Apparently exposure to violence in media caused the Columbine massacre.
April 22, 2001 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Apparently exposure to violence in media caused the Columbine massacre. There's a best-selling book, readily available in nearly every book store in the US, which includes descriptions of genocide, wars, deliberately-caused plagues, mass killing of children, cities being put to the sword, and which portrays those responsible for these crimes as heroes! Clearly it establishes a culture of violence and should be suppressed. The success of this book (the best selling book of all time, which is regularly given to children!) makes clear that the publishing "industry will not effectively regulate itself, and that court intervention is necessary to keep violent [books] out of the hands of minors."

No question about it: there should be a class action suit against all publishers of the Bible.
posted by Steven Den Beste (48 comments total)
Oh, believe me Steven, your argument comes up quite often in cases like this, and also in cases where fundamentalists do silly things like try to ban certain books in school libraries. In cases like this, though, I don't know what to think. Is it that these people have some emotional need to find a scapegoat, someone they can focus their anger upon, since the actual perpetrators are dead and can never be brought to justice? Are they simply such bald-faced opportunists that they can't pass up a chance to make some bucks even if it means exploiting their own family member's murder? Is it the growing American culture of victimhood, where everything is always somebody else's fault somehow, and even Harris & Klebold were themselves victims?
posted by aaron at 11:01 PM on April 22, 2001

I hate, hate, hate these lawsuits.
posted by owillis at 11:27 PM on April 22, 2001

i think it just scares the hell out of people that others who seem to be parenting the exact same way they are have spawned 'monsters'.
the obvious blame falls on the kids' upbringing, but to question these kids' parents is to question their own effectiveness as parents; if those parents followed book instructions and/or done their best, yet still failed and don't know why, then a whole culture of parents are completely clueless about something important.
why don't the kids know right from wrong?

sometimes i'm in a public place, supermarket or something, a kid would start screaming at the top of his lungs. every time, the parent would not tell them to shush right away, it takes especially long for them to respond if the child is far away from them; after maybe 2 screams beyond their own pain threshold, they'll start coaxing the child a little, the kid would maybe nod, and then start screaming again. sometimes the parent gets an outburst, sometimes you get nothing at all. i am surprised at how often this occurs. it seems people are either afraid to parent their children or too worrying too much about themselves to put some of that attention into a child. the kid is obviously piercing the public's eardrum, why don't people tell their kids as such?
"you're bothering other people."
that always worked for me when i was a kid.

but then people stop in the middle of the sidewalk just to talk about their goiters, cut 1-5 cars off at the drive-thru just because it's too much hand rotation work to go to the back of the line, and so on. what this denotes: regard for other humans is not a requisit of being a fully functional adult.

is america this severely deficient in vitamin c? c=community
posted by elle at 11:52 PM on April 22, 2001

Comic relief from TMB: Kill the Children.
posted by johnb at 11:55 PM on April 22, 2001

Any argument in defiance of these lawsuits needn't even be uttered. The Nebraska lawyer, the murdered teacher, the children killed, have all been exposed to the same "violent" media. None of them acted on such exposure. As moot as it is, why can't we just chalk it up to something more substantial, such as rampant social problems, not due to the media, but the void that the media is filling, and then the media realizing they're filling the void and profiting from it and making more, sensationalizing it so that. . . . .

It's so much more complex than any lawsuit can solve.

Moot point.
posted by crasspastor at 12:23 AM on April 23, 2001

i know it sounds trite and new-agey but does anyone listen to kids anymore? why are they screaming in the supermarket? what on earth is going on inside the head of a kid when he or she pulls out a gun and shoots people? it's a gun. it kills people. kill = permanent.

i think there is a place for violent media - if you ban it it turns into underground porn, which is even more enticing. if violent media is regulated and supervised, we have more ability to teach kids how to separate fantasy from reality, right from wrong, conflict resolution. (am i hoping too much?)

as crasspastor said, this is so much more complex than kid plays video game then gets gun and shoots his or her classmates.

i do wonder tho, whether controlled gun ownership might be part of the solution.... i'm from tasmania in australia, where we had a massacre and resultant gun control. things seem to be more in control here re guns...
posted by cakefork at 3:22 AM on April 23, 2001

if violent media is regulated and supervised

Define violent. Who regulates it? Who supervises it? Who's definition of violent? I find large parts of the bible violent, should we regulate that? Nope.

