Once Again, Media Jumps On Violent Video Games Before Knowing The Facts

video-game-violence[1]from the fake-gun,-real-witch-hunt dept

by Timothy Geigner, courtesy TechDirt
When it comes to linking violence and video games, there is plenty of stupid to go around. The only unifying factor we can typically notice is that said stupid seems to come from someone talking to the media. Whether it’s Dr. Oz, cherry-picked citizens, or just your average grand-standing politician, you’ll usually get big, scary claims about how a game will turn your child to the dark side, or send them straight to Hell, followed up by exactly no valid evidence. But where does all of this come from? Why do some of our fellow citizens labor under the belief that a link between violence and video games is settled science?

Well, mostly because of equally fallacious headlines and stories, with all the pre-suppositions that should have been beaten out of journalists when they were college freshman. Case in point, you may have heard recently that a young man shot his elderly caretaker in the head after (cue the scary music) playing Grand Theft Auto. Ooooooh! With a headline like “8-Year-Old Intentionally Shot And Killed Elderly Caregiver After Playing ‘Grand Theft Auto’: Louisiana Police”, you know you’re going to get equally, if vaguely, scary copy in the piece itself.

“Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time, investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III “Grand Theft Auto IV”, a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred,” a statement issued by the Sheriff’s Office said.

Experts have long debated — and are still divided on — the matter of whether or not violent video games, TV shows and movies trigger aggressive behavior in young people.
Make no mistake, that kind of inclusion sets the tone for the entire story. While the article doesn’t specifically come out and say that the game caused the violence, it might as well have. There’s nearly as much copy dedicated in some way to mentioning the game as the incident itself. So, the reader is given the framework: kid shoots old lady after playing violent game, there’s almost certainly a link.

The problem is the few lines written about how nobody really knows why what happened happened. Those lines themselves aren’t the problem, rather the issue is that they’re probably the most truthful lines in the entire piece. As the authorities later discovered, the child thought the gun was a toy after getting his hands on it from the woman’s purse.
“He’s distraught. It’s really taken a toll on him. He looks visibly shaken,” said East Feliciana Parish District Attorney Samuel D’Aquilla. “It was determined that he did the shooting and it was an accident. He thought it was a toy gun, a play gun,” D’Aquilla told CNN.
Oops. So, because the media first rushed the story out with the most eyeball-grabbing headline it could, seizing upon the inclusion of an already controversial game, readers are left with a lie while the truth goes mostly unreported and under-reported where it even saw the light of day. When GTA could be blamed, it was front page news. When it couldn’t, not so much.

Thanks a lot, news.

Thank you, TiA


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