Video games and music are not to blame for mass violence
The 80s and 90s are back as people in power try to blame heavy metal and video games for mass violence. This time, the stakes have never been higher. Both the American President and the Democratic frontrunner have spoken out on the recent gun violence in America, and each have offered up video games as a reason for the derangement and radicalization of the terrorist in El Paso. The Dayton shooter’s actions have been ascribed to hardcore music. Despite a desire and a need to localize blame, these incriminations are misplaced.
It’s not surprising that both Donald Trump and Joe Biden would come to the conclusion that video games are at fault for violence. This idea has been moving toward the forefront of the “reasons why” for a few years. After the 2012 massacre of children in Newtown, CT, NRA president Wayne LaPeirre vilified the gaming industry, calling out the shooters penchant for games like Call of Duty.
During the Gamergate controversy, hucksters like Anita Sarkesian tried to rid video games of “sexist tropes” and violence under the guise of progressive criticism—a “won’t somebody please think of the children” style rhetoric that mirrored the most insufferable church ladies imaginable. As Christopher Ferguson noted in Areo, Sarkeesian’s project is “at times indoctrinating participants into a particular ideological worldview based on a theory of cultivation that is, at best, controversial.” Science refuted this activism.
Studies show that there is no causation between video game violence and the real thing. In Japan, for example, gaming culture is pervasive, but it is primarily a peaceful nation. While mass shootings are visible and horrifying, violent crime among young people is down from the 1990s. Violent video gameplay is not localized to the US. Gaming is a worldwide pursuit. Yet leaders in the US look to blame gaming because they have no idea what else to do.
Panic over what causes young men to commit acts of violence has again led high-level politicians, pundits, and outragists to decry video games and heavy metal music. This isn’t the first time politicians and leaders have had no idea what to do about disaffected youth and their violent manifestations.
Way back in the 80s, when metal was heavy, rap was nasty, and both genres talked trash about women, politicians called out music as the cause of young men’s violence. Pop entertainment was blamed along with Satan worship and the general nihilism of Cold War America.
The Satanic Panic that fueled the moral outrage culture of the 80s and 90s put hundreds of innocent people in jail and tore apart families. It was the result of the unlikely marriage of Democratic activists like Tipper Gore and right-wing bible-thumpers like the Reverend James C. Dobson in a concerted effort to sanitize our culture.
Video games may be more realistically gory than in days of yore, but there has never been one worthwhile scientific study that has been able to confirm that they cause violence. Violent video games sell because people like violence. Violent video games exist because people want to consume them, not because people want to commit mass murder.
These days, progressive activists and journalists are just as censorious and politically correct as the Tipper Gores of yesteryear, and the cultural landscape is fertile ground for another harvest of panic. It’s out of this ground that people like Ohio Rep. Candice Keller sprout, with claims that drag queens, marijuana, gay marriage, open borders, and of course video games caused the Dayton massacre.
Vice and BuzzFeed point to the Dayton shooter’s quite unpleasant musical tastes:
As the background of the Dayton shooter emerges, the community of hardcore musicians that he was part of has begun to speak out. They are horrified by the gunman’s actions. While the lyrics, sound, and cover art of the music they create and consume would be distasteful to many who aren’t in the scene, the Dayton shooter is the only one of their group who has taken up arms against innocents. As unappealing as the self-expression of these men is, it is not to blame for the violence of the Dayton shooter. In fact, they disavow it and him.
The El Paso terrorist did not kill people because of video games and the Dayton shooter did not kill people because of heavy metal, just like the Columbine shooters did not kill because of Marilyn Manson. The scapegoating of art and culture is not only unproductive, it’s dangerous. If society as a whole starts to truly believe this nonsense, our lives will become consumed with flavourless, moralistic imperatives. These results are glimpsed in the compelled speech of social justice warriors and the bland talking points of religious zealots.
