Computer Games or Propaganda? – Taught to Kill and Taught to Fear

Written by Rob Morse on December 8, 2013

I want you to limit your child’s exposure to violent movies and video games. It is good for your children, your neighbors, and for everyone who wants to retain the right of self-defense.

Yeah, that sounds crazy. It may seem as if I’m denying free speech with one hand and asking for human-rights with the other. It isn’t a contradiction to oppose feeding violence to children. We need to protect our children so they grow into responsible and clear thinking adults. I’m talking about morals here, not about laws. We agree that adults have the right to do stupid things, but children are not adults. It is a sad fact that some children will become violent abusers if left to overdose on some computer generated splatterfest. The media skews everyone’s view of violence.

Adam Lanza is a star example of people twisted by violent computer images. For weeks at a time Lanza created a private world where his severe Asperger’s behavior wasn’t a handicap. Lanza played a video game called Combat Arms for about five hundred hours. He fought 4,901 combat matches and killed 83,496 characters. 22,725 of those simulated murders were with shots to the head. This virtual training had real consequences. During the fall of 2012, Adam Lanza shot his mother in the head and went on to murder 20 elementary school students and six teachers at Sandy Hill elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. One example does not prove a case. Unfortunately, Lanza is not an isolated case. You can examine the titles and graphics of many computer video programs here at PC Gamer.

I can hear the game players screaming they are not mass murderers. They are right. Unless you’re a borderline sociopath, the issue is not about you and your reaction to violent visual images. The issue is how amplified and stylized violence affects young people with marginal self-control and marginal attachment to reality. That is hardly the ClashDaily audience, but it is people we know.

Violent video games are designed for children and adolescents. The games grab children’s emotions by offering a sense of control. They become gods with the power of life and death. They feel competent by mastering progressively more difficult challenges. Murder starts easy, and becomes harder and more violent. Experienced killers gain points, powers and privileges as reward for past violence. The computer video programs offer an escape from the real world and its problems.

Sociologists and childhood development experts traced the surge in adolescent violence back to violent media. There are certainly other contributing factors like broken homes, drug addiction, mental illness and abusive families. Violent media is identified as a major source of the six fold increase in adolescent violence from the mid 1960s to the mid 1990s. The rate has fallen since then as the cocaine epidemic receded.

We know that violent images change our behavior. The army and police train with video simulators for that very reason. The scientific literature about violent media includes thousand of studies over more than 50 years. You can search for reports from the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. You could also ask your local public school teacher.

If you’ve been around young children then you know they model everything they see, but they don’t know reality from fantasy. They don’t know good from bad. We can see the influence from something as “mild” as mainstream TV. Children prefer the exotic to the mundane. They want to be the superhero rather than the boy next door. They want to be the superhero … or the super villain. Some children reported that slasher films were terrifying until they imagined themselves as the Freddy Krueger character doing the slashing rather than being slashed. Yikes.

We have generations of data linking violent images and violent actions. The amount of TV that a child watches at age eight strongly predicts criminality at age thirty. It also predicts violent behavior of the television watcher’s children even if TV is removed. It’s no surprise that violence spans generations. We know that children who grow up in a home with domestic abuse are more inclined to become abusers. Those children learned violence from their family. Evidently they learn it from TV, video games and movies as well.

The issue is larger than some nut becoming a mass murderer. The general public also gets its distorted perception of violence from television and movies. Broadcast TV is thousands of times more violent than reality and that distorts our judgment. We see tens of thousand of violent acts on TV and almost none of them are justifiable self-defense. That skews the entire debate about violence since the entertainment industry doesn’t argue with words; they show images aimed directly at our hearts. Time after time each week they show us that people are violent and guns kill everyone. The media teaches us that our neighbors can’t be trusted, let alone be trusted with a firearm.

We need to counteract that propaganda if we want to retain the right of self-defense in our media-saturated society. I’m suggesting we start with our own children before we try to change the entire culture. We have to defend and guide our children as they grow up. Media violence poisons their thinking and it poisons the broader debate about responsible self-defense.

We will lose the argument over armed self-defense if we let the entertainment industry define the debate.