Monday, December 17, 2012

It's time we redefined the word Pornography

Pornography. What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear that word? Sex, right? Wrong. It should be violence. Whether it's violence as entertainment, violence as a game, or simply violence as a diversion. This is pornography.

I began thinking about this in the aftermath of the horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut last week. As we collectively try to get our heads around the reason for this senseless attack, law enforcement officials attempt to piece together a motive. What could possibly have motivated this young man to kill twenty 6 and 7-year-old children?

It's already been reported that the shooter was mildly autistic, leaving us to conclude that his mental deficiency led to the tragedy. While the facts are not all in, I'd like to propose an alternate theory.

Granted, there is rarely a single cause for this kind of radical anti-social behavior, but I believe we will find — as we have with other public shooters — that first person shooter computer games were a contributing factor. These games, now played by millions online, serve as a virtual training ground for would-be assailants. They put players "behind the gun" and give them a taste of power and omnipotence, without any real world consequences. Over time, players get desensitized to the idea of killing of other human beings. It's all in the virtual world, of course. Or is it?

The vast majority of people who play first person shooter games, even the heavy users, will never apply these skills in real life. But to that rare individual who has other mitigating factors in his life, such as a deep rooted desire to get even with family, teachers, classmates or society in general, a training ground such as this could provide a tipping point. If such an individual also has access to real guns, watch out.

What to do? Outright banning of first person shooter games seems unlikely, due to first amendment rights. However, civil actions in the form of product liability lawsuits might not be outside the realm of possibility, especially if it can be shown that heavy game play was a contributing factor. Product liability is a form of enforcement that has corrected many problems in our society, especially those related to safety. The publishers of such games as Black Ops - Call of Duty make millions of dollars on these games. They should be held accountable for its effect on society, especially when it contributes to such horrific loss of life. It's about time that we began calling a spade a spade. My friends, first person shooter games are pornography.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

America's Gun Control Paralysis

It's been twenty-four hours since the horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut, and President Obama has already suggested that it's time to get serious about gun control. But if history serves as a guide, the discussion of gun violence will again get bogged down in a quagmire of binary thinking.

On one hand, gun control advocates attribute gun violence to the very existence of guns. And on the other hand, gun owners believe that, "Guns don't kill people — people kill people." They point to another elementary school attack in China where the assailant stabbed his victims instead of shooting them. From this, we are to infer that guns are not the issue. Instead, it's a mental health problem.

Gun advocates continually point to examples that show how guns have saved lives. "If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns." People on both sides of this issue speak in absolutes. They use deductive reasoning to back up their thinking: if something isn't true 100% of the time, then it must be false. It's exactly this kind of binary all-or-nothing thinking that prevents us from making substantive progress toward preventing tragedies like this one and countless other mass killings across America.

First, we need to understand that guns are but one piece of a larger puzzle. Mental health is another piece, as is parenting, as is violence in video games, as is the glorification of getting even, as is the acceptance of hate. Attacking the gun problem alone will not result in the outcome we're looking for. We need to address the whole picture, including sensible controls on gun ownership and strict limitations on assault weapons.

We need a comprehensive plan that doesn't even use the words "gun control" in its title. It's time to get serious about mass violence and all of its causes.