For those of you (us) who live in a cave, it may concern you to know that earlier in the week, Virgina Tech hosted the largest shooting spree murder in American history. The killer was a young man named Cho Seung-hui, and, as per usual, the fingers are already being pointed at video games and movies as the source of this rampage.
No…really…this troubled young man who was found to be “metally ill” and a “danger to self or others” approximately a year and half before his murderous rampage, and who was asked by an English Professor to receive professional counseling, and who was removed from a poetry class by another Professor because of his “menacing behavior,” went on a killing spree because he watched Old Boy one too many times.
It shocks and astounds me. Educated, intelligent people whose opinions I normally respect (read: Milt Rosenberg) are, once again, glossing over the facts and turning straight to violence in music, video games and movies as the reason for this terrible tragedy.
As I have already alluded to, this young man was was a little more than “troubled.” He was diagnosed with depression and medicated for it. He had submitted one act plays and stories in his writing classes filled with pedophilia and violence disturbing enough to cause his teachers to speak with their higher-ups about his mental state and recommend he seek therapy. He was introverted and all of his classmates (well…those looking to get on television) are coming out to say that they were uncomfortable with his presence and that noone seemed surprised when they found out he was the shooter. One of his teachers went so far to say that she “would have been shocked if it wasn’t [him].”
Even days afterwards when his bizarre, rambling multimedia manifesto that he mailed in between the time of his first two murders and the thirty to come arrived at NBC News in New York, people are still looking past his mental and emotional problems and decrying the effect fictitious entertainment had on him.
What about all the real life violence? What about Fox News, MSNBC and CNN doing round the clock coverage of the “war” in Iraq? Constantly updating death totals. Field reporters in the middle of fire fights and insurgent sabotages. Live footage of the aftermath of suicide bombings. What about those same networks and their round the clock coverage of the “tragic” death of Anna Nicole Smith? Jon Benet Ramsey? Laci Peterson? Remember that whole O.J. Simpson thing? This is a country and a culture completely obsessed and fascinated with murder and death. We demand it every day on the front pages of the print media and at the top of every television newscast. Amidst all of the murder, homicide, genocide and natural disaster death we are bombarded with every single day by the media, the media somehow finds a way to make people believe that they are the ones doing the service, and violent entertainment the disservice.
Perhaps it is just me, but I think it smacks of complete arrogance and laziness that someone can blame popular culture and entertainment as the source of violent crime and overlook the glaring deficiencies in the home lives, parenting and upbringing of the young people in the United States of America. I was brought up in the halcyon days of violent gangster rap, horror movies and video games. While the content has certainly become more detailed and graphic of late, I was in at the ground floor when blood began appearing in video games and guns in music videos, and I believe the effect was just as impactful, if not more, than it is today, as it was new and not monitored by parents or by the government nearly as closely as it is today. I was exposed to all of it, too. Mortal Kombat. The Geto Boys. Friday the 13th. I enjoyed all of these things as an impressionable young boy. I took in all the gore and violence, but still have yet to apply them in real life.
Simply put, because I have parent’s who taught me right from wrong. Fact from fiction. I was able to hear Willie D rap about killing people and knew that it was wrong because I was brought up under the impression that violence and murder were…you know…bad things. A stable and considerate upbringing will lead to a stable and considerate adult. It is not really that hard, is it? How many troubled young people that have gone on to commit attrocities like this came from a stable, two parent home that did not include and physical, mental or sexual abuse? I am willing to wager they are few and far between.
We just brought our first child into this world two months ago and things like this absolutely terrify me. Not because I worry our daughter will end up shooting up a school or a mall someday. I am confident in our ability to raise a well-adjusted and emotionally stable child. We may not be able to provide a life of luxury for her, but I know that when we turn out loose into the world as an adult, she will know right from wrong and will have a strong sense of what reality is. My terror comes from knowing that our child might someday be taken away from us forever because another set of parents failed to raise their child and let The Matrix raise it for them.