When we conform to speech and behaviour codes, we lose our liberty and creativity. The answer to cultural problems is never to eliminate or make our culture antiseptic. People want there to be reasons that have quick solutions, and that’s why there’s a rush to blame something, anything, for what appears to be a preventable tragedy. That’s a forgivable impulse, but declaring that certain types of music of games should be off-limits would both be ineffective at preventing mass murder, and make those things even more attractive to disaffected youth.
So, with Trump and Biden blaming video games, and progressives and Christians blaming each other, we are at great risk of this happening again. Art and entertainment are not to blame for mass murder. They burned comic books in the 50s, records in the 60s, drugs and drug paraphernalia in the 70s, cassette tapes in the 80s, video games in the nineties, and now they just want to burn everything. Don’t believe it. We can’t let it happen.
Dina Hashem told a hilarious joke in a comedy set and Comedy Central shared the video on social media. This would normally be a huge deal for a young comedian, but in this case it all went horribly wrong. After complaints from the joyless Twitter mob, the network took it down. Not only was her video scrubbed, but Hashem has been getting death threats for having made the joke in the first place.
The joke was about XXXtentacion, a rapper who has been dead for over a year. Celeb death is fair game for humour. In fact, everything is open for being laughed at. If a joke isn’t funny, people won’t laugh at it. That’s the only way to tell if it’s a bad joke.
Humour is meant to push boundaries. There’s a reason kids joke books about how to see time fly and interrupting cows just aren’t that funny: the jokes have no sharp edges. The best jokes challenge us and our status quo. Just try to watch this without laughing.
Even the most offensive, horrible events or situations can be made funny. The reason we laugh at them isn’t because they are not offensive, but often because they are. Comedy Central should know this. They brought us South Park, after all, arguably the most offensive show ever to grace the airwaves.
Comedy Central has one job: to make funny content. Their job isn’t to make funny content that isn’t offensive, or to make funny content that pleases everyone, or even that everyone laughs at. They used to know that, but they’re getting lost in all this stupidity along the way. Comedy Central has lost their nerve, and their sense of humour.
South Park emerged in a different era, when people were interested in pushing boundaries, in laughing at things they weren’t supposed to. How could jokes about a kid dying after shoving a tampon up his ass be acceptable but one about how a guy maybe shouldn’t carry his money around in his hand be cancel worthy?
Now we’re all so afraid of owning our true selves that we insist we don’t find things funny that we actually find funny. What we are afraid of is people thinking bad things about us. That’s literally our whole motivation. We behave on the outside as though we are shocked and dismayed by offensive jokes but then turn around and laugh when we think no one can hear us.
We used to be okay with taking risks, with standing out, with bucking the crowd. We were honest with ourselves about what we found funny and why. It’s because we didn’t second guess ourselves or worry constantly that our intentions would be misconstrued. Now we wonder if our very laughter will signal something horrible about ourselves to anyone who happens to be observing and we will be taken down.
There’s nothing wrong with making jokes about public figures, or the stupid ways that people die. Joking about death is how we avoid taking life too seriously. It also is completely nonsensical to threaten someone with death because they joked about death. It’s the social media version of a parent saying “I’ll give you something to cry about.”
After Comedy Central pulled the clip, comedian Colin Quinn stood up for Hashem’s right to free speech:
Quinn has a history of not caring who he pisses off, and Comedy Central should be paying attention. They should also be listening to Hashem’s crowd, because they were laughing. Just like with Louis C.K., who showed up as a surprise guest in Brooklyn to big laughs and cheers from the crowd only to be ridiculed online, the proof of Hashem’s humour is in the laughs.
Hashem apologized for the joke. “I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, that’s never what I want. I’m a comic and use jokes to try and make dark topics less painful but I realize not everyone feels that way, and don’t want anyone to feel badly. It was taken down and won’t air on TV.”
So, a well-crafted, well-executed joke will no longer air on TV. Great. This is only a victory for censorious scolds. For everyone else, it’s a straight-up loss.
