A thought

For some odd reason it surprised me to find out that France also has big garish advertising inserts in the Sunday edition of their local papers. A few years ago I was looking for one of those odd ‘royale with cheese’ feelings that you get when you experience something extremely familiar, yet with little parallel universe-type differences, so I picked up a local paper in northeast France and flipped throught he ads. It took me a while to notice that there was not one single damned ad for violent toys. You could get FIFA ’08 for 25% off, EMT playsets, firefighting helicopters, boats, planes, trains, some movie tie-in tchotchkes and Disney-ish stuff of all varieties. But lord help you if you want an army guy or something that looks like a gun. As far as I could tell it just wasn’t there. Maybe the government bans it, but French friends convinced me that there just is not much pent-up demand for toys that simulate combat, mayhem and murder. Once I saw it the difference was really jarring. Over here you really cannot turn a page of your average advertising supplement without ten different kinds of murder-themed toy marketed to every age of American kid. They no doubt have that stuff, but most view this obsession with violence, especially among children, as distasteful and a little embarrassing.

Maybe there is not much point in railing against culture and the way things are. Reference, for example, Charles Pierce’s ongoing series about kulturkampfers on the right. Still, take a minute to feel the way that other people experience the world. Or hell, just watch Bowling for Columbine and see how Canadians deal with life just ten minutes over the border. You have to wonder how much better off we would be if we could reach this profound fear and anxiety of Americans against Americans, a pathology that underlies compulsive gun acquisition and so much hate-driven policymaking, and just breathe it out a little.

***Update***

I see that a number of people think that I want to ban video games or some such stupidity, including Atrios who, characteristically, criticizes with a vague bad-faith ‘shorter’.

It makes not much sense to ban something if you can’t reduce the demand. Take pot. Or alcohol. Neither one causes much harm by itself, with exceptions that are about as common as a kid playing out a TV scene with dad’s gun. Banning stuff that everyone wants and causes not much harm (compared to frequency of use) leads to pointless criminal law and makes a hero out of bootleggers. The point, which seemed pretty clear when I wrote it, is that most places don’t have to ban the stuff I am talking about, and if they did the effect would most likely be counterproductive. The problem is not the people who make and sell crap that Americans want. The problem is us. De-escalating the intense fear and anxiety that leads to us staring at each other armed over a locked transom, and worshipping the people who do violence, would involve something a lot more fundamental than a stupid V-chip. However, it is also most likely pointless. Conservatives love this kulturekampf business and we mock them for good reason. So this post was not a call to action because there is no obvious action to take. You can’t rewire a country to hate and fear each other less, or at least there is no productive way to legislate it. So here we are.

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89 replies
  1. 1

    Sure, if they can use Joe Cool to market cigarettes to kids, of course they’ll use GI Joe and the like to market guns. Start ’em early!

    Marketing your friendly handgun makes it all seem so much less dangerous, doesn’t it? Check out the variety of pink weapondry I saw advertised in my local paper for “breast cancer awareness!

    It can’t be dangerous if it’s pink!

  2. 2
    Elizabelle says:

    Didn’t the army use video game training to help prepare soldiers for the Iraq War? To get over their being squeamish about shooting at humans?

    What do you think hours of shooting up space aliens and CGI enemy commandos does? May do wonders for a kid’s hand-eye coordination, but what about socialization?

    (And yes, it’s fun to shoot Area 51 aliens at an arcade. Occasionally. But what about kids who sit and shoot, hour after hour after hour? I know one kid who does, and he’s a jerk more than your average kid, but maybe he’s atypical?)

  3. 3
    WereBear says:

    Maybe there is not much point in railing against culture and the way things are, as Charles Pierce’s ongoing series about kulturkampfers on the right shows all too well.

    You are mistaken. WE are the only way the culture changes; and yes, the culture is the problem.

    Part of it, I’m convinced, is the way we socialize men; especially men in punitive, repressive, authoritarian sub-cultures.

    For instance; men don’t return things. We bought some Christmas decorations, and some of it turned out to be crap. I was all for packing it up, taking the saved receipt, and heading back to the store. Mr WereBear was adamant about NOT doing that… yet he could not explain why.

    It finally came to me: it’s the collision of our culture telling him, as the holder of a Y chromosome, that he can never admit to a mistake. He shows up at a store counter returning something means he made a mistake. He might as well be returning his testicles.

    Since Mr WereBear is a liberated man, he laughed ruefully when I explained it to him, and he agreed: that was it.

    I’d seen this in other men, all my life, and yet only figured it out this week. But it’s of the crippling assumptions our culture hands out… and creates boiling frustration.

  4. 4

    BTW, ending the marketing of violent toys to children is a campaign that’s been going on for decades. I remember this being a hot topic in the 70s. And then we had all the Rush Limbaugh types talking about the “sissification” of boys and how when THEY were kids no one had to wear seat belts and everyone got to play with lawn darts and by god THEY all survived, blah blah.

