame away to someone else.

Oh wait, that was a decade ago following the Columbine shooting.

My bad.

This time around it looks like video games are getting the brunt of the blame.

(Lt. Col. Dave Grossman on Fox News)

“We have got to enforce the ratings systems… This is just the beginning guys. Please! Don’t look at this in isolation… Look at (these mass shootings) as a growing, moving trend and it’s gonna get worse. …The video games are providing the training, the desensitization, and the conditioned responses… It doesn’t take a lot of skill to walk up to a child, shove a gun in their face and blow their brains out. What it takes is desensitization and conditioning to do it again and again and again and again.

…We have raised a generation of children who have learned to kill and learned to like it. When we get a sick kid in past years, they were chewing gum and talking out in class. Now we create a sick kid and they’re gonna come kill you. If you’re the parents who let your kids play these sick games, the blood is on your hands and, by the way, you might be the first one to die.”

Never mind that this is all over-simplified bullshit. The relationship between video games and actual violence, if any, is very complex.

In my research on middle schoolers, the most popular game series among boys was Grand Theft Auto, which allows players to commit cartoon violence with chain saws as well as do perfectly benign things like deliver pizza on a scooter.

Teenage boys may be more interested in the chain saws, but there’s no evidence that this leads to violent behavior in real life. F.B.I. data shows that youth violence continues to decline; it is now at its lowest rate in years, while bullying appears to be stable or decreasing.

This certainly does not prove that video games are harmless. The violent games most often played by young teens, like most of the Grand Theft Auto series, are rated M, for players 17 and older, for a reason and do merit parental supervision.

But despite parents’ worst fears, violence in video games may be less harmful than violence in movies or on the evening news. It does seem reasonable that virtually acting out a murder is worse than watching one. But there is no research supporting this, and one could just as easily argue that interactivity makes games less harmful: the player controls the action, and can stop playing if he feels overwhelmed or upset. And there is much better evidence to support psychological harm from exposure to violence on TV news.

In fact, such games (in moderation) may actually have some positive effects on developing minds.

Once again, correlation does not imply causation. Millions of teenagers play violent video games everyday, but they don’t go out and shoot up theaters and schools afterward. I’d be willing to bet that every single mass murderer from the last three decades drank soda on a regular basis, should we blame that as well?

These same violent video games are sold in England, France, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, etc etc. They don’t have an epidemic of gun violence. But what they do have are universal healthcare systems that care for the mentally ill, and laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. None of these counties have been overrun by “tyranny” or “communism” either.

What’s really sickening about this new round of scapegoating is that it’s coming from the same people who spent an entire decade cheer-leading illegal wars and torture under the Bush administration. None of them have any moral authority to speak about the violence in our society or where it’s coming from.

Take a look in the mirror assholes.


Aaaaand just in time to prove my point, here’s today’s Washington Post.

It’s true that Americans spend billions of dollars on video games every year and that the United States has the highest firearm murder rate in the developed world. But other countries where video games are popular have much lower firearm-related murder rates. In fact, countries where video game consumption is highest tend to be some of the safest countries in the world, likely a product of the fact that developed or rich countries, where consumers can afford expensive games, have on average much less violent crime.

Go read it. Numbers don’t lie.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. g saint permalink
    December 17, 2012 10:17 am

    In your article you have claimed to have done research re: video games and violence. might you tell us, in what peer reviewed journals are these studies published?

    • December 17, 2012 10:25 am

      So exactly where did I claim “to have done research re: video games and violence”? I’m not seeing it. If you’d like to actually educate yourself on this issue instead of looking like a fool, you can start here. Yes it’s a comprehensive study in a peer reviewed journal. Enjoy.

      • g saint permalink
        December 17, 2012 11:06 am

        the phrase which begins,” In my research on middle schoolers…” has no attribution. you love your violent games and you defend them. look at the icon avatar you,ve chosen for yourself. samurai, originally professional killers eventually descending into kiil-for-hire thugs. are you a thug for violent games?

      • December 17, 2012 11:13 am

        That’s a quote from a NY Times article. Click the link and go read it. It’s by Cheryl K. Olson, a public health researcher, and co-author of “Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do.”