Comedians need to stop apologizing for being funny just because some people can’t take a joke. If we go back to the place where people didn’t apologize to the pitchfork mob, the mob would lose its power. They are only powerful because we keep giving them power, and like a mold, it grows because we let it grow. The key is to scrub the mob, not be scrubbed by it.
The social justice left has its hands well around the throat of comedy. They promote unfunny anti-comics like Hannah Gadsby. They demand that funny jokes that don’t meet with their world-view be pulled, and replaced with jokes that promote values of some kind.
But jokes aren’t meant to promote anything except laughs. The only criteria for whether a joke is good or not is if it’s funny, not if it doesn’t make people mad. Those who believe that jokes about death are worthy of sending death threats to the comic have a really skewed vision of justice and comedy. Keep the comic alive to make the jokes about the dead, and let the dead fend for themselves.
Harmeet Dhillon is a force of natural justice. For those in the know, she’s become a free-speech legal superhero. The San Francisco-based civil rights lawyer won a major free speech victory over UC Berkeley; she represents James Damore in his ongoing fight against Google’s monolithic, social-justice corporate culture; and now, she’s making history by launching Publius Lex, a non-profit organization with a broad mandate: to fight in the courts for civil rights of Americans whose voices have been silenced by activists, big tech, and legacy media.
Dhillon agreed to sit down with The Post Millennial and she told me that it’s a lengthy process to establish a non-profit in the United States, and that Publius Lex was finally approved by U.S. tax authorities as a nonprofit entity earlier this year.
Publius Lex’s first case is the troubling story of Andy Ngo—a brave, young, talented journalist who writes for the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Quillette and others. Ngo was brutally beaten by Antifa thugs in the streets of Portland on June 29th for the simple fact that he was a journalist doing his job.
“[Ngo] is the victim of an organized criminal movement that is speech-suppressing, that is violent, that is enabled by the inaction of the government,” Dhillon said. “Portland and certain other liberal cities in the United States have ceded control of their streets to this violent, organized mob.”
On the topic of the cozy relationships between progressivist politicians, journalists and Antifa, Dhillon pulled no punches. “Many mainstream journalists echo the message of Antifa, are apologists for Antifa. Don Lemon praised Antifa. Chuck Todd has had Dartmouth Professor Mark Bray who wrote the Antifa Handbook on his show, and who justifies violence as an appropriate response to disagreeable ideologies. Antifa has been glamourized by prominent liberal politicians such as Keith Ellison, who posed with the Antifa Handbook. Ngo’s assault was preceded by many mainstream figures speaking with authority and legitimizing the approach taken by his attackers.”
Andy Ngo opened the world’s eyes to violence of Antifa, and Dhillon is intent on delivering the justice that he deserves. She summed up Antifa succinctly as the “stormtroopers of the left”: “There are some national Antifa leaders that we’ve been able to identify. They travel from city to city and they help to organize these planned riots. It’s amazing to me that the federal authorities haven’t cracked down on this. Antifa believes they have the civil right to commit a crime without being recorded by journalists. Bravo to Andy for standing up to them. But it’s going to take all of us to stand up to them.”
Of course, the mandate of Publius Lex goes beyond taking on Antifa. Dhillon told me that she hopes to one day rival the legacy civil rights nonprofits such as the SPLC and the ACLU which have been overrun with identity politics. It’s a much-needed corrective.
“The ACLU got woke and stopped protecting speech of all kinds. The model of Publius Lex is to identify deserving cases that would have a broader impact beyond the individual or entity affected, and finding outside lawyers who are passionate and willing to take on these cases. This is a non-partisan entity. We are not going to be choosing cases based on a person’s politics. We are going to ask: does this person have a civil rights issue that is not being addressed by the current legacy civil rights establishment, and will addressing this problem affect other people?” Dhillon said.
Dhillon participated in and spoke at the White House Digital Summit, an event that was slimed by the mainstream media for the simple fact that they were not invited to participate. “It was a huge honour for me,” she says of the moment the president gave her the podium after introducing her as one of the leading free speech attorneys in the U.S.
“It was a highly unusual gathering,” Dhillon said. “There were so many people that you would only know by their Twitter handles, and there were top lawmakers like Dan Crenshaw, Kevin McCarthy,Marsha Blackburn there. I felt energized and positive about it because, at a minimum, people who have been working on these issues and suffering censorship all over the country now know each other face to face. This will facilitate working together to find solutions to these problems. The goal being either negotiated solutions with industry legislation, regulation, rule interpretation. There’s a panoply of potential solutions that can occur. Everything is on the table. Many politicians and many independent commentators such as Tim Pool agree that the censorship we are seeing is dangerous for our country and our society.”
Dhillon told me that breaking up the monopolies is a start, but it won’t be the entire solution: “I think transparency at these companies is key. One thing that’s been suggested by the right and the left is that companies should be required to publish who they took down and why, so that data may be compared over time and among platforms. These companies have been caught stealing people’s data. They lie about what they do with your data—an issue that many on the left are concerned about as well. They misrepresent their censorship and data use activities even under oath before Congress. There’s no accountability for that because a lot of politicians are in the pockets of these big tech companies.”
The Orwellian problems Dhillon seeks to remedy may seem daunting, but there is an increasing number of independent voices that refuse to be silenced. With more and more people finding themselves alienated, disillusioned, or even cancelled by the current cultural context, there will be no shortage of worthy clients for the project. In an era where big tech, legacy media and global leaders are banding together to suppress freedom of speech and limit access to social media platforms for citizens who wish to participate in democracy, Dhillon’s Publius Lex is not only a worthy initiative, it’s a necessary one.
Today US President Donald Trump will be hosting his Social Media Summit, where, surrounded by a colourful company, he is expected to discuss the subject of censorship on the internet. Of the many right-wing pundits and Republicans that will be attending, the most notable marker of the event is the glaring absence of stockholders from major tech companies.
Social media giants’ like Google, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook are not making an appearance. Of the four platforms, Facebook has confirmed it was not invited while the others declined to comment.
The meeting which has been called “more of a press conference than a summit,” is expected to host a discussion on the censorship of certain right-wing voices on social media platforms. Its critics have called the event a threat to “decency” that will help in “spreading bigotry.”
Trump has previously been critical of social media censorship. The president collected “thousands of responses” in a campaign to collect accounts of voices being silenced on social media. He has expressed worries that Twitter and Google were “against” him and suspicions that Twitter was reducing his followers.
Moreover, the event is situated the same week a US Appeals Court ruled that Trump’s decision to block several people from commenting on his Twitter was in violation of the First Amendment.
Among the invitees to his summit @CarpeDonktum who creates popular pro-Trump memes, independent journalist Tim Pool and Prager U—the conservative organization has taken Google to court for prohibiting their videos on guns and Islam from being viewed on restrictive mode.
In a tweet, Trump confirmed that “a big subject today … will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies.”
“We will not let them get away with it much longer.”
Trump’s Social Media Summit follows comments from many Senator’s that illustrate their openness to changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, in an ostensible bid to rail in social media censorship.
“What’s happened is that [tech companies] have decided they don’t want to be neutral. They’re now admitting it, they’re not even pretending to be neutral,” Ted Cruz told The Blaze. “if they’re going to engage in viewpoint discrimination, then they don’t deserve any special immunity from liability that Congress has given them.”
As an article in The Federalist describes, attempts to modify Section 230 legislatively last month, have been criticized for their resemblance to previous attempts to enforce balanced coverage. Yet, Cruz maintains that “this is simply saying we’re not going to give you a special benefit” of immunity from liability “that no one else enjoys.”
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden maintained in a statement that “there is zero evidence that social media companies are biased against conservatives … In fact, the big tech companies have gone to amazing lengths to avoid confronting right-wing voices that advocate hate and racial division. This summit is a waste of taxpayer dollars intended to pressure tech companies ahead of the 2020 elections and score political points.”