  5. 5
    RedKitten says:

    And yet, I’ve been told that I’m stupid and naive for being sad about the fact that so many Americans view their country as a dangerous place where at any given second, someone could try to kill you. I can’t imagine living life like that, and I can’t imagine not wanting to make my society more peaceful. Instead, they just envision America as a war zone, where kids playing outside should always be accompanied by armed adults…and they don’t see this as a bad thing at all. It baffles the fuck out of me that they don’t want better for their country.

  6. 6
    Davis X. Machina says:

    From the McDonald and Heller Court, I expect gun ownership to become one of the ‘rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ and their owners found to be victims of prejudice against discrete and insular minorities.

    The free exercise of religion is worthless, unless it extends to Moloch.

  7. 7
    Elizabelle says:

    We could end up with a better Supreme Court in a few years.

    It will take a while for any new legislation, and challenges, to wend their way through the courts.

  8. 8
    Elizabelle says:

    @WereBear:

    Very funny. Never thought about that.

    Mars (“I made a mistake. Must. Not. Admit.”) vs. Venus (“What crap. I’m not spending my money on this stuff. Gonna take this back and get something better.”)

  9. 9
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    You have to wonder how much better off we would be if we could reach this profound fear and anxiety of Americans against Americans, a pathology that underlies compulsive gun acquisition and so much hate-driven policymaking, and just breathe it out a little.

    Maybe if we didn’t spend so much time painting everyone as godless heathens who are going to hell for their sins it would be a step in the right direction.

  10. 10
    Louise says:

    I seem to remember, 20 years ago, liberal outrage at “censorship” of video games and violent lyrics when age labels were suggested/applied.

    I’ve been thinking that as the left demands that the right give up its slippery slope nonsense on gun control that the left should be prepared to allow for a conversation on violent first-person shooter video games. We are changing the neurological responses of our kids. The quick eye-hand coordination may be a good thing, but becoming numb to death? An abomination.

    As I read the comments in this thread, I see that BJ progressives agree. Perhaps the thinking has changed in the past 20 years.

  11. 11
    WereBear says:

    @Louise: They don’t make you numb to death. When I was a child in the sixties, every boy played War and shot people, real people, their friends, who then fell down and was “dead.”

    While at night, we watched the news about the Vietnam War, where that really happened.

    That’s actually more horrifying.

  12. 12
    cathyx says:

    Tim F- Do little boys play with imaginary guns in France? Here, even if there are no toy guns, boys will turn a stick, rock, piece of wood into one and pretend that it’s a gun.

  13. 13
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Southern Beale: I just wish they’d stop marketing everything to girls in just pink. I have two daughters, and I know they didn’t start choosing pink and playing with “girl toys” all on their own. And as much as you as a parent want to swim upstream, it’s tough to do unless you want to go Amish.

  14. 14
    gogol's wife says:

    Reposting from below. I’ve already written an outraged letter to the NYTimes, about Chunky Reese Witherspoon’s column on the Newtown massacre, which never mentions the word “guns.” It’s all about the “blindly cruel cosmos,” doncha know. Dostoevsky would have flamed his ass to kingdom come.

  15. 15
    Brachiator says:

    Pacifists play the most incredibly violent video games, and never have the slightest thought of committing similar mayhem in the real world.

    Write a post suggesting that Call of Duty or the Warcraft games be banned or limited to adults over 30 and see where it gets you.

    The most popular movie this summer was The Avengers, which featured both aliens and superheroes reducing New York to rubble as they battled it out. Should this movie have been rated R? No one coming out of that movie assaulted anyone.

    Why is a tv show like Dexter allowed to be broadcast on cable? Isn’t the protagonist a violent serial killer?

    @WereBear:

    For instance, I just recently noticed something; that men don”t return things. We bought some Christmas decorations, and some of it turned out to be crap. I was all for packing it up, taking the saved receipt, and heading back to the store. Mr WereBear was adamant about NOT doing that… yet he could not explain why.

    I’m a man. I return stuff all the time. But I hate going into crowded stores. If I don’t return something, it is because I don’t want to go through the hassle, especially if I think I am going to have to deal with dumbass customer service clerks. This is magnified by the policy of some stores that you have to provide ID even for crap you bought with cash.

    It’s got nothing to do with not being able to admit a mistake.

  16. 16
    PeakVT says:

    You have to wonder how much better off we would be if we could reach into this profound fear and anxiety that Americans have about other Americans that underlies compulsive gun acquisition and so much other hate-driven policymaking, and just breathe it out a little.

    It would be a lot easier to address the fear and anxiety if one of our political parties would stop feeding and exploiting those emotions. Said party won’t stop until the strategy stops working.

