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Media and Violent Youth: Stop Blaming the Symptoms

Such tragic events as the Littleton High Schoolshooting and other recent acts or threats of fatalviolence by young people have caused many Americansto wonder what's going wrong with kids today? It amazesme what people come up with as the answer: television,video games, role-playing games, "subversive" literature.

I have news for you: no tv show, book, comic book, game, orwhatever can make a person dangerously violent. Media–and other outlets–cannot be responsible for altering someone's emotional/mental state and make themwant to do injury to other people.

I will fully admit that media, games, whatever can give inspirationto a person on how they may want to execute theirfantasies, be they highly violent or simple harmlessmeanderings. In fact, anything we observe canserve as an influence or inspiration to us, be itin the media, in art, or in day-to-day existence. Unfortunately,a disturbed person hearing about a shooting in a high school on the news may get the idea to get out his aggressionsin a similar manner. But he has to have been lookingfor the idea in the first place. He has to have theemotional–or perhaps lack of emotional?–driveto want to carry out such a horrendous act. Does thismean we stop reporting such incidents on the news?Probably not.

We could worry about the level of influence the media does have on young (and older) people and work harderto make sure more positive, nonviolent inspiration is available out there. It might be nice ifpeople didn't get dictatorial and insane about regulations(but that's probably not going to happen).

However, this would not eliminate the fact that thereare people that want to do terrible harm to others.How or where they get their ideas is circumstantial.A young person who is so angry that he wants to killhis classmates and teachers has more problems thanoverexposure to a violent video game. A lotmore problems.

If we really want to know what's wrong with youngpeople today, why don't we ask them? So many storiesthat have recently come out about psychopathicteenage murderers have a common theme: usually(though not in every circumstance, admittedly), no onepaid any attention to these kids. In one instance,a grandmother of such a child spoke about noticingsomething "wasn't right" about him and trying totell his parents and teachers and gethelp for him, but nobody would listen.Most solid resolutions start with good listening, realcommunication. Getting to know someone, and notjudging potential behavior solely upon superficialattributes such as "radical" clothing and what kindof games this kid plays is going to be atleast a little more helpful in figuring theperson out. It's harder than just blamingthe media for it, but I think opening up communicationis a step in the right direction. This isn't going to prevent someone from being mentallyill either, but it may well help us get a person helpbefore the violence begins again.

Death Quaker

P.S.: For those of you who think role-playing gamesand violent tv shows automatically makes someone screwedup, violent, deviant, Satanic, or whatever, think about this:I am a gamer. I am also a devoted member of theSociety of Friends, a historic "Peace Church," and a practitioner of nonviolence. I have worked for organizationslike American FriendsService Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. I expend aggressiveurges I have (for I am a human being, after all) throughgaming and other harmless outlets so I don't explode.Other friends of mine who are gamers are activists,social workers, psychologists (or at least studyingto be), teachers, and behavioral therapists. And thesepeople, plus gamer friends who aren't in a helping profession,are some of the nicest, most compassionate people I'veever met. So think about that before you lookfor something to blame for society's ills.


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All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard