The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary has once again dragged video games into the harsh light of the discussion of violent media’s influence on tragic events. This is nothing new for any of us as we’ve been pretty much dealing with the allegations that video games lead to real life violence since the advent of blood in digital form.
Early this month Vice President of the United States Joe Biden met with several leaders of “faith-based organizations” to discuss gun control, immigration, and video games. Joystiq, via Politico, reported that Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association suggested “media and entertainment that portray violence should be subject to a special tax, with the proceeds going to help victims and their families.”
Now before I get into my tirade, I would like to say that, thankfully, the Veep did say that there is no legal reason why they couldn’t (tax violent media) but added that [the government] would need to perform a scientific study akin that done to prove smoking cigarettes was harmful to smokers. The idea of taxing violent media comes from the CEO of a “non-profit,” tax-exempt organization. Is anyone supposed to take tax target suggestions from a tax-exempt faith-based organization seriously?
Furthermore, studies have been conducted time and time again and have never been able to make a direct link between violent media and violent behavior. I will gladly volunteer myself for any analysis since in my 40 years of life on earth and my 30 plus years of gaming, I have never ever killed a single person. I know that this confession is hardly shocking, and this argument is not original, and that’s because just like the baseless accusation that violent video games cause violence behavior, it’s a tired rhetoric that we’ve heard before.
I was raised a Christian and understood at a much younger age to separate my beliefs from my entertainment. With that being said, the Bible has some incredibly violent stories from cover to cover.
Cain killing his brother Abel in Genesis 4:
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
The execution of the Canaanite Kings in Joshua 10:
But these five kings had fled and hidden themselves in a cave at Makkedah. And it was told Joshua, saying, “The five kings have been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah.” So Joshua said, “Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and set men by it to guard them. And do not stay there yourselves, but pursue your enemies, and attack their rear guard. Do not allow them to enter their cities, for the Lord your God has delivered them into your hand.” Then it happened, while Joshua and the children of Israel made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they had finished, that those who escaped entered fortified cities. And all the people returned to the camp, to Joshua at Makkedah, in peace. No one moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel. Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings to me from the cave.” And they did so, and brought out those five kings to him from the cave: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. So it was, when they brought out those kings to Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the captains of the men of war who went with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” And they drew near and put their feet on their necks. Then Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage, for thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” And afterward Joshua struck them and killed them, and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging on the trees until evening. So it was at the time of the going down of the sun that Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, cast them into the cave where they had been hidden, and laid large stones against the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.
Jephthah Kills His Daughter in Judges 11:
When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.” 36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.” 38 “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.
The Levite Dismembers His Murdered Concubine in Judges 19:
22-25: While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the town, a depraved lot, had gathered about the house and were pounding on the door. They called to the aged owner of the house, “Bring out the man who has come into your house, so that we can be intimate with him.” The owner of the house went out and said to them, “Please, my friends, do not commit such a wrong. Since this man has entered my house, do not perpetrate this outrage. Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. Let me bring them out to you. Have your pleasure of them, do what you like with them; but don’t do that outrageous thing to this man.” But the men would not listen to him, so the man seized his concubine and pushed her out to them. They raped her and abused her all night long until morning; and they let her go when dawn broke. 28-29: “Get up,” he said to her, “let us go.” But there was no reply. So the man placed her on the donkey and set out for home. When he came home, he picked up a knife, and took hold of his concubine and cut her up limb by limb into twelve parts. He sent them throughout the territory of Israel.
How many acts of violence, hate crimes and mass murders have been carried out in the name of religion? I’m sure the irony of the taxation of violent media is lost on Reverend Franklin Graham.
In the off event that video games could be subject to tax, how would the violence in games be measured? And to what end? Sure, acts like beating a prostitute to death to steal your money back in a Grand Theft Auto game is pretty cut and dry. But what about Super Mario Bros? In the original game I jumped on and kicked turtles, shot fireballs out of my hands, avoided bullets being shot at me, hammers being thrown at me, all to rescue a princess that was kidnapped and held captive in a castle. The ESRB, whom the government agreed was an able body to rate games appropriately, gave this game an E rating. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is rated E10+ for “Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence.” Yet not once, during all of these allegations and sensationalistic stories in the media has anyone every cited The Legend of Zelda as a cause for an act of violence as reprehensible as that of Sandy Hook.
Speaking of the media, news outlets report stories of violent acts including rape, murder, assault ad nauseum. Have you heard about “My Hope America with Billy Graham” by The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association? It’s a paid program in which Billy Graham sermonizes as he is wont to do. Just for giggles, I looked up where I could watch such a program and randomly selected WFMZ, a local news network in Philidelphia. WFMZ aired “My Hope America with Billy Graham” just this past weekend on May 12th. On the website, http://www.wfmz.com I looked up news stories containing the word “rape” and found 439 results. That means that Billy Graham is sharing the airwaves with a network that has given access to anyone who so chooses, without age restrictions, access to news stories containing verbal depictions of rape. I’ve played every Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Borderlands, Far Cry, Mass Effect, Tenchu, Resident Evil, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Saints Row and not a single one depicts rape. Not. One.
Taking respite from my sermon, I would like to remind anyone still here that in the 50’s, parents and “faith-based organizations” rallied against something else that was supposedly corrupting the youth of America–rock and roll–and it didn’t stop for 40 plus years. Starting with Elvis Presley’s supposedly sexually suggestive swiveling (take THAT alliteration detractors) all the way to Twisted Sister’s anthemic call to arms against the stifling of rock and roll attitude. Rock and roll has endured the same laser-focused attacks from the religious right–including TV evangelists giving simple band names like KISS far more nefarious acronyms like “Knights in Satan’s Service,” or AC/DC standing for “Antichrist Devil’s Children,” or playing Beatles records backwards to find hidden messages that could only be heard if you had the presence of mind to play the records backwards. These religious folks are a creative bunch if nothing else.
In 1985, after the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) agreed to put warning labels on records stating it contained explicit lyrics of any kind, the religious right faded off into the annals of 80’s jokes and “whatever happened to” in the mind of the popular consciousness.
That is, until now.
All of a sudden these cockroaches have scurried out of the darkness to thumb their Bibles and say what is or isn’t appropriate for our youth. If the government shouldn’t be doing the parenting, then there is no way in “H E double hockey sticks” that religion should.
Alas, all of my indignation is for naught because while VP Joe did say that there was no legal reason why they shouldn’t be able to tax violent media (sorry, Joe, but that’s called the First Amendment–but I think he knows that). there would need to be research conducted on the matter like that of cigarettes in the mid-60’s. As a former smoker I can safely say to Frank Graham and his congregation, “I wouldn’t hold your breath.” This study will prove to be as fruitless as a eunuch in a brothel, so no worries there.
If it wasn’t rock and roll, then it was comic books. Then it was movies, and TV shows, and now it’s video games. It has never been proven that violent media causes bad behavior and certainly not on the massive scale required for the government to impose taxes on them. Unfortunately my sentiments, as well as–I would argue–most gamers, either fall on deaf ears or reverberate in an echo chamber because we already know this and have for years. In the meantime, Grand Theft Auto V comes out in 4 months and I am personally stoked to get my violence on.