That's why we have this bad boy.
posted by owillis at 4:16 AM on April 23, 2001

Don't blame the bible. It has been a fine source for films.
posted by Postroad at 4:43 AM on April 23, 2001

ok, i take your point about the difficulties of defining violent or defining anything per se but (*smiles* there's always a but, isn't there??!!) we do monitor and censor and regulate already. i'm not suggesting more or less, but that as parents we keep an eye on what our kids watch, as individuals, we think about our choices and don't just accept what we are given/shown/exposed to.

when it comes to something like guns - if you use your weapons responsibly (ok, another completely ambiguious and loaded [scuse the pun!] word) what is the problem with a register of who has what and where and how they keep it? when it comes to something as permanent as a gun, if a kid is not able to get hold of a loaded weapon, they cannot shoot someone.
posted by cakefork at 4:44 AM on April 23, 2001

If Klebold and Harris played doom, then we better watch out for the Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 kids. They will be nuclear compared to those two.
posted by a3matrix at 4:53 AM on April 23, 2001

Aaron: Yes, yes and yes. (By George, I think he's got it!)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:34 AM on April 23, 2001

Although I'm quite sympathetic with the gun control folks, it's hard to argue that there isn't a big problem with the kids themselves. And my gut feeling is that Columbine and similar events have a lot to do with the country they happen in.

In the US, there's a place for all views and ways of life; anyone can surround themselves with like-minded people. This is in principle a good thing, of course. But such freedom is available elsewhere in the world, without such negative consequences.

When I was living in Spain last summer, it seemed to me just as free-thinking of a place, yet the people are -- for lack of a better word -- sane. Sure, kids explore things on their own, and they stay out late and get drunk, but they do it responsibly. Parents get along with their children, whatever the age. Families are together and it's important to keep them so.

Yet almost astonishingly, divorce has been legal there for only two decades. The country is certainly not a paradise, especially economically, and of course there is the problem with ETA (Basque terrorists). But the terrorists and any mindset remotely connected with theirs form a distinct minority. By and large, problems are handled in a socially responsible manner. I honestly don't know why, in a deep sense, things are so different there. But I think the comparison is telling.
posted by caveday at 5:52 AM on April 23, 2001

Perhaps the law enforcement officials who were at columbine spectating should have to play doom so that they could have the aggressive courage to respond faster in these situation.
posted by srboisvert at 6:29 AM on April 23, 2001

Any discussion about violence in America ought to consider the history of this country, from our earliest days, but especially with westward expansion. Then move on to guns and gun controls....then consider whatever one thinks is the "cause" of contemporary problems. What we see today did not suddenly turn up because of videos, tv, computer games, films, music. After all, most countries in the industrialized world also have these forms of entertainment.
posted by Postroad at 6:40 AM on April 23, 2001

I don't think violent movies are the cause of violence in schools. I think that parents are the cause. Statistically speaking, more kids that have parents commit violent acts than those that watch movies. My point is, that observations like these only get part of the picture. A good scientist would gather as much data as possible to form an hypothosis. For example, we have:

Violent entertainment
Bullying peers
Overburdening homework
Abusive/uncaring parents
Irrational teachers/administrators
Underdeveloped maturity in teens

The list goes on and say that "violent" movies were the cause is to only attack the symptom, not the root of the problem which is individually attributed per person. You don't have a concrete formula because it is not a "fact" that every child that watches violent films will commit violent acts. It is a fact that every child under certain conditions and stresses, will be more likely to retaliate against what he/she feels opressed by.
posted by samsara at 6:45 AM on April 23, 2001

What we need is a great big WAR with lots of death and destruction to re-instill a desire for peace in people.
posted by greensweater at 6:57 AM on April 23, 2001

Samsara, the problem here is that the lawyers filing this case are relying on a delicious legal principle called "joint and several liability".

