Sunday, February 03, 2013

Just sayin

Again, I'm not much of a zealot for Gun Control. But I do like a bit of a reality check from time to time.

Myth #8: "Vicious, violent video games" deserve more blame than guns.

Fact-check: So said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre after Newtown. So what's up with Japan?

Sources: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Small Arms Survey (PDF), UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Eh, a ratio of a thousand to one. In one kind of death. Call it a rounding error, right, Wayne?

(h/t: LGM, via Dr. KN's RT)


Don McArthur said...

Absurd to compare Japanese cultural artifacts to American ones in almost any way, but this one is especially odious. If you're going to play at science, at least try to fake some of the required protocols.

Brendan Keefe said...

I don't think I'm playing at science here. I was merely pointing out one number that perfectly illustrates the absurdity of claims made in Wayne's world.

In any case, I don't agree that it is absurd to compare video game expenditures or a particular kind of homicide number between the US and Japan. Sure, the two countries arrived at the present by traveling very different paths. But this is the 21st century now. We in the highly industrialized, globally connected nations are now a lot more alike than we are different, I believe.

Brendan Keefe said...

Ocean weighs in, on Twitter.

Ocean said...

The parroting part of my comment comes from the impression that people are just repeating what they hear because it's coming from their political camp and supports some noble agenda. However, I'm very skeptical of that stance and the overly simplistic (and inaccurate) way in which it's being portrayed.

Sure the NRA is trying to blame everything and everyone except their shameful promotion of guns (and gun sales). And mass shootings wouldn't yield the same volume of deaths if it weren't for the easy access to semi-automatic, magazine carrying assault guns.

But, there are other issues to look at that are ingrained deeper into our culture.

The gun culture in this country is sickening. And it usually goes along with a particular group of people who live in a world of paranoia and drink the anti-government cool aid. That is a problem.

Our culture promotes and glamorizes violence. The image of a hero who goes in a rampage killing right and left to vindicate some cause is too pervasive. It's a cultural signifier that has been instilled for decades. The brief article I linked to shows the difference in valence between Japanese culture and ours. In Japan the killers are the bad guys and they show a lot more of the suffering that good victimized people go through. In our culture the killers are the heroes and they take glory and joy in defeating, exterminating the bad guys.

We also have the means of desensitizing people to the spontaneous reaction of aversion to gore, suffering and blood produced by one's own hand, through the repetitive use of violent video games by people who are disturbed. If you're not disturbed, the boundaries between reality and playing may be intact. But for someone who lacks those boundaries, video games act as a world to escape to. If disturbed enough, the desire to replicate the same violence in real life may emerge. It's just a tool that facilitates taking violent action.

So, you have to start with someone who is disturbed. Feed paranoia into that person from our pro-gun culture, or conspiracy theories, or some fantasy video world that calls for a killing hero, or the person's own delusional system. Provide a means of training for shooting accuracy and desensitization to the act of killing through repetitive use of video games. And lastly make highly lethal guns available through our unrestricted commitment to the second amendment.

Yes, it's a recipe for disaster. But the bottom line is that in order to understand how these tragedies occur, we need to look at all major contributions to the end result. Have all the elements and no guns, no gun rampages for sure. But we won't be in a completely gun free society in the foreseeable future anyway. And then you have the examples of Japanese kids who who into killing rampages with knives or other objects. Surely the number of victims is more limited.

Making comparisons between our society and other societies that are very different from ours in many ways is senseless. There are pro-gun people who talk about guns being accessible in Switzerland and not having such degree of violence. Others compare video game use (with no guns available), in Japan. We can go on and on. But I would appreciate a bit of in depth thinking instead of repeating shallow comparisons.

Ocean said...

Part 2:

Brendan, you point out the similarities brought on by globalization. Sure, it may happen in the future. But we're not there yet. Japanese culture is still very, very different. They are an incredibly repressed society in many ways. Video games may be their only outlet for a variety of impulses that they wouldn't even dream acting on. Here in the US we act out our impulses much more openly. Video games in our society may encourage acting out. There are differences in the effects depending on whether there is a channel for expression, or a plausible path to acting out behavior or not.