  17. 17
    smintheus says:

    These kind of mass killing sprees would be unthinkable in a culture that doesn’t exalt mass violence, fixate on it, treat it as heroic or entertaining. It’s not just the rise of violent video games that tracks with the explosion of killing sprees in the the last few decades. It’s also the rise of blockbuster films focusing on mass killings and public mayhem. I remember being shocked at how cavalierly American films were now treating violence when I returned to the US in 1990 after living in Europe for most of the ’80s. There’d been a major shift in our culture, though many of my friends who’d lived through it didn’t even notice anything unusual in it.

  18. 18
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:

    @cathyx: I imagine playing pretend war in France became rather passe during the late 1910s and early 1940s.

  19. 19
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:

    @smintheus: This isn’t a recent phenomenon. For evidence, I give you the Encore Western channel and the eleventy movie and television recreations of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.

  20. 20
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @smintheus:

    I remember being shocked at how cavalierly American films were now treating violence when I returned to the US in 1990 after living in Europe for most of the ’80s. There’d been a major shift in our culture, though many of my friends who’d lived through it didn’t even notice anything unusual in it.

    Bonnie and Clyde was considered pretty edgy for its time. 1967.

  21. 21
    4tehlulz says:

    ITT we channel our inner Tipper Gore.

  22. 22
    Violet says:

    I remember when “Fight Club” was released. In the UK they released a slightly different version, cutting out some of the violence.

    We worry about sex. The rest of the western world seems more concerned with violence.

  23. 23
    Peter says:

    @Louise: Perhaps we might have that conversation if there was a jot of actual research that suggested that outcome.

  24. 24

    I can’t speak for all of Europe, especially France, but I and my family (including two small boys) did live in Germany for three years. I can assure you, if there are any differences between the USA and Germany in the mass marketing of toy weapons, it’s that Germany has MORE toy guns, and in particular realistic looking ones. The kids there love guns, and they play toy guns all the time. A major difference, though, is that guns are not worshiped by adults (at least not to the same degree) as they are here.

    Of course, three years ago Germany had it’s own massive school shooting, so perhaps the correlation is apt.

  25. 25
    smintheus says:

    @The Sheriff’s A Ni-: And yet none of those films were about random, mass killing were they? The violence was limited and mostly directed at people who were portrayed as bringing it on themselves..or fighting in actual wars.

    The violence of American films since the ’80s has become a whole ‘nuther thing. It’s numbing, and it’s meant to be.

  26. 26
    Onihanzo says:

    @Louise:

    I’ve been thinking that as the left demands that the right give up its slippery slope nonsense on gun control that the left should be prepared to allow for a conversation on violent first-person shooter video games. We are changing the neurological responses of our kids. The quick eye-hand coordination may be a good thing, but becoming numb to death? An abomination.

    I find this return to the same old moral panic more than a little hysterical and factually devoid. It’s absolutely on par with Huckabee’s recent arguments about ‘removing God from school’ or any number of other easy-to-reach, low hanging polemics. It’s certainly simpler than having a deeper discussion about mental illness, mental healthcare in this country, and greater societal involvement in our kids’ lives. We like simplified, reactionary solutions in this country, facts be damned.

    First, rather than seeing an increase during the video game epoch, as might have been expected particularly in light of comments by scholars linking media violence with high rates of societal violence (e.g. Strasburger, 2007), youth violence declined precipitously to 40-year lows whether measured by victimology data(Childstats.gov, 2011) or via youth arrests data (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 2010). In the past year, violent crimes have dropped a further 12% despite continued high video games sales (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011). In essence, the forecast wave of “harm” to minors has simply not materialized. This has led some scholars to conclude that claims of harm to youth were greatly exaggerated (Ferguson, 2010; Olson, 2004).

    http://www.tamiu.edu/~cferguson/3-yearoutcome.pdf

  27. 27
    GregB says:

    So I am thinking about finally putting up a FaceBook post regarding this tragedy.

    Something to this effect:

    After 9/11 many argued for racial profiling of male Muslims between 18 and 50 with interests in radical political beliefs.

    I argued against such profiling.

    I have now changed my mind and support racial profiling of white American males between the ages of 18 and 50 with interests in radical political beliefs.

    Also, anyone who has been inspired to buy the same model and make of weapon used by the killer since the news broke should be singled out for special attention.

  28. 28
    the Conster says:

    It’s not just the toys. Shooting and killing, maiming, torturing and raping on TV is so ingrained as entertainment that it’s impossible to turn on the TV and flip through a channel at anytime of night or day without coming across one of those things happening within 30 seconds. We’re soaking in it.

  29. 29
    Mark S. says:

    @Brachiator:

    No one is advocating banning violent video games. But as a gamer, I find it incredibly depressing that half the games are moronic, military fetish, rightwing shithead FPS games like Call of Duty, Gears of War, Modern Warfare, etc. that have each spawned 3,000 sequels.