What that means is that if someone is a victim, then they can sue any single one of the multitude of parties who might be responsible for the whole amount of damages. The theory is that the losing defendant can in turn sue the other responsible parties to recover losses, but that the original victim shouldn't be deprived of getting full settlement just because those responsible for 99% of the damage might be incapable of paying. This is sometimes referred to as the "deep pocket" law.

However, it's used rather strangely in many cases. If I get hurt at a public school, and if the accident is 99% my own fault and 1% the fault of the school district, I can sue to recover 100% of the damages from them. Those secondary suits don't actually happen, in practice.

That's what's going on here. So far as I know, the principle of "joint and several liability" doesn't impose a floor on responsibility. (Any lawyers willing to 'fess up and clarify this?)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:00 AM on April 23, 2001

You make a good point, samsara, but they're not interested in good science; they just want to place the blame somewhere. Everyone's got an agenda, and judging from the multi-billion-dollar lawsuit, I think we can see what theirs is.

I've made the point before on MeFi that the proof that video games don't cause violence is the fact that 99.9999% of the kids who play them do not exhibit violent tendencies- if .0001% of the kids who played football (which is an inherently violent game) started killing people, would we have an outcry against football? No, because I think people would realize that there have to be other contributing factors that are causing the violence & it's not just their exposure to football.
posted by zempf at 7:04 AM on April 23, 2001

What I don't understand is why these people are suing parties who are at best third hand "responsible" (that's assuming, of course, that they have any liability at all). The perpetrators are dead; no use suing them. But why not sue the parents of Harris and Kleybold, since both of them were minors and the parents are responsible for them? Or, is asking parents to accept responsibility for the actions of their children already too much to ask?
posted by m.polo at 7:19 AM on April 23, 2001

They already did sue the parents who aren't very wealthy, and settled out of court. They're suing the game companies for a simple reason: the game companies have a lot of cash.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:42 AM on April 23, 2001

samsara: I don't think violent movies are the cause of violence in schools. I think that parents are the cause. Statistically speaking, more kids that have parents commit violent acts than those that watch movies.

m.polo: Or, is asking parents to accept responsibility for the actions of their children already too much to ask?

The tendency to immediately blame parents for their children's actions is regrettable and frequently misguided. Is there any evidence that the parents of either of the perpetrators inflicted on their children the sort of heinous abuse that by itself would have been necessary to cause this sort of reaction?

Parents have increasingly less control over the environment where their children grow up as kids get older and as society changes. There are, indeed, a multiplicity of causes involved in this sort of disaster, and the parents don't usually have control over all of them. I believe that pointing the finger at parents first is society's collective way of disclaiming any responsibility for its younger members.

We do live in a world where violence is widespread and frequently glamorized. Where guns are readily available to anyone who wants them. Where people feel less and less connection to their fellow man. Parents can't fix all that. I would guess that the parents of these particular children didn't raise their kids much differently from the millions of other teenagers who suffer angst but who don't kill people. Why then do the same people who decry trying to affix blame to the media and the availability of guns leap to throw all the blame on the parents?
posted by anapestic at 8:21 AM on April 23, 2001

If the two murderers had not died in the attack, both would have been old enough to be tried as adults.

Responsibility for this attack is theirs. The reason for all the scape-goating is that they're dead, and the families of the victims want someone who is alive to suffer and take the blame.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:32 AM on April 23, 2001

Why then do the same people who decry trying to affix blame to the media and the availability of guns leap to throw all the blame on the parents?

