Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I am deeply alarmed at the sheer number of shootings, most recently at that elementary school in Ct, that have sprung up like a ballistic plague in our country. I was researching to try to see if scientists had any idea why this was occurring; sadly, this phenomena, while generating sizable deaths, has not happened with enough frequency for there to be significant data to draw conclusions from. I did find a description of the average shooter which was published by James L. Knoll in the Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, March 2010, that seemed on the mark:
The pseudocommando is a type of mass murderer who kills in public during the daytime, plans his offense well in advance, and comes prepared with a powerful arsenal of weapons. He has no escape planned and expects to be killed during the incident. Research suggests that the pseudocommando is driven by strong feelings of anger and resentment, flowing from beliefs about being persecuted or grossly mistreated. He views himself as carrying out a highly personal agenda of payback.
When I read this, I could not help but think of the large number of video games which seem to be based on this same premise, and which are played by teens and young adults with the same concentration as army commandos who are trained for deadly combat missions.
Am I the only one who is noticing that the mass shootings began to accelerate along with the increase in violent video games for youth? Everyone is talking about gun control, which is good, but no one is talking about the virtual training videos which are being marketed to impressionable and largely unsupervised teens. It’s one thing to have a gun- it’s another to possess an inner mythology, fueled by electronic game story lines, which sees guns as a fact of life, and mowing animated targets down as a game advantage.
We are all deeply alarmed, or should be. There are many reasons why these events are occurring in seemingly greater frequency. In studies, violent TV, movies and video games have been shown to increase violence in children. In fact just the presence of TV itself, no matter what is being watched, has been linked to a huge jump in violence and aggression. TV takes away from otherwise healthy social interaction and play time; in doing so it decreases the development of important social skills.
Humans learn through role modeling and the media typically displays awful role models. Parents in our culture don’t seem aware enough to notice or dissuade dysfunctional role modeling.
Another possible contributing factor is that Autistic Spectrum Disorder is currently on the rise; it may occur in as many as one out of eighty eight males born in this country. These individuals are extremely concrete in perception and literal in interpretation. Those with functional IQ tend to lean towards paranoia because they can’t understand other’s intent. They seldom fit in and have no intuitive sense of social interaction so they are often picked on or treated poorly by peers. For these kids TV and video aren’t necessarily a separate reality, but can actually BE reality. If these kids are born with, or acquire, antisocial traits or personality, they can be a force to contend with.
However, one also can’t minimize the fact that it’s too easy to get a semi-automatic weapon. These guns have absolutely no use in a non-military setting and were intended for one reason only- combat. If we are going to allow weapons, a single bolt action is the only weapon a non-military person should be able to acquire. This alone could minimize the carnage any one individual can commit.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: Truth be told, there isn’t much to emulate out there. We have the Kardashians, the assorted rockers and movie stars writhing for our attention, and those entertaining wannabe’s on reality shows. Not much else unless you count the sparse but bright splashing of Olympic heroes. The heroes in today’s movies generally end up slaughtering a dozen or so bad guys before the final frames. I’m not sure why anyone is surprised that killing has become so popular amongst disenchanted and disengaged teens.
I did some research and discovered a fact that surprised me- the peak for mass killings was in 1929 and occurrences have dropped from the 1990’s to the 2000’s. But then I did some further research and discovered that the 1929 massacres referred to took place in Palestine and the victims were Jews killed by Arabs, in incidents prompted by inflammatory propaganda. I do not consider these to be mass killings that relate in any way to the melees taking place at the malls and schools in America. I think that we have an epidemic of a different sort in this country, and it is fueled by an alarming new set of factors.
Video games turn killing into just that- a game. When people do not see other people as real, living beings, but rather as mere targets, it is far more likely that they are capable of murder. Killing is seen as “cool” in far too many movies and TV shows. Humans can become desensitized by the overload of media mutilations and video violence. Our tendency to treat emotional discomfort with pills doesn’t help much.
I don’t see a solution at hand. I think the only thing that any of us can do is try to provide positive role modeling through our own behavior, and be more aware of what the kids are up to. Any parent who leaves their teens unattended and supplies them with the latest Modern Warfare video game for Christmas is just asking for trouble.
See the movie: We Need to Talk About Kevin