    I wonder how well these “The US military is the best!” games sell outside the US. I’m sure this guy isn’t the only foreigner who hates them.

  30. 30
    JohnK says:

    Was shocked at the Eiffel to see police with machine guns at the ready and armed mounted police. They looked serious too. Maybe it isn’t a mind tripping red dawn phantasy for these people.

  31. 31
    Brachiator says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Some of the critical reception to Bonnie and Clyde:

    The film was controversial on its original release for its supposed glorification of murderers, and for its level of graphic violence, which was unprecedented at the time. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was so appalled that he began to campaign against the increasing brutality of American films. Dave Kaufman of Variety criticized the film for uneven direction and for portraying Bonnie and Clyde as bumbling fools. Joe Morgenstern for Newsweek initially panned the film as a “squalid shoot-’em-up-up for the moron trade.” After seeing the film a second time and noticing the enthusiastic audience, he wrote a second article saying he had misjudged it and praised the film. Warner Brothers took advantage of this, marketing the film as having made a major critic change his mind about its virtues.

    Some critics were equally incensed over Hitchcock’s Psycho, one even calling it the work of a deranged mind.

    But based on the reaction at some of the comic conventions, one of the most eagerly awaited movies later next year will be the ultra violent remake of “The Evil Dead.” Audiences screamed and laughed at a preview clip. Do we really need to pull out Aristotle’s “Poetics” again and explain “catharsis?”

  32. 32
    Onihanzo says:

    @Mark S.: They sell well because they’re escapism… the same reason a lot of entertainment sells. It doesn’t mean that that escapism will translate into imitative action in the real world.

  33. 33
    Elizabelle says:

    @Brachiator:

    Pacifists play the most incredibly violent video games, and never have the slightest thought of committing similar mayhem in the real world.

    Really?

    Write a post suggesting that Call of Duty or the Warcraft games be banned or limited to adults over 30 and see where it gets you.

    A matter of degree. The kid who plays Call of Duty from time to time because it’s cool and maybe he or she is interested in the military, or the kid who plays Call of Duty for hours upon hours, to the exclusion of other activities? Do you not see a difference? I do.

    It’s a case of balance here, brachiator.

  34. 34
    Violet says:

    @the Conster:

    It’s not just the toys. Shooting and killing, maiming, torturing and raping on TV is so ingrained as entertainment that it’s impossible to turn on the TV and flip through a channel at anytime of night or day without coming across one of those things happening within 30 seconds. We’re soaking in it.

    TV has become much more violent in its visuals. I remember watching a show I’d recorded on the DVR. At the end of my recording another show started. It was one of those CSI-type shows and the beginning showed the accident that brought the detectives, etc. to the scene. Some guy fell off a building and his head got cut off. They showed the whole thing, including his unattached, bloody head, all in the first minute or two–because that’s all I saw since the DVR recording of my actual show cut off.

    I don’t watch those types of shows, so I was shocked at what I saw. I don’t think any detective-type shows actually showed that kind of blood and guts when I was a kid.

  35. 35
    ding dong says:

    Its easier to fill up time in an action movie than write lines for a decent 110 minute drama or comedy. Tv’s pretty much become all reality tv all the time.

  36. 36
    Snarki, child of Loki says:

    @Elizabelle:
    (re: men not wanting to return stuff)

    Funny, I return stuff to the hardware store ALL the time. Plumbing fittings that are the wrong size, etc. And you’d think that “getting it wrong” would be more of a blow to the ego in that case.

    Now, if you’re talking CLOTHES stores, I don’t want to go there in the first place, let alone to return something.

    So, while I’m not sure that the characterization of WHY men don’t like returning stuff is correct, it’s probably more twisted and pathological than you’re giving credit for.

  37. 37
    Brachiator says:

    @Mark S.:

    No one is advocating banning violent video games

    Why not? How could violent movies, which people passively watch, be bad, but violent games, in which people simulate murder, be neutral?

    Why aren’t video games considered to be violent toys?

    I wonder how well these “The US military is the best!” games sell outside the US. I’m sure this guy isn’t the only foreigner who hates them.

    A lot of Japanese video games, anime, and manga are ultra violent, but don’t reference any real country.