Perhaps because the primary seat of responsibility for those children must be their parents. They chose to have those children (or, pursued the activities that resulted in those children) and, once born, chose to raise them. It's a shitty world out there, but if you decide to bring kids into that world, I think I have every right to expect you to accept responsibility for those kids and their actions until the time that we as a society have mutually agreed those kids should be responsible for themselves. Your argument works the opposite way as well; you're letting parents off the hook because there are convenient boogeymen like the media and the firearms manufacturers. Given the appalling lack of statistical evidence that violent media is a direct cause of violent crime (you'd think there'd be a link, but I've never seen the numbers to bear out that supposition), I think I'm on far more solid ground by taking a stand on the time-tested truism that one's parents, family and upbringing are responsible in large measure for one's adult behavior.
posted by m.polo at 8:42 AM on April 23, 2001

If the media (read: television) is so all-powerful and mind-altering, why isn't America full of snarky guys and sassy women trading barbed witticisms for 22-minute stretches, only to resolve their difficulties in a wacky, contrived manner, right at the very last minute?

Sigh. Apparently, we're unable to just kind of throw our hands in the air and say straight out, "Those two kids were a couple of fucking psychopathic assholes." Well, maybe Steven is, except he's nicer about it.
posted by Skot at 8:43 AM on April 23, 2001

The more the newsmedia plays up the whole "tormented teen(s) open fire on classmates" motif, the more that tormented teens will keep learning that when they feel tormented, opening fire on their classmates is the appropriate way to deal with their emotions.

Monkey see, monkey do.

Of course, there's really no way to censor the newsmedia in this country, and I hate the idea of even attempting it.

What might be better is to see, I dunno, at least *one* stinking different ending to the "tormented teen" story. How about: "Tormented teen gets tormentors thrown out of school" or something like that? I mean... let's see the bullies get the shaft once in awhile, eh?

Oh wait, sorry, forgot what kind of culture we live in, where students in warehouse-style schools have no incentive to be decent to one another, and the tyrrany of The Popular Crowd reigns supreme.

We're fucked. This is going to keep happening until people start homeschooling their kids out of sheer terror.
posted by beth at 9:44 AM on April 23, 2001

Skot, in terms of placing legal responsibility and liability, I'm with you. There's no point in trying to make someone else pay for the actions of two psychopaths.

But there have always been psychopaths, and there haven't always been Columbines, so it does make sense to try to figure out what's changed and to fix it if it can be fixed.

m.polo, I don't think parents are paying less attention to teenagers than they did in the past. I think there are now more things to worry about than parents can reasonably be expected to attend to. Saying that the world is a harsh place and people shouldn't have kids if they're not prepared to deal with the entirety of the world's harshness is just not practical. Many parents behave in very similar ways but experience wildly different outcomes. How can you hold someone responsible for things that they can't reasonably predict?
posted by anapestic at 9:58 AM on April 23, 2001

The only "crime" here is devoting even two seconds to worrying about a handful of rich white kids shooting each other.

Regarding "preventative measures": Guidance couselors should be advising depressed teens to kill themselves straightaway -- thus achieving a comparable magnitude of population-reduction but without the involutary (not to mention rather messy) aspects of another Columbine. The school nurse could hand out cyanide tablets along with condoms (don't worry, it's a cost-effective allocation of taxpayer funds, when you do the math).
posted by johnb at 10:28 AM on April 23, 2001

The tendency to immediately blame parents for their children's actions is regrettable and frequently misguided.

I think you've missed my point. I was basically saying the same thing as you are, while being satirical in the first para.

