Saturday, July 21, 2012

Regarding the Colorado Midnight Movie Massacre

As the cries for stricter gun control laws grow louder in the wake of the Colorado movie theater massacre ("tragedy" seems stupid and offensive when describing mass murder),  it should be noted that there was a time in the United States, not all that long ago, relatively speaking, when male high school students in rural areas were allowed to bring their rifles and shotguns to school during hunting seasons. Really. This was true in Upstate New York during the 1950s and '60s (deer hunting) and in parts of Long Island (duck hunting) during the 1940s and even into the '50s--L. I. towns that are now densely populated suburbs of New York City. The boys kept their guns in their lockers in order to be able to go hunting after school before returning home.

And gun violence by students in these areas was nonexistent.

So it's true: people kill people, not guns.

People and entertainment, arguably, maybe mixed with drugs--meaning, a possible toxic cocktail that triggers something in certain disturbed individuals, sending them over the edge. Similar to the concept of a cancer-causing combination of environmental, food and individual health factors.

It is simply illogical to believe that isn't the case. Illogical to believe that a steady diet of ultra-violent images and fantasies, including fantasies of horrific urban violence and apocalyptic street fighting, communicated through movies and video games and, even, TV programs (we've come a long way from Dragnet and the Lone Ranger, Tonto) isn't having an awful, destabilizing effect on American society, above and beyond the obvious downgrading of the popular culture.

Accent on video games. As if in a mad scientist's experiment, legions of young men are being lured into intense, increasingly realistic, simulated warfare sessions that are clearly addictive for many players and could also be both brain-desensitizing and brain-stimulating. Numbing the mind to violence and actually causing the person to become violent. Training and triggering….

A sick society doesn't just happen. Something causes the sickness. And that something is not gun manufacturing. Should guns be kept out of the hands of crazies? Of course. Should ordinary people be allowed to buy extra-high-capacity, commando/SWAT-style ammunition clips for semiautomatic rifles and handguns? They should probably not be allowed to do that. Should there be more and better mental health screening and national investment in treatment and diagnosis. Certainly. A country that can afford to waste $3 trillion (and counting) on an unnecessary war in Iraq can afford to spend money on proper health and medical care (including Medicare for everyone, which is the norm in advanced, civilized societies).

But all that won't solve the problem. If anti-gun liberals (whose ignorance and fanaticism helped to drive middle and working class voters from the Democratic Party) want to get at the root cause of crazed gun violencethey should start by drilling deep into a bastion of liberalism--Hollywood. Its relentless output of spectacular, ultra-violence-themed entertainment is inexcusable.

Proposed plot for a Hollywood movie that will never be made: entertainment industry conglomerate has secretly been sitting on the research that proves that some people who are predisposed to violent behavior can be driven--practically programmed--to commit mass murder as a result of overexposure to ultra-violent movies and video games. But, instead of releasing the study and abandoning the business that is essentially killing people, the company uses the suppressed findings to make its games even more addictive.

Like Big Entertainment meets Big Tobacco.

Endnote: The massacre is also a terrible reminder of how vulnerable the U.S. is to low-tech terrorism.