  38. 38
    KCinDC says:

    Culture can change, as you can see from how lots of aspects of “Mad Men” seem alien nowadays. Cultural attitudes on smoking, drunk driving, homosexuality, gender, race, and other topics have shifted hugely in recent decades (though obviously there’s still progress to be made in some), and those changes were driven by people actively working to improve society.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    Thor Heyerdahl says:

    @JohnK: As a naive 20-year old Canadian lad – 16 years ago, I was amazed at the fact that when I landed in Frankfurt for the first time, I saw federal border police with semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

    While comparing stats of guns per capital…while the US is at least 30 guns per capita higher than the next country – why do the majority of the countries in this list have such a smaller gun death rate…

    Country; Guns per 100 residents (2007); Rank (2007)
    United States; 88.8; 1
    Serbia; 58.2; 2
    Yemen; 54.8; 3
    Switzerland; 45.7; 4
    Cyprus; 36.4; 5
    Saudi Arabia; 35; 6
    Iraq; 34.2; 7
    Finland; 32; 8
    Uruguay; 31.8; 9
    Sweden; 31.6; 10
    Norway; 31.3; 11
    France; 31.2; 12
    Canada; 30.8; 13
    Austria; 30.4; 14
    Germany; 30.3; 15
    Iceland; 30.3; 15
    Oman; 25.5; 17
    Bahrain; 24.8; 18
    Kuwait; 24.8; 18
    Macedonia; 24.1; 20

  41. 41
    Brachiator says:

    @Elizabelle:

    It’s a case of balance here, brachiator.

    Obviously. You have balance when parents control the amount of time their kids play video games.

    Banning supposedly violent material, by definition, is a lack of balance.

    BTW, John Cole is a gamer. I consider him to be a gentle soul.

    @ding dong:

    Its easier to fill up time in an action movie than write lines for a decent 110 minute drama or comedy. Tv’s pretty much become all reality tv all the time.

    A great action scene is tough to conceive and execute. And some of the best comedy ever is all about physical gags and timing, as in the great silent films of Buster Keaton, Chaplin, or Harold Lloyd.

    And even the Three Stooges, with their violent slapstick.

    Oh yeah, and the Roadrunner cartoons. Masterpieces of balletic comic violence.

  42. 42
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Thor Heyerdahl: It’ hard to imagine, but the figures don’t lie. Yemen, ahead of Switzerland in freedom. Serbia, freer than anyone but us.

    Funny old world, isn’t it?

  43. 43
    JBerardi says:

    I really don’t buy into the link between faux-violent toys/video games/movies/etc and mass killings. We can talk about how common mass shootings have become, but still, a huge percentage of the population is raised on GI Joe/Call of Duty/whatever, but only a vanishingly small number of individuals perpetrate massacres of the Newtown/Aurora/VT/Columbine variety. I blame exactly two things for the increasing prevalence of these incidents:

    1. Easy access to military-grade firepower.

    2. Restricted or non-existant access to mental health services.

    I really think that’s what it comes down to. Violent toys and games are, at best, triggers for a tiny minority of people who already have serious mental health issues. I think it’s kind of silly to leave those problems untreated and hope that we can just restrict violent media enough to prevent those sick individuals from ever noticing that guns exist. We need to do a better job of getting those people the help they need, and maybe think about not selling assault rifles to any jackass who can find his way to a Wal-Mart. Attempting to prohibit violence in our culture will be about as effective as… well, prohibition of anything else that large numbers of people want.

  44. 44
    kdaug says:

    @RedKitten:

    And yet, I’ve been told that I’m stupid and naive for being sad about the fact that so many Americans view their country as a dangerous place where at any given second, someone could try to kill you. I can’t imagine living life like that, and I can’t imagine not wanting to make my society more peaceful. Instead, they just envision America as a war zone, where kids playing outside should always be accompanied by armed adults…and they don’t see this as a bad thing at all.

    History, Kitten.

    IIRC, back in the 20’s-50’s, the hip kid’s game was “Cowboys and Indians”.

    Indians.

    Civil War.

    This isn’t pretend. It’s our genome. Our history.

    For as long as there’s been a Colony of the Americas – whether humans or wolves or bears or mountain lions or snakes – the reality has always been that this is, indeed, a “country as a dangerous place where at any given second, someone could try to kill you.”

  45. 45
    Louise says:

    I appreciate the factual responses; that’s a conversation. I’m not suggesting a ban, and I’m not arguing with the stats that have been quoted. I’m just pondering. Most of the issues I’ve considered over the past couple of days are, to me, so clear cut: we must have an assault weapons ban, we must increase gun control, we must have better access and funding for mental health care, we must make sure not to smear people on the autism spectrum. After that, I just begin wondering about other factors that don’t seem so black and white. Thanks for the feedback.

  46. 46
    WaterGirl says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    I have two daughters, and I know they didn’t start choosing pink and playing with “girl toys” all on their own.

    Wait, what?

    You have two daughters? How have i not known this? Part of a new family, or you have always had two daughters? (don’t mean to pry)

    I really liked your whole comment!

  47. 47
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @Violet: I was watching Underbelly an Australian crime drama, there were violent scenes but not the the Sam Peckinpah on steroids style violence you see on American shows, as a matter of fact they show more skin than guns. Madonna at the height of her popularity was blasted for the overt sexuality of her shows, blasted American culture pointing out that an uncovered breast was more shocking to people than God forbid a body squirting blood from be blasted by Schwarzenegger. Hell full frontal nudity shot of a guy still causes fainting vapors. Unless you are an HBO subscribers.

