2009
05.07

Writing for The Huffington Post, columnist Kari Henley pens this misinformed campaign equating violent video games with torture:

I know the swine flu is top of the news these days, but I am still behind a week or two, trying to take in the torture memos being released, the controversy over what happened, and if anyone should be prosecuted. Our conscience has to live with the abhorrent acts made on behalf of our country that are no longer national secrets.

Apparently, many Americans are just fine with it. In fact, according to a CNN article shown in HuffPo on Friday, those most in favor of torture are churchgoers.

It probably would weaken the argument a little bit if she had mentioned that the same article reports that atheists were less likely to support torture. Anyway…

Whether or not this is true, as Americans, we cannot turn our heads away from the impact of our actions, and the broken moral codes of conduct that have long been banned around the world. I have a difficult time deciding where to sit on this fence. While I agree these heinous practices should not be tolerated or forgotten, I see a big pink elephant in the room here.

I believe if we are going to truly come to terms with abiding by moral codes against extreme acts of violence, we first have to start in our own living rooms to explore the increased levels of violence we witness on a daily basis that serves as news or entertainment. We say we “don’t f**#$ torture,” yet Grand Theft Auto is our favorite video game.

Here’s a quiz. See what comes to mind when you read:

Torture.
Unadulterated violence beyond a moral code.
Loss of respect for life.

Answer: Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the Sopranos, Dateline, or World of Warcraft?

Um…really? I dunno. Help me out here: I still don’t understand how this…

grand_theft_auto_3

…is, in any way, shape or form, in any brain not under some radical malaise, is the same as this:

abu-ghraib_bloody-knee

Shit, Rockstar even had the dignity to make sure that the characters in their games have clothes on.

Go on. Ask any prisoner from Guantánamo Bay or Abu Ghraib if what happened to them is any different than what happened in Grand Theft Auto. But you’re not going to do that, are you, Kari? Of course not, because you already know that it’s not the same thing, mainly because one involves torturing real, breathing people, and one involves digital caricatures in a fake, non-persisting world.

Of course, maybe part of the problem is that she gets her information from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a premier video game critic who, nonetheless, completely misses the boat.

Here, Kari and Dave. I’ll do your homework for you, since you obviously couldn’t. For video games and other media to definitively both desensitize and encourage violence in impressionable youth, youth violence trends need to be on the rise. This is especially true when it comes to video games, which have surpassed movies in terms of revenue. As it turns out, people do studies on this sort of thing, and here is what they’ve found:

Serious Violent Crime Rate in U.S. Schools

Contrary to public perception, violent crime in schools has declined dramatically since 1994.
The annual rate of serious violent crime in 2005 (5 per 1,000 students)
These data are victim reports collected as part of the National Crime Victimization Survey and are not derived from school records.

Well, son of a bitch! As video games got more popular, violent crime decreased. Now, certainly, some of this has to do with things like a general upward trend in security and community safeguards. But certainly given the fact that the media has gotten more violent, surely kids should have gotten more violent, too! It’s like everything we know is wrong!

Homicides in U.S. Schools: 1992-93 to 2005-06

The rate of homicides in U.S. schools has declined substantially since the early 1990s. There was an apparent interruption in the downward trend during a period of highly publicized shootings that may have generated some copycat shootings.

Again, a downward trend! All I had to do was do a little digging, and I found out that the growth of video games has, so far, correlated with a decrease in youth violence! Holy shit!

Juvenile violence is not increasing

The dramatic decline in juvenile homicides (and other juvenile violent crime) in the 1990s demonstrates that the observed decline in school violence is part of a larger national trend. This decline cannot be attributed to a decline in the juvenile population because the juvenile population increased. There are likely multiple factors responsible for the drop, including declining violence associated with drug gangs, effective community-oriented law enforcement efforts, as well as numerous school and community-based efforts to prevent violence.
was less than half of the rate in 1994.

Again, it’s pretty much what I just said. If the media was so good at desensitizing us and encouraging us to lash out, more of this would happen…but it’s not. In fact, the opposite is happening.

Don’t take my word for any of this. Take a look here. Their numbers come from government agencies.

Violent games are not the problem. The very idea that video game violence is, in any way, similar to torture is downright disgusting. Ditch this bullshit.

(TE)DC

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  1. Research has determined that from the Moment of Commitment (the point when a student pulls their weapon) to the Moment of Completion (when the last round is fired) is only 5 seconds. If it is the intent of a school district to react to this violence, they will do so over the wounded and/or slain bodies of students, teachers and administrators.

    Educational institutions clearly want safe and secure schools. Administrators are perennially queried by parents about the safety of their schools. The commonplace answers, intended to reassure anxious parents, focus on the school resource officers and emergency procedures. While useful, these less than adequate efforts do not begin to provide a definitive answer to preventing school violence, nor do they make a school safe and secure.

    Traditionally school districts have relied upon the mental health community or local police to keep schools safe, yet one of the key shortcomings has been the lack of a system that involves teachers, administrators, parents and students in the identification and communication process. Recently, colleges, universities and community colleges are forming Behavioral Intervention Teams with representatives from all these constituencies. Higher Education has changed their safety/security policies, procedures, or surveillance systems, yet K-12 have yet to incorporate Behavioral Intervention Teams. K-12 schools continue spending excessive amounts of money to put in place many of the physical security options. Sadly, they are reactionary only and do little to prevent aggression because they are designed exclusively to react to existing conflict, threat and violence. These schools reflect a national blindspot, which prefers hardening targets through enhanced security versus preventing violence with efforts directed at aggressors. Security gets all the focus and money, but this only makes us feel safe, rather than to actually make us safer.

    Some law enforcement agencies use profiling as a means to identify an aggressor. According to the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education’s report on Targeted Violence in Schools, there is a significant difference between “profiling” and identifying and measuring emerging aggression; “The use of profiles is not effective either for identifying students who may pose a risk for targeted violence at school or – once a student has been identified – for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school-based targeted violence.” It continues; “An inquiry should focus instead on a student’s behaviors and communications to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.” We can and must assess objective, culturally neutral, identifiable criteria of emerging aggression.

    For a comprehensive look at the problem and its solution, http://www.aggressionmanagement.com/White_Paper_K-12/