U.S. Vice President calls for violent entertainment study
The Vice President of the United States Joe Biden has been talking about the administration's desire for a study into violent video games, and since elsewhere the comments state "and media images" I would presume that also means television and film after all they couldn't be singling out just videogames could they?
Well it's happened before when the blame for juvenile delinquency in American society was firmly placed at the feet of the comic book industry, an industry that suffered terribly for it and yet the problem remains, and perhaps even greater than it did before.
Studies suggest whatever they want and are steered by whoever are behind them, and I don't think that's an overreaching statement. This study will be no different and if there is going to be no move against the automatic weapons that killed those children, the ownership of them or the ability for a parent to teach their child how to shoot them, I am certain the blame will be pushed more onto these other areas in an attempt to seem as though some action has been taken.
Some years back I remember scientific studies coming out every other day and we'd see one saying margarine was bad for you, then one saying it was good, one saying that stuffing a rat with a thousand percent of something-or-other would give it diseases, and so on. Studies are skewed and flawed because they are a slice of an issue looked at from a specific angle for a specific purpose, it's the same with basic statistics.
I remember a statistician showing how figures could be used for any purpose and he showed that this one year divorce rates increased by twenty-three percent, just as the rise in sale of bananas increased by the same percentage. Coincidence? Of course, there's no connection and the figures aren't even the same, but the way it was presented showed a clear correlation. Except there isn't, it's a joke.
Back in 1955 comic books were investigated as a source of juvenile delinquency, the blame being laid at their feet, and while you can see the whole document online at TheComicBooks the index is enough to show you what the opening attitude was, let me quote some titles from it:
- Crime and horror comics may appeal to and thus give support and sanction to already existing antisocial tendencies
- Techniques of crime are taught by crime and horror comics
- Criminal careers are glamorized in crime and horror comic books
- Excessive reading of crime and horror comics is considered symptomatic of emotional pathology
Those are just titles from the index pointing to pages that begin thirteen pages into forty-four.
Of course I have just misrepresented the case myself for there are other titles in the index which are more balanced but the tone is set from the beginning, the index presents a series of negative statements showing that comic books are bad for children.
Just as interesting is a passage from the conclusion, which to be fair isn't as damning as I thought it could or would be but reads:
"The interest of our young citizens would not be served by postponing all precautionary measures until the exact kind and degree of influence exerted by comic books upon children's behavior is fully determined through careful research."
We can't wait for research to tell us the truth and we must just leap in and do something? Without any evidence? Wow, a government wouldn't do that kind of thing would they?
This was only one part of an investigation in to media but the tone is set and you can guess what will happen when there's an investigation of videogames, television or film. A similar thing will out - "it can't be proven that videogames cause these violent acts but if people have psychological problems and play these games constantly it may affect them and so we should do something now".
The article in Yahoo News that reminded me of the comic book study points out very clearly what the real problems were at the time, the fact that World War II was not that far in the past, that a generation of young people had lost fathers, uncles and brothers, and entire families were struggling with loss and trying to survive through it.
The article also reminded me of another investigation into entertainment which the American Government believed was being used to destroy society, an investigation often referred to as McCarthyism, I don't feel I need to explain much about those events and how they relate here is there?
All this isn't really the point though, isn't it availability of weapons, training of use and conditioning in their everyday acceptance and usage - surely that's more important than comics, videogames and films? Perhaps even finding people a purpose in life, a job, a role in society, a future?
Well if I was an American I would be rather angry at the news through Deadline that US $10 million is being added to my deficit to pay for another study into gun violence, a study which will include the age old issue of the effect of entertainment when it's clear as day what needs to be done.