In all honesty, I blame the children themselves. We don't cut slack for the adults and distribute the blame towards influencial forces that affect them, why do it for kids? Basically, children have always been used for political leverage and that is really all this discussion means to me at this point. It's much, much, much more complicated an issue than just the fact that children are influenced by media. While that may be very true, there are other factors, like those I mentioned above, that greatly attribute to the overall behavior and frustration that today's children endure. Calling out television on behalf of random school shootings is very similar to calling out Mrs. Putnam for practicing witchcraft (ie. it's all for attention, and it certainly got ours :) Instead of wasting energy trying to find someone to blame and take responsibility, why not strive to help resolve the symptoms that lead to teen retaliation? Anyone?

In fact, it is happening...and happening all over this country. And the schools that have good systems in place also have the least amount of problems with violence. It'll take awhile, but I hope that they learn off each other on what works and what doesn't. Also, we can't ask for a perfect society. At most we can ask for an educated one.
posted by samsara at 10:35 AM on April 23, 2001

Of course, there is someone to blame, and I think Steven alluded to it when he said that we should sue the publishers of the Bible.

But, of course, that doesn't go far enough. The real solution is much simpler: let's sue God. Think about it: he's supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent. If anyone was in a position to stop Columbine (and a whole lot of other things) from happening, it was he. And talk about deep pockets.

To keep this out of court, I'm willing to settle for a return to Eden, or a suitable alternative site with similarly idyllic conditions. I'm thinking that he should be ready to strike a deal, given that all the attorneys are on the other side.

How about it, padre?
posted by anapestic at 10:50 AM on April 23, 2001

anapestic: Just be sure not to walk outside during lightening storms ;)
posted by samsara at 10:56 AM on April 23, 2001

Anapestic, actually there have always been Columbines, in one form or another (adjusted to fit local technology). You ought to read up on how the Spartans treated their young men.

What's different now is that they get world-wide publicity. And since there are more people, it happens more often absolutely now, though not necessarily more often per capita.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:26 AM on April 23, 2001

Not just because there are more people, but because the culture is entirely different. The Aztecs were one of many civilizations that would sacrifice humans to gain favor of the gods. Throughout Roman history, many-a-king were assasinated as a way of impeachment (one in which majority doesn't always rule tho). Both of these examples have those in their teens. The reason we take a special interest in this now, is only because for the most part, we have finally reached a point in which we have the opportunity to live comfortably without the fear of losing our homes, lives, or loved ones from the many atrocities that plagued us throughout history. Technology is mostly to blame. It has made us content, and resourceful...but most of all, more secure in our environments.

If we were a warring society, then we would be Spartans. Without disagree. However, there is the element of teenagers at war with themselves which lends to a more violent situation.
posted by samsara at 11:49 AM on April 23, 2001

why don't the kids know right from wrong?

how can they? how can we? in a secular society, what is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong? the nation-state's laws? by what ultimate fiat does that rule? does it at all? the united states has more policement per capita than any other nation in the world -- i may be mistaken; can't find the citation for that anymore -- and yet we as a society are pretty messed up.

as far as gun control being a solution -- i think not. in the early to mid 1900's, schools had rifle teams -- kids would shoot competitively. they would bring their own rifles to school. in sacks. talk about easy access to guns. yet kids in those days didn't "bust a cap" in someone else's ass if they had problems with each other.

will gun control laws help address the fundamental shifts that have happened in the past fifty years?

i doubt it.

would gun control laws help curb the problem?

sure. if a kid couldn't get a gun, he wouldn't be able to shoot other kids.

BUT is gun control it a violation of the 2nd ammendment?

you bet the NRA it is. if you want gun control, you'll have to change the constitution first....
posted by fuzzygeek at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2001

fuzzygeek - the deaths from guns in schools have been steadily decreasing over the last few decades. Speficially, accidental deaths and inner-city deaths have been going down (as there are less guns in the schools then there were).

beth - Being in one of those "warehouse" style schools right now, I can say that homeschool would be far more "tormenting" than public school ever would be. There are always people who choose to waste their life away, whether in public school or not. However, I've noticed that many homeschool kids tend to either wind up with
a) the radical views of their parents, left or right, since they've not been exposed to anything else
and b) a lack of socialization skills

posted by Kevs at 2:26 PM on April 23, 2001

first of all, the bible is nowhere near violent enough for kids these days. and half of them are illiterate anyhow...

