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Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

Another national gun tragedy unfolded in the wee hours this morning.  Seventy people were riddled with bullets today in a theater as they prepared to watch the new Batman movie.  Infants, children, adolescents, adults.  Many of them died.

Nevertheless, I have been taken to task today for my various rants on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere about the way popular culture and the right to bear arms has lead us down this path.  I don’t know how anyone can argue with the premise that we, through popular culture and entertainment, are not just desensitized to violence, but we glorify it.  On top of the dangerous cocktail that is desensitization to and glorification of violence through popular culture, we–through a tortured interpretation of the 2nd Amendment–ensure that instrumentalities of death and destruction are made widely, irresponsibly available.  Not for the purposes of or use by a “well-regulated militia,” as the 2nd Amendment states.  No.  The quantity of guns, their general availability, and their use and mis-use have nothing to do with a well-regulated militia.   They exist simply for the sake of having them, and I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the sole purpose of guns is to injure and kill things.  Mostly human things.

I am not saying that the Batman movie is the cause of the massacre today.  Not at all.  The problem of violence in popular culture is much more pervasive than one film, one television show, one game.  For examples of my premise, however, I think it is illustrative to observe that Warner Brothers has now removed a preview for another movie–a preview shown immediately before the new Batman movie last night–that shows 4 gunmen shoot bullets and throw explosives into a crowded movie theater.  No shit.  I will also point out that the Batman movie itself contains a scene where “a masked villain leads a violent gang into a packed football stadium and deploys guns and explosives on the unsuspecting crowd.”  So, those of you who try to argue that we are not constantly barraged by graphic, horrible violence–both in fact and in fiction–are crazy.  And those of you who think it has no effect on behavior are out of your fucking minds.  From the Kaiser Family Foundation:

Researchers hypothesize that viewing TV violence can lead to three potentially harmful effects: increased antisocial or aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence (becoming more accepting of violence in real  life and less caring about other people’s feelings), or increased fear of becoming a victim of violence.  Many researchers believe that children age 7 and younger are particularly vulnerable to the effects of viewing violence because they tend to perceive fantasy and cartoon violence as realistic.  Since the 1960s, a body of research literature has been accumulating on the effects of TV violence.  Taken together, the studies conclude that TV violence  is one of many factors that contribute to aggressive behavior.  [Internal footnotes omitted.]

Whether you agree with me that pervasive violent imagery has everything to do with an increasingly violent society, you simply cannot disagree that guns are so widely available and gun-control is so lacking in this country that anyone can get their hands on a gun.  Toddlers, gangsters, hunters, collectors, people of all persuasions, abilities, genders, ages, political and religious beliefs, competency, and sanity.  Speaking of sanity, you would have to be insane not to see the writing on the wall, which is captured as brilliantly as humanly possible by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker today.  You should read the ENTIRE PIECE if you give a damn about any person who has been affected by gun violence or believe, even remotely, that you could be the next victim.  I offer, however, a precious few of Mr. Gopnik’s words because he has captured what I have been struggling to say all day.  Although I wish they were my very own words, I am honored to quote them here because they capture in very few words the intersection between the overabundance of 1) violent imagery in popular culture and 2) guns.

In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers. . . .

[T]he blood lobby still blares out its certainties, including the pretense that the Second Amendment—despite the clear grammar of its first sentence—is designed not to protect citizen militias but to make sure that no lunatic goes unarmed. . . . Make sure that guns designed for no reason save to kill people are freely available to anyone who wants one . . . and then be shocked when children are killed. . . .

The horror is touched, inflected, by the way that the killings now intertwine with the everyday details of our lives. The killings will go on; the cell phones in the pockets of dead children will continue to ring; and now parents can be a little frightened every time their kids go to a midnight screening of a movie designed to show them what stylized fun violence can be, in the hands of the right American moviemaker.  [Emphasis supplied.]

I have nothing else to add.  After all, what is left to be said?

PostScript:  Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld and other fame), wrote a beautiful piece along these very same lines yesterday.  You should read it.

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