After what he is calling an “egregious” and biased report from New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica on the Sandy Hook shootings, Salon.com’s Andrew Leonard fired back with a scathing indictment of the ongoing effort to blame video games and other mass media for outbreaks of extreme violence.
In his article, Lupica addresses the discovery of a large spreadsheet in shooter Adam Lanza’s possessions, laying out statistics for numerous mass murders, meticulously researched “like a doctoral thesis.” An anonymous law enforcement officer, unaffiliated with the case, told Lupica:
“They don’t believe this was just a spreadsheet. They believe it was a score sheet. This was the work of a video gamer, and that it was his intent to put his own name at the very top of that list.”
Leonard, however, points out that this perception is based less on data and more on prejudice. Indeed, all the available data points in the opposite direction:
Over the past 20 years, all forms of violence in males aged 10-24 have declined. That includes homicides, non-fatal assaults and bullying… Over the same period that sales of video games exploded, and an entire new generation of “gamers” emerged, youth violence fell.
Obviously, correlation does not equal causation in this case: The data does not imply that video games have actively reduced violence, but at the very least, “a massive increase in hours spent video gaming has not resulted in a rising murder rate,” any more than evidence implies that access to pornography increases the inclination toward sexual assault, another assumption Lupica’s interview subject was quick to associate with gamers.
Leaving aside the fact that the ranking of predecessors by numerous statistical categories has as much to do with sports — an interest in which would almost surely not be suggested as a cause of violent behavior — Leonard points out the fundamental problem with any attempt to blame simulated violence for real world action:
[W]hat would be more likely to directly aid Adam Lanza in his quest to commit mass murder: the “training” he received from video games or the training and access to actual, physically real firearms given to him by his own mother? What’s more scary? That Adam Lanza locked himself in his blacked-out bedroom playing violent video games at all hours, or that a mentally ill young man had easy access to an AR-15 rifle in his own home?
The CBLDF has followed a variety of overtures toward unmerited media censorship in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. A summary of our coverage can be found here, as well as discussion of the formal police investigation into Lanza’s gaming, and a New Jersey library’s attempt to ban vide0 games entirely from their computers.
Joe Izenman is a freelance writer and musician in Tacoma, Washington. He owns a lot of comics and he’s pretty sure someone, somewhere would be offended by more than a few of them.