  48. 48
    charon says:

    It is more than just toys and video games. Violence pervades our culture – think sports, especially football with the hits and concussions. Think all the hatred and bigotry and the core of how many people practice religion. Think of the bigotry that comes from divvying the world up into saved sheep good guys and unsaved goats. How is this sheep/goats business not bigotry? Leading to hatred, contempt, confrontation?

  49. 49
    Mandalay says:

    I picked up a local paper in northeast France and flipped throught he ads. It took me a while to notice that there was not one single damned ad for violent toys

    Our living memories are John Wayne and Mission Accomplished in Iraq, while there are still many French people who can recall German troops marching into Paris in 1940.

    Perhaps being invaded does something to a nation’s psyche when the reality and nature of violence is (literally) closer to home?

  50. 50

    @Uncle Ebeneezer:

    Gah.

    Well, at least there’s a hippie preacher type telling people we need to look at our love affair with violence. Wonder how long before he loses his pastoral position? Rifle Jesus all the way!

  51. 51
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Let’s get one thing straight: video games do NOT get you over your squeamishness about actually pointing the barrel at something and pulling the trigger.

    There’s a mental process here. People can tell the difference between virtual violence and the real thing. If anything, video games, where you die repeatedly in the process and are resurrected to go right back at it make it even more cartoonish and unreal.

    I complain constantly about how unrealistic these games can be. The combat is pretty much ritualized, because one shot death is not fun even as a video game concept.

  52. 52
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mandalay:

    And before that the endless slaughter of The Great War.

    Even the Germans (outside of the hardcore Partei members) were leery in September of 1939. German civilians, even without being invaded and for the most part occupied in that war, remember the deprivation of it.

    Of course, WWII ended differently. So differently that I think it fundamentally changed the German people.

  53. 53
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @WaterGirl: They live with their mom. I don’t mention them much online unless it’s on topic.

  54. 54
    JBerardi says:

    @smintheus:

    It’s not just the rise of violent video games that tracks with the explosion of killing sprees in the the last few decades. It’s also the rise of blockbuster films focusing on mass killings and public mayhem.

    I’m actually pretty sure that violent crime has, on the whole, continued to trend down as violent games and movies have been ascendent in our culture. So even if we accept that correlation = causation, which of course it doesn’t, this theory doesn’t really make any sense.

  55. 55
    smintheus says:

    @JBerardi:

    Violent toys and games are, at best, triggers for a tiny minority of people who already have serious mental health issues.

    Mass murderers are all sickos, and sickos will always be with us. So why would you not want to change a culture that sends so many signals to sickos that mass violence is glorious, fun, exciting, amusing, heroic?

  56. 56
    Maude says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:
    I heard an executive on radio about the new Barbie construction kit. It is pink. How awful.
    Bonnie and Clyde was mis cast. The lead characters shouldn’t have been good looking. The real Bonnie and Clyde were brutal killers and the movie plays that down, even with the violence.

  57. 57
    Mandalay says:

    @kdaug:

    This isn’t pretend. It’s our genome. Our history.

    It may be our history, but “genome” does not mean what you seem to think it means.

    And it’s not “in our DNA” either.

  58. 58
    smintheus says:

    @JBerardi: Your response makes no sense. I referred to mass killing sprees, not to all forms of violence. Mass shootings were rare in the US before the ’80s, and began to become common only in the ’90s. They’re increasingly common and increasingly deadly in this millenium.

  59. 59
    Mandalay says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    So differently that I think it fundamentally changed the German people.

    Agreed. There are very few good things that arose from WWII, but that would be one of them.

  60. 60
    smintheus says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: The Army would disagree. It has used violent video games in recent years to desensitize soldiers to violence and make them more gung ho for combat operations.

  61. 61
    JBerardi says:

    @smintheus:

    Mass murderers are all sickos, and sickos will always be with us. So why would you not want to change a culture that sends so many signals to sickos that mass violence is glorious, fun, exciting, amusing, heroic?

    Because changing the culture is a nebulous, largely impossible goal that’s of dubious benefit anyway, whereas decreasing access to high-powered firearms and increasing access to mental health services are specific, attainable goals with very obvious benefits.

  62. 62
    JBerardi says:

    @smintheus:

    @JBerardi: Your response makes no sense. I referred to mass killing sprees, not to all forms of violence. Mass shootings were rare in the US before the ’80s, and began to become common only in the ’90s. They’re increasingly common and increasingly deadly in this millenium.

    So you’re saying that violent games and toys ONLY encourages MASS shootings, not gun violence in general? That’s a weirdly specific effect to me.