        As to your idiotic assertion that I’m a “thug for violent games”, please stop resulting to personal attacks when you can’t defend your ideological position. It’s just embarrassing.

        And my avatar is one of my favorite actors. He was actually a really nice guy.

      • g saint permalink
        December 17, 2012 1:46 pm

        i reiterate,the quote lacks attribution. this quote is not from a NY Times article as you state, it is from an opinion piece by Cheryl K. Olsen who also wrote a book that is favourable toward video games and violent video games. Ms. Olsen holds a public health degree from Harvard, She also has a modest one person office in Leesburg, Virginia, not terribly far from K Street. She was invited to and gave a speech at a convention of game producers. her talk which featured her theory on the benign nature of violent video games was well received by the industry. in your initial communication to me you called me a fool, yet you reprimand me in your second communication because I posed the question as to whether or not you are a thug for violent games. so you initiated a personal attack and then reprimanded me for the exact offense. hypocritical, no? this defense mechanism, called projection, is a tactic used effectively by right wing ideologues. you chose to quote Ms. Olsen without considering the possibility of conflict of interest on her part. who is the fool? i acknowledge that i can be foolish for i believeing that people with left politics are relatively free of unbridled rage and authoritarian personality. you are a personality type more comfortable on the right. perhaps, one day, you will join others on the reactionary right with the traits and personal style more like yourself.

      • December 17, 2012 1:59 pm

        I’ll make you a deal. If you can provide me with a shred of evidence that violent video games cause violent attacks I will apologize for saying you look foolish. Until then, I stand by it, as you seem incapable of writing with even basic grammar and punctuation and cannot seem to navigate the basic layout of a blog entry where links are imbedded in the text as attribution for block quotes.

        I will remove any further comments from you that do not provide credible evidence to refute the fact that video games do not cause violent attacks. Seriously, you have added nothing to the discussion and I am in no mood to indulge your idiocy further.

      • g saint permalink
        December 18, 2012 10:31 am and also the following which has links to studies on both sides of the issue of violent video game harm: or one might google”violence and videogames studies”

      • December 19, 2012 10:06 am

        My spam filter dumped this comment last night, so my apologies for not seeing it until this morning.

        First, two of your links are dead, perhaps you should visit them before copy/pasting them in a comment.

        Second, the article is heavily referencing a meta-analysis which has had serious questions raised about it’s methodology.

        “The issue of violent video game influences on youth violence and aggression remains intensely debated
        in the scholarly literature and among the general public. Several recent meta-analyses, examining
        outcome measures most closely related to serious aggressive acts, found little evidence for a relationship
        between violent video games and aggression or violence. In a new meta-analysis, C. A. Anderson et al.
        (2010) questioned these findings. However, their analysis has several methodological issues that limit the
        interpretability of their results. In their analysis, C. A. Anderson et al. included many studies that do not
        relate well to serious aggression, an apparently biased sample of unpublished studies, and a “best
        practices” analysis that appears unreliable and does not consider the impact of unstandardized aggression
        measures on the inflation of effect size estimates. They also focused on bivariate correlations rather than
        better controlled estimates of effects. Despite a number of methodological flaws that all appear likely to
        inflate effect size estimates, the final estimate of r .15 is still indicative of only weak effects. Contrasts
        between the claims of C. A. Anderson et al. (2010) and real-world data on youth violence are discussed.”

        Please keep in mind that some psychologists have just as much monetary motivation in vilifying video games as some industry experts have in protecting them.

        The psychological questions surrounding violent video games are far from settled, but the numbers are irrefutable. Our nation’s gun violence is so far beyond the rest of the modernized world, that digest as much or more violent media than we do, that you cannot reasonably argue that violent video games have anything to do with it.

        My argument here is not to protect the sell of violent video games to children. I support the rating systems and their enforcement. My argument is that scapegoating video games is a distraction tactic to avoid dealing with the real problems of our nation’s gun proliferation and mental health crises.

      • g saint permalink
        December 18, 2012 7:26 pm

        you are a fraud and a studied coward

      • December 18, 2012 7:36 pm

        Thanks for playing. Happy Holidays.

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