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mcineri avatar 7:52 AM on 04.18.2013  (server time)
Violence: Evidence of Something Much Darker

The United States is an absolutely fantastic example of society gone wrong. It's gotten to the point where a large number of people have decided that violence in videogames is the problem. These people have decided that through playing violent videogames, a person's behavior can be altered in such a way that they are then mentally compelled to go out and commit violent acts because they played those games.

Congressman Frank Wolf from Virginia's 10th District, a member of "these people", published a piece on his website about the subject, highlighting the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and the Columbine massacre of 1999. In one page, Congressman Wolf blames the violence on TV, in movies, and in video games for having a massively damaging effect on the citizens of this country, pointing out that in both cases the murderers were big fans of violent video games and might have in fact been trying to recreate scenes from some of their favorites. Congressman Wolf even mentions what he's going to do about this problem: "Soon after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I asked the National Science Foundation (NSF) to assemble an expert panel that produced a report, which details three contributors to mass violence: access to guns, mental illness and media violence." Now, to his initial credit, he does mention the three overall factors highlighted by the paper. He does not however highlight this sentence from the section titled, "Link Between Media Aggression Research and Rampage Shootings": "The youth who do commit rampage shootings are probably on the extremes of the distribution on multiple risk factors, such as prior levels of aggression, peer rejection, and poor parental monitoring. They are also positively reinforced for rampage shootings through extensive press coverage (page 15)."

So the National Science Foundation, the people Congressman Wolf himself asked to write the study, did not agree with Congressman Wolf. They do not believe that violence in media is a serious problem in our society. They believe that specific individuals under specific circumstances have the capability of committing violent acts and that violent media might play a part in that.

How then can Congressman Wolf finish his piece with this line: "Common sense tells us that the level of violence on TV, in the movies and in many video games is a problem. While media violence is not the only factor of mass violence, it is one of the easiest factors to change and it needs to be addressed."

Well, Wolf says it himself; violence in media is one of the easiest factors to address. Congressman Wolf is doing what any successful politician is doing in this country, finding easy ways to get reelected. Wolf, despite being in Congress since 1981, still has to find new ways to get reelected that appeal to his ever-changing constituency. As a Republican, Wolf faces greater challenges than usual from both of the major parties. Considering the recent shake-ups within the GOP, no long-term incumbent can feel as though their job is safe. Therefore, Wolf made a call, in order to appear tough on violence he attacks videogames, the easiest option. Despite the fact that the report he commissioned recommended dealing with access to guns and mental health in addition to media violence, Mr. Wolf has taken the easy route and blamed media violence as a serious problem that needs to be dealt with. At no point in his piece does he mention increasing access to mental health, controlling who has access to what guns, or really any other common sense measure. The beauty of this political play on Mr. Wolf's part is that not a single piece of legislation barring the sale of violent media to adults will ever pass in this country. It violates the first amendment and it violates what people want, I'm sure even with people in his constituency.

Unfortunately, Mr. Wolf's attitude and ignorance are not unique to him. Despite multiple testimonies from experts, multiple papers saying that these mass shootings are rare and committed by the mentally ill, the media and our government will continue to talk about it because it's a sexy and easy thing to talk about. That seems to be what our government has been fantastic at lately: creating problems where there are none while simultaneously making actual problems even worse. Instead of worrying about the violence in media affecting our citizenry maybe Mr. Wolf and the rest of our government should be worried about fruitless wars in the Middle East, or the 1 million dead Iraqis, or the drone bombings against Pakistan, or the environment, or the economy, or renewable energy, or closing Guantanamo, or not suspending habeas corpus, or not torturing people, or not using NDAA to spy on citizens, or not censoring the Internet. Really, anything besides this invented problem of violence in media.

I hate to be pessimistic but I really don't know what can be done. This issue is beyond facts, it is beyond opinion and it speaks to an even greater problem that we can't seem to accept: maybe we just aren't ready to be fixed? Maybe we need to suffer a bit more before we can truly see the world for what it is? Because right now, if we are complaining about violence in media as an issue that desperately needs solving, we aren't looking for problems in the right places.

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