the fact that the basketball diaries was blamed in that article is ridiculous. kids are impressionable, and we, of course, know that. there's a reason for the movie rating system. but it seems that we're also forgetting that children should be raised with morals, and a sense of right and wrong therein. they should also know the difference between reality and art. and i think kids who go and shoot other kids know this difference.

people pretend that conflicting ideas and violence in movies is a recent thing, but guess what! remember all of those detective movies with james cagney and that guy that talked funny? yeah, maybe they didn't shoot school children, but they shot "the bad guy" and were exhalted as heroes. who's to say that the bad guy isn't the kid who calls you a fag or shoves you into lockers?

in later years, when some of our parents were teenagers, ultraviolent films like a clockwork orange and bonnie and clyde came out. no one went off and shot anyone at school, and these movies are arguably more poignant and violent than a lot of the dredge hollywood is cranking out now. was it just that people had sense back then? i doubt it. people were raised with morals and society took ownership for it's children.

now, there isn't anything held sacred. the teenagers during the sixties and seventies grew up to have children to spite their parents for whatever reasons, brought about by suburbia, lost ideals, what have you. a lot of these people didn't have the resources or ability to be a good parent. and now these kids are raised in a society where dad is having a nervous breakdown and mom has multiple personalities. and look at the divorce rate. the predecessors to the me-firsters are the parents of the columbine murderers and their peers. they were brought up in the decline of morals as a societal value. but now capitalism reigns and the kids are lost. public school sucks. and parents don't know what the hell they're doing.

i don't blame the media. and i don't neccesarily blame the parents. i blame the decline of western civilization. what decline, you say? look around you. where are the parks, ma and pa restaurants, family owned gas stations, and little pink houses? where did the suv's, starbucks, and stadium seated megaplexes come from? face it, america is sucking. all you can do is be a parent to those who never had them.
posted by natasharama at 5:45 PM on April 23, 2001

I'm saddened by the lack of imagination in assigning blame.
We could take Greensweater's idea about a war by stealing the plot from the South Park movie. This would help if Carmack was Canadian. Further proof of Canadian's plot would be Tom.

However, let us not rule out what johnb pointed out and then allow me to suggest that this is just a plot of misanthropes to have us kill each other off so they can avoid long lines at theaters.

Yet what seems more likely (and taking a bit from skot's post) is to use my experience of watching Columbo and follow the money trail. So it has to be the lawyers that are to blame.

But where did lawyers get this plan? The British! Why? Well, I think they may have been reading Steve Aylett and took his 'fractal litigation' theory (whereby the flapping of a butterfly's wings on one side of the world results in a massive compensation claim on the other) to heart.

Of course, we Americans could just be crazy...
posted by john at 6:42 PM on April 23, 2001

The plaintiffs in this pending $5b case just got done with the Harrises and the Klebold's for comparative peanuts. They were biding their time till the judgement came down, it seems, to not influence that decision with announcement the far more lucrative suit waiting in the wings.

If they want to affect social change, come up with alternatives, be pro-active, pound the pavement for your cause. If they want to avenge their horrible losses with monitary gains at the expense of people creating art, doing what they do best, minding their own day to day lives, then hopefully they have another thing coming. Imagine the ambulance chasing lawyers, who doubtlessly are clouding these people's judgement, with ka-chinging dollar signs in their eyes the day the story broke.
posted by crasspastor at 12:19 AM on April 24, 2001

Update: a day after threatening God with legal activity. No lightning bolts, nothing resembling any of the plagues visited on Egypt. Heck, my car's even running well, and when was the last time that happened?

Conclusion: God does not read MetaFilter. Or he only reads the threads about Nader.
posted by anapestic at 6:22 AM on April 24, 2001

Ah..but the Lord works in mysterious ways my friend, and not always right away, as time is meaningless in Heaven. Repent! Repent your class action lawsuits!

