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Life Arts    H3'ed 9/20/13

All Across America, Flags at Half Mast, Again.

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The Stars and Stripes are flying at half mast, again. 

As if more were necessary, Monday's gun massacre at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC provides additional evidence of the socially destabilizing nature of the deluge of increasingly violent and bloody mass media product that passes for entertainment in the USA.

Several of his friends and acquaintances have told news organizations that the Navy Yard shooter, the late Aaron Alexis, had long been obsessed with violent video games. Once again, the combination of mentally instability, habituation to violent video games, and access to firearms has resulted in tragedy.  Thirteen people died, including the gunman.  It could have been worse -- the death toll could have been higher, as it has been far too often in the past.  

Gun violence; the notion that guns, their ready availability, and their aggressive use saves lives and makes Americans safe; and the enormously popular mythology of redemptive violence are taking an ever increasing toll on Americans, our core values, the stability of our society, and the viability of our government.  Violence -- gun violence in particular -- is at the center of American popular culture because violence -- gun violence in particular -- and the myth of redemptive violence are at the center of the entertainment industry's most lucrative product lines and revenue streams. 

The evidence, scholarly and anecdotal, is overwhelming, persuasive beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt:  Violent media product desensitizes naive, vulnerable, and impressionable audiences to violence in society; promotes aggressive behavior; and vastly increases the possibility that angry, unstable individuals will use violence against others. Worse, first-person-shooter video games teach kids that killing people with guns is a game -- exciting, harmless fun! -- while training those who become habituated to the games to acquire targets quickly, aim accurately, and fire effectively, skills every potential mass murderer with a gun needs.   

It has happened so many times that the well-armed lunatic, deranged by the ethos of violence that is so characteristic of American popular culture, who goes on a shooting rampage is no longer surprising.  The needless slaughter still shocks every time it happens, but who can say he or she is surprised? 

Who is primarily responsible for promoting violence -- gun violence in particular -- and the deadly mythology of redemptive violence in America?  Of that, there is no doubt whatsoever. The entertainment industry spews violent media product freighted with political and social messaging into American popular culture relentlessly, 24 hours a day,  7 days a week, on screens large and small, for profit and for political gain.  The Swiss have more assault weapons per capita than Americans and competition shooting is the national sport of Switzerland, yet the Swiss have a tiny fraction of the gun violence so common in the USA and gun massacres are extremely rare in Switzerland.  Even so, Swiss lawmakers have effectively banned violent video games and have placed restrictions on other forms of violent media product, too.  One need not have the gift of prophetic voice to predict correctly that America and Washington, DC will see more and more gun massacres, that our national epidemic of gun massacres will continue unabated until our elected representatives find the courage to rein in the Hollywood media moguls -- hardly distinguishable from a criminal conspiracy -- who manufacture, distribute, and profit directly from lucrative violent media product at the expense of Americans' all too real pain and suffering.

Most big US media outlets are mentioning only in passing, if at all, that the Navy Yard shooter was habituated to violent video games.  Most US media outlets are purposefully omitting from their reports any mention of Alexis's obsession with first-person-shooter video games. By withholding that information from Americans, and by shutting down any serious, substantive discussion of the effects of violent media product, the Big Media mafia, aka the Hollywood Mob, a continuing criminal enterprise that profits directly from violent media products that incite violence in society, is protecting its most lucrative product lines and revenue streams as well as its ability to embed influential social and political messaging in those products.  

I am reminded of Carl Jung's chilling warning about the danger associated with scant emphasis upon the humanities in America. In 1957, writing in The Undiscovered Self, Jung declared that the rise of fascism as seen Germany in the 1930s is a phenomenon likely to occur again, but in the USA.  "America seems to be immune because of the outspoken counterposition she has adopted, but in point of fact she is even more vulnerable than Europe since her educational system is the most influenced by the scientific Weltanschauung with its statistical truths, and her mixed population finds it difficult to strike roots in a soil that is practically without history.  The historical and humanistic type of education so sorely needed in such circumstances leads, on the contrary, a Cinderella existence."

Hollywood's addiction to the myth of redemptive violence, Hollywood's determined and systematic effort to educate Americans in the supposed efficacy of gun violence, is no fairy tale. It has no happy ending.  It will bring only another war and another, more and more violence, yet another gun massacre, and another, and another. 

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Michael Gillespie writes regularly about peace and social justice issues. A 1999 graduate of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University, he was inducted a member of Kappa Tau Alpha, the national honor (more...)

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