December 22, 2012

NRA shoots from hip in blaming all media for culture of violence

Violent crime fell about 20 percent from 1998 to 2011, while video game sales more than tripled.

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - Blood. Gore. Intense violence.

These are three "content descriptors" shared by four video games cited by the CEO of the National Rifle Association as evidence that the American media as a whole -- not individual ownership of assault weapons -- encourages a culture of violence that occasionally manifests as mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.

"There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people -- through vicious, violent video games with names like 'Bulletstorm,' 'Grand Theft Auto,' 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Splatterhouse,' " Wayne LaPierre said Friday in the NRA's first public statement since the Connecticut shootings.

VIOLENCE NOT LINKED TO AGGRESSION

All four games do exhibit "blood and gore" and "intense violence," according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, but many researchers are skeptical that there is a direct link between violent media and aggression in viewers. Violent-crime offenses fell about 20 percent from 1998 to 2011, according to the FBI, while video game sales more than tripled, to $16.6 billion last year, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

In "Bulletstorm," the player uses futuristic artillery to "perform over-the-top kills that dismember and decapitate foes," according to the rating board. In "Splatterhouse," players help a college student save his girlfriend from monsters by engaging them in "constant melee-style combat," the board said. "Bulletstorm" and "Splatterhouse" are low-selling games panned by critics, the video-game blog Kotaku reported.

"Mortal Kombat" and "Grand Theft Auto," on the other hand, are high-selling franchises.

In "Mortal Kombat," players in the guise of supernatural creatures fight to the death in imaginary gladiatorial settings.

"Grand Theft Auto" deposits players into seedy scenarios that require them to commit virtual crimes such as stealing cars or snuffing out drug lords.

'KINDERGARTEN' A POOR EXAMPLE

LaPierre also name-checked a game called "Kindergarten Killer," which should not be grouped in the same category, because it is a simplistic online game uploaded in 2002 by a single user without any marketing. In "Kindergarten Killer," the player fires a double-barreled shotgun at menacing, armed children who then spurt cartoon blood.

User-generated Internet video games such as "Kindergarten Killer" are more aptly classified as online free speech -- a lone user uploads his own content -- than as an outgrowth of the for-profit gaming industry.

"Kindergarten Killer" attracted brief attention in 2008, when Matti Juhani Saari, 22, shot and killed 10 people at a vocational college in Finland; a Finnish children's gaming site reacted by removing the game from its roster, according to Reuters.

LaPierre on Friday also assigned blame for mass shootings to "blood-soaked films" such as "Natural Born Killers."

THEY DON'T BREED CRIMINALS

Some books, journal articles and dissertations suggest there is no direct correlation between an Oliver Stone movie about renegade criminals and a mass shooting like the Newtown one.

A 2009 Journal of Pediatrics article, "The Public Health Risks of Media Violence: A Meta-Analytic Review," did not find "either a causal or correlational link between violent media and subsequent aggression in viewers." The results of two peer-reviewed studies published in a 2008 issue of the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior suggest that "playing violent video games does not constitute a significant risk for future violent criminal acts."

 

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