(Seriously tho, how much do you think you could get in damages alone? Also, you wouldn't be able to issue a restraining order on someone/something that is, kinda like violent entertainment. Now I'm following ya.)
posted by samsara at 9:06 AM on April 24, 2001

Here's a lil' something I wrote up a long time ago.

Who's to blame?

By: Ellis

Well sitting down watching That 70's Show, the
commercials came on and a small preview of the news.
Well what they previewed was a story about how a
group of people want to ban violent music and games.
Of course they showed some game play from DOOM I,
what is with that? But getting back on track here,
they are saying that violent music and games caused
the school shootings. If these items cause people to
kill, then I would out rank any murderer. I listen
to Slayer, Pantera, GWAR, Death and the list goes on
with "violent" bands. Too add in the fact that I
have been playing "violent" games since I was little,
like PAC-Man to Half-Life.

Seeing that people are starting to group with each
other based on these thoughts, why do we give them
so much publicity on the news and glorify their
causes to "Protect ourselves" from such items?
Wasn't America the place to come to come and have
free thought and also have a freedom of expression?
Why is it when something "horrific" happens we go
searching for alternative answers and completely
overlook the most logical answers to these dilemmas
that arise? Most of you have probably read the
posts and out cries of the geek community on
Jon Katz's posts on Slashdot. Well not to long ago
we have found out that media feed us a bunch of
lies, like that the 2 kids were gay, part of the
Trench Coat Mafia and were Jock haters. Those
were completely wrong and yet I think that was a way
to feed the fuel to the fire of pointing the blame
in another direction instead of what the true root

For most of the people reading this have been
harassed, badgered, picked on and beat up - physically
and emotionally during our teen years. I would lay
money down that "I want to kill him/her." has gone
through our minds many times, but did we kill any one?
No! Even those who are like me with taste in music and
games didn't kill.

If we go back in time and over look all the events and
school shootings, you will probably notice that one
set the trend. My theory is that the first school
shooting was a definite rating hike for the news media
and so they drained it to death. Every where you
turned during that time period you could not escape it.
If anyone is responsible for the desensitization of
American youth, it is the corporate media that glorifies
violence through putting someone else's REALITY into a
famed story board Think about it. These kids go from
suburban "nobodies" to the cover of every newspaper and
magazine, not to mention international television, in a
split second. For someone who believes they are
ineffectual, this is one way to gain the popularity they
have been conditioned to strive for.

I don't point my finger just at media, but I feel they
do have some influence on how society works and reacts
to life,because it's supposed to be real life - unlike
movies and music. There are so many factors in this
whole equation, like the stress put on us from society,
media, parenting and it may have had a small influence
from music, games and movies, but I say "small
influence". It's much easier to lay blame on
entertainment than society.

Of course parents say that music ruins children, or
video games cause crime. They have to. Otherwise they'd
have to admit that it could be one of THEIR children
taking part in crime, either by committing it
personally, or being the cause. After all, don't most
school shootings arise out of hatred for those who have
caused nothing but self doubt and grief everyday for 9
months every year? Maybe parents shouldn't be so
concerned w/ what is in the kids CD player. Maybe they
should focus more on what is going on when the kid goes
to school. If parents would start teaching their kids
how to respect everyone, yes even the strange boy w/
black hair, then these kids wouldn't have a reason to
lash out.