  63. 63
    smintheus says:

    @JBerardi:

    changing the culture is a nebulous, largely impossible goal that’s of dubious benefit anyway

    I’m not sure what you think is nebulous about it, but how do you know the other things you claim here?

    decreasing access to high-powered firearms and increasing access to mental health services

    Nobody is against those things. But unless semi-automatic weapons are so restricted by law that they become virtually banned, it’s hard to see how you dissuade nut jobs from continuing to go on mass killing sprees without changing the culture.

  64. 64
    smintheus says:

    @JBerardi: I nowhere talk about toys. I talk about video games and films that celebrate mass killing. There’s nothing “weirdly specific” about the anticipated effect of that making killing sprees thinkable.

  65. 65
    Mnemosyne says:

    @smintheus:

    Mass shootings were rare in the US before the ’80s, and began to become common only in the ’90s.

    I’m not sure about that, actually. Charles Whitman was the 1960s. Brenda Ann Spencer was in the 1980s, as was Laurie Dann.

    I think the body count has been going up since the ’90s, but that may have more to do with more powerful hardware being available than the frequency of the shootings increasing.

  66. 66
    Chicagopat says:

    My wife and I wanted to get our son a nerf dart gun for Christmas, but couldn’t get our selves to buy the box The kid looks like he’s practicing for the next Columbine, not playing tag with a styrofoam marshmallow…

  67. 67
    Mandalay says:

    @smintheus:

    Nobody is against those things.

    You really think that nobody is against “decreasing access to high-powered firearms”?

    Seriously?

  68. 68
    JBerardi says:

    @smintheus:

    Nobody is against those things. But unless semi-automatic weapons are so restricted by law that they become virtually banned, it’s hard to see how you dissuade nut jobs from continuing to go on mass killing sprees without changing the culture.

    Ever hear of a place called Japan?

    And again, I think that getting rid of assault weapons is a far more attainable goal than “changing the culture”. Changing it how? What laws would you enact? How would you convince people to stop liking the things they like? That’s basically like trying to talk someone out of their religion or their sexuality.

  69. 69
    JBerardi says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’m not sure about that, actually. Charles Whitman was the 1960s. Brenda Ann Spencer was in the 1980s, as was Laurie Dann.
    I think the body count has been going up since the ’90s, but that may have more to do with more powerful hardware being available than the frequency of the shootings increasing.

    Imagine what life in the Jim Crow south would have been like had AK-47s been ubiquitous back then. Actually, don’t.

  70. 70
    Mandalay says:

    @smintheus:

    But unless semi-automatic weapons are so restricted by law that they become virtually banned, it’s hard to see how you dissuade nut jobs from continuing to go on mass killing sprees without changing the culture.

    It think you have it backwards; changing laws WILL change the culture.

    For example, think about our improved attitudes towards race, domestic violence or DUI compared with fifty years ago. The change in thinking (i.e. the culture change) arose because the government said that if you beat your wife, or drive when you are drunk, or go around calling people niggers, you SHALL fucking go to jail.

    Once something that was unreasonable becomes illegal society steps into line and conforms (e.g. DUI laws, Civil Rights), unless the laws are ridiculous (e.g. Marijuana laws).

    For all its faults and the bad press it gets, government can be a wonderful thing that makes the world a better place and changes the culture.

  71. 71
    smintheus says:

    @Mnemosyne: A few mass killings before the ’80s doesn’t mean they were common. Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, it never would have occurred to us that anybody would ever enter a school and shoot it up. It was simply unthinkable.

    And it’s not like I was a stranger to violence. I had a random drunken man wander onto our property when I was 11 y/0 and try to strangle me. A HS girl was kidnapped, raped, and killed across the road from my house. We could understand random violence, but had almost no comprehension of random mass violence.

  72. 72
    smintheus says:

    @Mandalay: I meant nobody on this thread.

  73. 73
    smintheus says:

    @JBerardi: We’ve changed our culture in many ways because we became determined to do so. Not long ago, drunk driving was semi-acceptable and mostly tolerated. So were public and proud racist expressions (true, these have rebounded slightly since 2008, but what was acceptable in the ’60s is largely unacceptable now).

  74. 74
    smintheus says:

    @Mandalay: DUI was already illegal. And no, the culture of racism wasn’t changed by locking people up for using racial epithets. These were cultural changes, where people made a conscious decision to discredit things and heap opprobrium on people who engaged in them.

  75. 75
    JBerardi says:

    @smintheus:

    Again, I ask you for specifics. What law would you like to see enacted to curb the popularity of violent media in America today?

  76. 76
    me says:

    @Mark S.: I think he would have been more positive if it were actually a good game. See his review of Far Cry 3 which has all the violence but with out the jingoism.

  77. 77
    JBerardi says:

    @Mark S.:

    No one is advocating banning violent video games. But as a gamer, I find it incredibly depressing that half the games are moronic, military fetish, rightwing shithead FPS games like Call of Duty, Gears of War, Modern Warfare, etc. that have each spawned 3,000 sequels.

