Looking beyond game violence

Until cooler heads prevail, for the time being we will be living through a war-of-positions on game violence. Despite the absence of empirical evidence linking media violence and real world “effects,” a moral panic atmosphere is rising throughout the U.S. But as this recent essay by Steve Benen points out, nationsimgres-1 where people play plenty of violent video games don’t seem to share America’s predilection for mass shootings. Reproduced below is an except from Benen’s article as it appeared on maddowblog.

“Plenty of officials, including folks like Joe Lieberman, have been arguing for years that violent games desensitizes young people to violence and contributes to a larger corrosive effect on the culture.

“There’s just no evidence to support the claims. Hunches and cultural criticisms notwithstanding, there is no science to bolster the contention that gaming and gun violence are connected. (Adam Lanza was reportedly obsessed with “Dance Dance Revolution” — which is a game, as the name suggests, about moving feet, not shooting weapons.) Continue reading “Looking beyond game violence”

Game Theory?

imagesOf course the “media violence” debate will be revisited in coming weeks and months.

Below we see the introduction of “Game Theory” in the New York Times, a series primarily devoted to what games its reviewers like for their entertainment value. But the first “edition” of Game Theory ventures into the emotion-laden topic of game violence. Notable in the article, as in almost all of the discourse on media violence, is the absence of any empirical evidence to support alarmist arguments that young imitate in real-life what they play on their computers.

“Welcome to the first edition of Game Theory, a conversation about the year in video games. Some introductions for the uninitiated: Stephen Totilo is the editor in chief of the gaming news site Kotaku.com, and he also writes about video games for The New York Times; Kirk Hamilton is the features editor at Kotaku; and I’m the deputy editor of Yahoo News, and a writer of video game reviews for The Times. The three of us will be bickering — I mean, coming to a friendly consensus — about the year’s best games, the year’s worst games and about what 2012 indicated about the state and future of this creative medium. Continue reading “Game Theory?”

Sandy Hook, Jihad, and The World

“Jihadi atrocities and mass murders in the West do not occur in different worlds,” writes Spengler in today’s Asia Times in a thoughtful consideration of murder-suicides around the globe. The author continues:

“Consider two situations. First, a madman kills 20 schoolchildren in America for unexplained reasons. Second, Muslim terrorists kill 22 children in Israel (at Ma’alot in 1974), or 186 children at Beslan in the Russian Caucusus in 2004, for clearly stated reasons. What do they have in common?London Terrorist Bombings

“The suicidal jihadi is the Doppelganger of the angst-ridden Westerner. The jihadi attempts to reconstruct a faux version of a Continue reading “Sandy Hook, Jihad, and The World”

America’s culture of violence examined

“On an international scale, America exports its culture of under-regulated violence.” Today’s edition of Le Monde carries an article by Heidi Morrison that puts recent events at U.S. elementary school in the context of broader patterns of American violence in recent years and the nation’s history. Reminiscent of Richard Slotkin’s classic Regeneration through Violence, Morrison examines this tragic tradition, as excerpted below:images-3

“Seeking an explanation for tragic violence, we often turn to history and ask ourselves how we got to this point.  Writing the historical narrative for the forces that led to the horrific elementary school massacre of 28 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook has already Continue reading “America’s culture of violence examined”

“I am” Adam Lanza’s mother

The essay below was written by Lisa Long, not the actual mother of Adam Lanza, but a woman whose son has some of diagnoses attributed to the young man who committed the recent murders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The essay is about the complexities of living with and caring about a child whose behavior makes parental love a challenge.

“Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“‘I can wear these pants,”’ he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“‘They are navy blue,’ I told him. ‘Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.’ Continue reading ““I am” Adam Lanza’s mother”

Nate Silver points to shifting gun discourse

Opponents of stricter regulation on gun ownership have accused their adversaries of politicizing a tragedy.

Poll analyst Nate Silver looks at the statistical aspects of gun discourse much with the same care and scrutiny he gave the recent presidential race. On his FiveThirtyEight site he states:

“Advocates of more sweeping gun control measures have argued that the Connecticut shootings are a
demonstration that laxer gun laws can have dire consequences. Let me sidestep the debate to pose a different question: How often are Americans talking about public policy toward guns? And what language are they using to frame their arguments? Continue reading “Nate Silver points to shifting gun discourse”

Accuracy, sensationalism, and new media

“When something momentous is unfolding—the Arab Spring, Hurricane Sandy, Friday’s horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut—Twitter is the world’s fastest, most comprehensive, and least reliable source of breaking news.” Says Slate.com in a step-back piece on net-coverage of the recent tragedy. “

“If you were on the microblogging site Friday afternoon, you were among the first to hear the death toll, watch the devastated reactions, and delve into the personal details of the man the media initially identified as a killer. But there’s also a good chance you were taken in by some of the many falsehoods that were flying, like a letter one of the young victims purportedly wrote to his mother Continue reading “Accuracy, sensationalism, and new media”

The bully society

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. As a topic, bullying has received considerable media attention in recent years in its linkages to online harassment, school shootings, suicide, and even a notable candidate for political office. While bullying can be overt or subtle, it nearly always involves a power imbalance based on some kind of difference in behavior, appearance, culture, or belief.  Perceived standards of the “normal” or “natural” get used to rationalize verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. In The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools  (New York University Press, 2012), Jessie Klein argues that these notions of normality are far more significant in bullying than individual pathology.Bullies may the active agents in causing harm, but larger groups or an entire “bully society” may be the real problem, especially when we consider that this is not just about kids. Writ large, bullying can be seen to inhabit the workplace, the political arena, and the mediascape.
Continue reading “The bully society”