Not surprisingly, the tragic shooting in a Florida high school on February 14 brought out the usual political atmosphere — each party rolling out its bandwagon to rally their faithful around “what to do”, with their respective media adherents being the first to jump on. As usual after tragedies like this, the “do something” options put before us after this one were painted by politicians as binary — i.e., get on our bandwagon or theirs.
The Democrat bandwagon is always tighter gun control laws. The Republican bandwagon is better processes for dealing with mental health issues. Both sides stress why their approach is best, and both sides quote those parts of statistics and research that support their mantra and discredit that of the other side. This goes on until the media outlets sense that coverage of the most recent tragedy is no longer attracting readers / listeners / viewers, coverage fades, and that tragedy just moves into the statistics bank.
I am encouraged that this latest event seems to show some evidence of being “the straw that broke the camels back,” but I expect the end result will be passage of relatively minimal legislation if any. And because of the “bandwagon effect” and the factors that drive how Legislators make decisions, whatever is passed now or in the future will be a less than optimal solution.
Why Just Two Bandwagons?
It alarms me that nobody seems to be broadening their view to include other potential root causes of this problem in our culture today.
At least one such potential cause I’ve thought of often over the past few years as the frequency of these attacks has increased dramatically [see Mass Murders Accelerating] is depicted quite well in the cartoon I picked as the lead graphic for this post. This cartoon appeared recently in one of the news feeds I follow. It shows a Mom and Dad watching a news report on TV while their son is right behind them playing a violent video game. The caption over the parents reads “Guns cause all this trouble.” The caption over the son reads “Kill them! Kill them all!”
A Prime Candidate?
So what potential culprits are there that nobody ever brings up in these flurries of activity after another attack because they already have their canned bandwagon rhetoric ready to pull out and set in motion? At least one depicted in the cartoon I’ve mentioned here should be a prime candidate — the “dark side” of technology.
Although technology has many upsides that make our lives easier and better, there are many caveats we should be keeping in mind more than we have been so far. One is video games, or at least many of them.
I have never played a video game, so I’m sure there are many experts out there who could present some very good arguments to what I’m saying here. My perception of video games comes from indirect exposure — TV ads attempting to entice new buyers, observation of others [particularly children] playing them, etc. The vast majority seem to involve “battles”, often in military settings but also in what appear to me to be “street fighting” situations. The bottom line is that regardless of whether or not I have a distorted view of the percentage of video games that include violent situations like that depicted in the cartoon, millions of kids have access to them and many of those become what could arguably be described as “addicted” to them — consumed with competing, “winning” battles, etc.
If you pair what I described in the preceding paragraph with the unquestionably more lax parental oversight that prevails these days, it’s not much of a stretch to envision at least tens of thousands of children in their early teens who have been influenced by these games throughout their formative adolescent years. Now, in their high school years and beyond, they may still be playing the games, but even if not the influence on their thought processes is there.
Continuing this train of thought and just doing the statistical math, if even ten percent of these young people in their teens and twenties have led disappointing lives … and if even ten percent of those blame “somebody else” for their problems and foster burning desires to “get even” or “make a statement” about their frustrations … well, you get the point: which is that at any point in time you may chose nowadays, this backdrop could easily have created at least a few potential perpetrators out there ready to be the instigator of another Sandy Hook Elementary School or Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School or Pulse Nightclub or … attack.
A key part of the role that violence-ridden video games might play in forming this mindset in a person is a general desensitization to killing. In a game, “it’s just a game,” and when you turn it off there are no bloody bodies around. Expanding on that concept, not a day goes by that evidence of total disregard for human life in the world today is everywhere — Bashar al-Assad literally killing his own dissident citizens with poison gas, Christians being killed just because they are Christians in some parts of the world, Kim Jong Un literally starving his own people so he can funnel practically all of his regime’s financial resources into his nuclear weapons program [the end result of which could trigger instantaneous death to millions of people], etc.
I’m not trying to build a case that violence in video games is the real culprit behind the mass killing problem. My point is that I’m surprised that there’s never even any mention of it and probably several other potential culprits by politicians in the flurry of media coverage after each event. The reason, of course, is that their interest is in media coverage, not in actually trying to fully diagnose the problem and find the best overall approach to solving it — and their bandwagons are so well refined that jumping on them is simply the path of least resistance. That’s a whole different issue, so I’ll just stop here and write about that another day.
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Charles M. Jones