    Well, as a whiskey drinker I’m dismayed at the popularity of cheap flavored vodka and as a lover of the Coen brothers I’m dismayed the popularity of Michael Bay movies, but whadda ya gonna do? Lowest common denominator and all that.

  78. 78
    Mandalay says:

    @smintheus:

    DUI was already illegal.

    In theory, but not in reality. There was no impartial litmus test (device) for testing whether a driver was drunk, but there is now. So back then the local mayor could drive blind drunk and the cop who pulled him over would tell him to drive carefully, and send him on his way. Not any more. Everyone who is pulled over for drunk driving goes to jail. DUI laws have changed the way society thinks about drunk drivers.

    And no, the culture of racism wasn’t changed by locking people up for using racial epithets. These were cultural changes, where people made a conscious decision to discredit things and heap opprobrium on people who engaged in them.

    But the ability (moral authority) to “heap opprobrium on people who engaged in them” came from the Civil Rights Act. It changed our culture. If you don’t believe that blindingly obvious fact then there is nothing I can say to persuade you.

  79. 79
    Peter says:

    @smintheus: They also use human-shaped targets for that purpose. These are people being trained in a hundred other ways to kill, it’s a long-ass way from that to people sitting around in their living room.

  80. 80
    gene108 says:

    @Violet:
    Watch the Jack Lord Hawaii Five’O. Each episode ended with people shot dead by the cops.
    You didn’t see blood and guts, but those shows had a pretty high body count.

    Violence in games or media isn’t the problem. The pushing of fear by “pundits” post-9/11 probably has more to do with it. People have been on edge about another terrorist attack for over a decade.

  81. 81
    Common Sense says:

    There was a hysterical ad I saw in the Paris subway last summer (for a grocery or department store iirc). The ad featured a crazed donkey with psychotic bulging eyes brandishing a bloody chainsaw.

  82. 82
    Mnemosyne says:

    @smintheus:

    Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, it never would have occurred to us that anybody would ever enter a school and shoot it up. It was simply unthinkable.

    I grew up in the 70s and 80s. I went to the Catholic school in Hubbard Woods, the same town where Laurie Dann went on her shooting rampage. I had just graduated high school when it happened.

    Maybe you just didn’t notice the mass shootings going on around you because they weren’t close enough.

    ETA: “I Don’t Like Mondays” came out in, what, 1977?

  83. 83
    Pococurante says:

    @cathyx:

    Here, even if there are no toy guns, boys will turn a stick, rock, piece of wood into one and pretend that it’s a gun.

    “Though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, yet the frogs do not die in sport but in earnest.”

    4th century BCE, Bion of Borysthenes

    … the main themes in the paintings and other artifacts (powerful beasts, risky hunting scenes and the representation of women in the Venus figurines) are the fantasies of adolescent males …

    It is wired pretty deeply.

    Gun control would help only in making sure the mentally ill cannot be licensed, and closing gun show loop holes. Mocking NRA members just feeds their egos.

    Blanket societal shutdown just makes for more neurotic repressed behavior.

  84. 84
    Tehanu says:

    @JBerardi:

    And again, I think that getting rid of assault weapons is a far more attainable goal than “changing the culture”. Changing it how? What laws would you enact? How would you convince people to stop liking the things they like?

    Well, a good start would be to do the same kind of things people did to change the attitude about smoking. In my parents’ generation (WWII) smoking was ubiquitous: the Army gave out cigarettes as part of the ration; every school kid made ashtrays out of clay in art class; mothers smoked in maternity wards. The default assumption was that adults smoked. Look around you now. This isn’t something that will happen overnight but it can happen.

  85. 85
    JBerardi says:

    @Tehanu:

    There’s a huge difference here: the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer is direct and indisputable. There’s nothing like that with violent games/movies/etc and mass killers.

    And AGAIN, I ask for policy specifics. “You know, stuff like we did for cigarettes” is not specific. Are we going to ban violent games in public places? I think most people play them in their homes…

  86. 86
    JBerardi says:

    @Tim F

    The problem is not the people who make and sell crap that Americans want. The problem is us.

    Yuuuuuuuuuup.

    The popularity of violent media doesn’t shape our culture, it reflects it. And the reflection is not flattering.

  87. 87
    Pococurante says:

    You are not going to get it from this community. They are bright and intellectual until it comes to gun ownership or even the basic acceptance of Israel as a country. Especially a Tim F thread.

  88. 88
    smintheus says:

    @Mnemosyne: Which mass shootings did I miss in the ’60s and ’70s, then? I think you’re playing games with chronology.

  89. 89
    smintheus says:

    @JBerardi: First you say that you can’t change culture. Then your fall back position is, what…you can’t change it when you decide you can’t change it?

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