Should we blame fictional violence, society, media,
ourselves or all of the above. I personally would
like to find out and help fix the true problem
before another unstable person(s) ventures out on
another pointless killing spree...
posted by ellis at 1:15 PM on April 24, 2001

Pac-man does not promote violence. It promotes drugs use! Your object is to eat everything in sight (promoting obesity too!), but to defeat the ghosts that chase you (everyday fears, stress, maybe even reality itself) you try and get the power pellets (really good drugs) that allow you to swallow said ghosts. Once you are finished, it starts all over again will increasing difficulty as you spiral into a world of addiction. Miss Pac-man went for the female audience and Super Pac-man tried to appeal to those already under the effects of LSD. So did Mr. Do. Do what? Acid.
posted by john at 1:43 PM on April 24, 2001

They've also been blaming it on widely used medications. I've been taking Luvox for five years, yet the only murder I've committed is the occasional (I suck) in Counter Strike.

Why did Klebold go along? He wasn't on meds.

Isn't it at all obvious to these people how ludicrous a five billion dollar witchhunt is?

Ellis: Excellent and compelling prose.
posted by crasspastor at 1:47 PM on April 24, 2001

They've also been blaming it on widely used medications. I've been taking Luvox for five years, yet the only murder I've committed is the occasional (I suck) in Counter Strike.

While I do not think that medication (or any other single cause) is responsible, the above argument (and many, many others; this is merely the most recent example) contains a logical flaw.

You cannot entirely disprove causation by providing a counterexample. The fact that a particular medication did not cause you to kill anyone does not imply that it hasn't caused anyone else to kill someone. The only conclusion you can draw is that the medication does not always cause people to kill.

If we follow the counterexample argument to its logical conclusion, we'd have to say that smoking doesn't kill people because there are people who smoke but who don't die from it.
posted by anapestic at 2:03 PM on April 24, 2001

I thought of that after posting. But, at the same time it occurred to me that the drug had been in lab tests for years before it was ever approved by the FDA or other countries equivalents. And if I do recall, on the doctor-speak info sheet that comes with all "trial size" Luvox boxes, the side effects are spelled out. However, with all drugs and treatments there is a cost analysis of how many will benefit versus how many will react adversely. Which I think is precisely the argument being leveled on the gaming industry.

I remember pondering some time ago, after I hadn't completed my community service in the allotted time, taking in the DSM IV description of side effects to the judge to show him that "apathy" was one of them. I didn't have to do that. The judge was cool.
posted by crasspastor at 2:22 PM on April 24, 2001

>>above argument...contains a logical flaw

The arguments I've read in the news or on message boards have for the most part been logically dubious, and not very insightful either.

Anyway, it's actually quite simple. There are really three quantities worth looking at here: P(K), P(M), P(K:M), defined thus:

P(K) = the probability that you will go on a Killing Spree
P(M) = the probability that you have been exposed to a particular kind of Media
P(K:M) = the probability you will go on a Killing Spree, given that you were exposed a particular kind of Media

Now, for better or worse, most people don't go on killing sprees. I don't have the exact numbers, but for the sake of argument suppose P(K) = 0.00001. Suppose P(M) = 0.5.

One question to ask is: is P(K:M) significantly greater or lower than P(K)? That is, does exposure to a particular kind of Media alter the probability that you will go on a Killing Spree? Suppose it does. Suppose, in fact, that it doubles the odds, so that P(K:M) = 0.00002.

That's quite a large effect - a 100% increase in killing! And yet, the fact remains that 99.998% of the people exposed to that kind of media don't go on a killing spree. So why worry?

That's roughly the situation we are in. A few dead white kids. *yawn*
posted by johnb at 2:45 PM on April 24, 2001

Ah, the joys of reducing human lives to numbers.
posted by darukaru at 10:02 PM on April 24, 2001

>>Ah, the joys of reducing human lives to numbers.

Not a joyful activity, but surely a necessary one in a world where 40,000 children starve to death every day. There's no choice but to set priorities, and saving 14.6 million kids strikes me as more worthwhile than saving 20 kids -- especially given that the former goal can be achieved less expensively than the latter, and without violating the first amendment.
posted by johnb at 10:43 PM on April 24, 2001

Funny commentary from the fellas @ Penny Arcade
posted by owillis at 1:48 AM on April 25, 2001

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