Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #978: The Movies Made Them Do It?

I don't normally discuss "political" issues on this blog, but Hollywood and Washington are forcing me to do it.

Right now, in the aftermath of the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown Connecticut, we have top executives calling for "studies" of the effect of media violence, and high government officials are meeting with more media bigwigs to discuss the exact same issue of the affects of violence in the media.

I can tell you one thing with certainty. No matter what these studies and meetings say they will not prevent the next nut-case narcissistic psychopath from committing another atrocity.

Movies, TV and video games did not make the Newtown shooter, who shall be nameless in this blog, go on his killing spree. Studies of mass shooters who are captured alive show that the most prevalent motive is a desire to be elevated from their status as worthless nobodies and prove their "power" by becoming national nightmares through the slaughter of the defenceless.

Naturally, decent people are horrified by such tragedies and feel that they must "do something" to prevent it from happening again. Some call for the banning of guns, feeling that if they take away the tools, the killers won't be able to do anything. Others call for the arming of school staff. Meanwhiles others say we could nip this in the bud if only movies, TV shows and video games weren't so damn violent.

None of those plans will prevent similar tragedies from happening.

Take away the legal guns, the maniacs will find a way to obtain illegal guns. Somehow magically erase all guns from existence, and the maniacs will build bombs, set fires, or crash cars. Those who are determined to create horror will not let laws or regulations stop them from achieving their goal. All these regulations will do is punish the already law abiding legal firearm owners who are only threats to paper targets and the occasional empty can.

Will arming school staff work? Well, just arming teachers and principals isn't enough, they have to be trained to operate firearms in high stress situations. Even then, it's a toss up if every school will have someone capable of taking the shot if the situation demanded it, or will they freeze. Will the shooter target them first? There are so many variables to say that it's a simple catch all solution.

Now onto the main topic of this post, media violence. Those looking for easy solutions say that since all shooters watched violent media or played violent games, that they must be the cause, get rid of them and then everything will be sunshine and unicorns.

However, EVERYBODY outside the strictest Amish households watches violent media in some form, and literally shit-loads of people play video games that contain some level of violence. 

Are they all potential killers? 

No, it's nonsense, and it also denies two basic realities.

1. While movies, TV, and video games may be more violent than they were in the 1950s, society as a whole is way less violent than it used to be. Overall, violence, especially gun related violence, is down 50% from what it was 30 years ago. Remove a handful of major cities with severe drug and street gang problems, the stats of murder and general mayhem are even lower.

2. Mass murders are still relatively rare. In fact, they reached their peak in 1929, with the single worst mass murder being the Bath Township Tragedy in Michigan in 1927. There a deranged school board treasurer thought the county tax assessor was plotting against him, so him blew up the school, and then drove a car full of explosives into the rescuers, killing a total of 58 people, mostly children.

Was the Bath Township murderer driven to do it by video games? No they didn't exist then, and I doubt silent films and Al Jolson songs made him, or the other killers of the 1920s, do it either.

The streets are not bathed in blood no matter what we see on screens, or what the media tells us. There is also no way to spot shooters before they kill. Only a tiny minority of the mentally ill are violent, and an even smaller percentage engage in mass slaughter, any attempts to "nip it in the bud" will only result in witch hunts that will only succeed in further stigmatizing the already stigmatized.

Now I'm not saying that there is nothing we can do about mass killing madmen. We may not be able to prevent them, but we can mitigate the evil that they do. Ballistic shields and padded kevlar blankets, and non-lethal defences like pepper spray and tasers could prevent death and injury for the precious few minutes it takes for help to arrive.

That might be effective but it doesn't involve meeting with Hollywood bigwigs and holding press conferences, so it probably won't be done. Those in power will continue to look for easy answers that will make them look good and increase their own power.


  1. People are dumb as shit, is all. If you want to reduce media violence you need to stop rewarding it with your viewership and money - if they can't buy you with violence they'll try something else.

    It still wouldn't solve the problem of violent psychopaths - for that you'd actually have to stop ostracizing people and giving them reasons to get back at you (greatly simplifying here, but virtually all mass murderers had some really bad experiences with people).

  2. Part of the problem, surely, is Hollywood's (surprise) hypocrisy on this issue. On one hand, they are seen every single year at, for example, the Academy Awards, portentously slapping themselves on the back on how the latest piece of stilted crap like Crash is changing society for the better. Then they turn around and claim that anyone saying movies and whatnot can change society for the worse is crazy. Maybe if they picked a story and stuck to it this sort of thing would be much diminished.