In a world where the gun control campaign was not heavily laced with politics, liberal vendettas against “gun-clingers,” and self-realization through sanctimony, a true effort to control gun violence would be include a major initiative to curtail kids’ access to violent video games and movies.
In a Wall Street Journal piece Thursday, Campbell Brown, whom I knew slightly when she was an NBC White House reporter, made herself one of the few members of the elite journalism establishment to raise the issue of media violence in a serious way, suggesting Obama is uniquely positioned to address the matter because of the money he gets from the entertainment industry.
The president’s campaign against gun violence has produced a stale debate marked by lots of speeches with little achieved. A more creative chief executive would have used this moment to widen the discussion by drawing attention to the increasingly graphic violence so pervasive in television shows, movies and videogames . . .
Almost a third of the $1 million-plus donors to the president’s Super PAC were entertainment and media heavyweights including producers Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg . . .
Campbell doesn’t quite say it – she notes only that it would take “bravery” for him to confront his supporters – but I will. The obvious reason he doesn’t is because he gets so much money from them. If the entertainment industry were Republican, I guarantee you Obama would shaming Hollywood’s moguls and Vice President Biden would be in full fulmination mode demanding to know why they are trying to poison our youth.
Campbell notes that Biden, Obama’s gun control point man, “paid lip service” to media violence by throwing a $10 million fig leaf at it for “research” by the Centers for Disease Control.
But more research is hardly needed:
Dr. Victor Strasberger, the leading researcher on media violence for the American Academy of Pediatrics, could tell the CDC and the president what to expect: “All our studies show portraying violence is extremely dangerous,” Dr. Strasberger recently told me. “Kids become desensitized, numb to suffering around them and aggressive.”
He also says that when you add in other factors like poverty, abuse or mental illness, “you have a perfect storm. This can and does lead to violence.”
And the research only supplements common sense, though I realize asking for common sense in a political debate is asking a lot.
Now, you may already be aware that “PG-13” has become a tool used by the movie industry to get kids into what are effectively R-rated movies. But most of you grew up after video games started assaulting the sensibilities of our youth and may not fully understand – or may not want to understand – what’s going on.
If you’re a parent, you may be willfully ignorant of what your kid is doing on his iPhone or iPad, because never perhaps in the entire history of mankind has something been invented that is so effective at getting kids out of their parents’ hair than video games.
And if you’re a grandparent, you may know little about the game Johnny is playing when he barely looks up at you to say “hi” after you’ve traveled halfway across the country to see him.
Let me help.
I recently noticed a ten-year old child using what at a cursory glance looked like a cute video game called “Smash Dude.” He told me all the kids at school were playing it and they loved it.
Then I took a closer look.
I found for you a YouTube video that shows the game being played. It’s advertised in the iTunes store as a way to “add some laughs to your day.” Here, have a laugh.
Well, what could possibly go wrong with your kid after performing simulated torture 500 times?
Now, according to the iTunes applications ratings, this game “May not be suitable for children under the age of 12.” I suppose that implies that it also might be suitable. The game has been downloaded more than 3 million times.
This game, of course, is the tip of an iTunes iCeberg that includes far more graphic stuff.
Now, a riddle for you. What did our three most famous recent mass murderers, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and Jared Lee Loughner, all have in common?
Like half of all Americans, they had access to a gun. But like a very small but growing percentage of the population, they were young people who played endless, obsessive hours of violent video games.
Mr. President, until you get serious about this, spare us the White House sob story events with kids and the mothers of shooting victims. Or at least, give us one where your Hollywood and Silicon Chip Valley donors are also on hand to try to explain themselves.