Anyway, as I said, it's a complex issue that goes beyond what I know or can express here. I'm just sick of seeing knee-jerk pre-fabricated arguments repeated by people in my camp, whom I would hope give a little more thought to what they say.

Brendan Keefe said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I will reply ASAP, but it won't be for a couple of days, probably.

Jack said...

Boy, that Don McArthur seems like a real asshole!

Brendan Keefe said...

No, he's not. Not even close.

Obviously this is a touchy subject for him, and I'm not sure why he doesn't see that I am not actually that far away from his POV on it, but that he gets pissy at something I tossed off is not at all indicative of his overall worth.

Jack said...

Okay, good to hear. Maybe he could work on his style, then. ;-)

Jack said...

Ocean said: Making comparisons between our society and other societies that are very different from ours in many ways is senseless. There are pro-gun people who talk about guns being accessible in Switzerland and not having such degree of violence.

You know, the wingnuts and lunatics are constantly touting the example of Switzerland, but the guns in that country are much more heavily controlled than they are in the US, and if the US ever attempted to impose the kinds of restrictions found there, they would fall to their knees and start howling about "tyranny" and "martial law."

It's true that Swiss men of age 30 and below who have gone through Switzerland's basic military training are expected to keep a weapon in their homes. But what they do with that weapon is tightly regulated; they can't drive around town with it, or bring it to political demonstrations protesting the government (as teabaggers famously do). And the restrictions on ammunition are pretty severe:

"Up until October 2007, a specified personal retention quantity of government-issued personal ammunition (50 rounds 5.56 mm / 48 rounds 9mm) was issued as well, which was sealed and inspected regularly to ensure that no unauthorized use had taken place. The ammunition was intended for use while traveling to the army barracks in case of invasion.
In October 2007, the Swiss Federal Council decided that the distribution of ammunition to soldiers shall stop and that all previously issued ammo shall be returned. By March 2011, more than 99% of the ammo has been received. Only special rapid deployment units and the military police still have ammunition stored at home today."

It's simply unimaginable that anything like this kind of control could be imposed in the US without a complete freakout on the right. And yet they tout this as some kin of in-your-face counterexample to all liberals' claims about the relatively lack of gun violence in every other civilized nation on earth.

Source, in case you didn't click the link above: Gun politics in Switzerland.

Ocean said...


Your comment about Switzerland's gun regulation reinforces the point that I've been trying to make: comparing data (possession of guns for example) between countries without looking at it in more depth and finding the other obvious differences is plainly simplistic and wrong, no matter on what side of the argument you are.

It's the cheap mindless shots that I object to.

In reference to your comment about Don McArthur, I have no idea who he is, but I'm pretty certain that all of us have been considered assholes for something we've written or said at one time or another. And, of course, that includes you, Jack. And Don, and Brendan and me. That's the way it is when people don't like what we write. It's a rather meaningless word if you think about it, isn't it?

In my opinion what matters is that we stand behind what we write, to confirm or retract when we make mistakes. Or to say, you're right I wasn't thinking about that.

I'm hoping that if we decide to express an opinion publicly, we're willing to accept some push back and criticism without bruising our egos so badly that we need to call those who disagree with us assholes. At worst, when those who disagree with us become inappropriately hostile or abusive, you can always tell them or ignore them.

Just before ending this topic which has already been covered ad nauseum (literally I must say), I think you probably know how anti-gun (or pro-gun control if your want) I am. I hate guns and the cult of violence. I consider the NRA a hideous organization which promotes a senseless gun culture. But, I'm too interested in understanding what facilitates acts of mass violence (besides availability of guns) to let other possible contributions (violent video games, pro-violence culture, etc) get a pass because of some political agenda. That's all.