The most recent iteration of the opposition to free speech started out as a University campus phenomenon. It has differed from previous manifestations of the urge to censor and control thought in the name of progress in that this version has been marked by an attempt to avoid judgment and valuation in the name of pure positivity—good feelings and strict acceptance of all things non-threatening, and a denouncement of anything else with ironically, some of the most vitriolic and threatening behaviour.
Politics is always downstream of culture, and we are now seeing this particular brand of censoriousness play itself out in Canadian politics. The trend has been one in which many see the Conservatives backing down in the face of pressure from the public and opposition parties, in particular the Liberals and the NDP.
Michael Cooper was recently suspended for remarks he made to a witness concerning the shootings at Christchurch and had his statement expunged from the records. Lindsay Shepherd, Mark Steyn, and John Robson were set to testify, when MP Randal Garrison decided that it should not be televised, just recorded. Conservatives also seem to be staying silent and within the realm of political correctness on a number of contentious issues—using the language of the left when it comes to climate and diversity in what seems like an attempt to play the pragmatic and conciliatory card in light of the upcoming election.
There has been a tendency among whistleblowers to treat every free speech and political correctness issue similarly, while paying less attention to the nuance that exists between cases. I want to draw attention to these differences to shed some light on the extent of the censorship problem and show that there is an element of permanence to it, which may make it less threatening, though not any less worthy of confronting.
Michael Cooper is a Conservative MP who stood on the Justice Committee until recently. During a hearing on online hate at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, various groups gave testimony and perspective on issues pertaining hate, discrimination, and terrorism. One of the witnesses—Faisal Suri of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council—drew a link between consumption of conservative media sources and hate crimes, by citing the online viewing habits of Alexandre Bissonnette, the Quebec Mosque shooter. This familiar move is made by lumping all conservative commentators into the “alt-right” and “far-right” category in order to besmirch the views of vast swaths of people. Michael Cooper took offence to this, calling Suri’s attempt to imply conservatism is hateful and racist ‘shameful’. He pointed out that Bissonnette was critical of conservatism, and his viewing history included many other sources, including communist, Stalinist, and Maoist videos and commentary. He crossed the line by reciting passages from Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto— the New Zealand mosque shooter. He apologized for ‘shaming’ Suri, and for reciting passages from Tarrant’s manifesto. Andrew Scheer removed him from the committee but has retained him in caucus.
This was essentially the right decision. First of all, Cooper’s statements were factually correct, and well-reasoned. He pointed out that the witness selectively chose to comment on one common variable among hateful behaviour, ignoring obvious and more salient points of consideration in an attempt to smear conservatives, and regulate speech and views that he disagrees with. It is not this that the Conservative party, nor Mr. Cooper would have apologized for.
Mr. Cooper holds a dignified rank on the Justice Committee and was dealing with an extremely sensitive issue. He used accusatory language, a certain tone, and recited lines from a horrible event that is still too fresh in the public consciousness. The tone, language, and subject matter were not commensurate with the dignity of the position, and the context of the case in question. Nothing more, nothing less. He is an MP in good standing and should be kept on.
It is still the case that examples such as these reveal—well, more like underline—a major double standard. Left-leaning politicians and commentators routinely engage in smears of anyone who does not subscribe to the pieties of their “progressive” fundamentalist worldview. A view that is constantly changing because it is rooted in an incoherent subjectivity based on the emotions of care and compassion, that are, like any emotion—ambiguous with respect to their value, given that many other factors come into play in the determination of anything as good or bad, valuable or invaluable.
The problem, of course, is the liberal desire to censor and remove speech that they deem hateful. As many have now said ad nauseam, people cannot agree on what this is, nor will they. Given the fact that this is the case, censorship is a losing proposition, as the core differences in ways of thinking that divide us will always remain, and their expression is likely to become all the more acrimonious if smothered.
The worrying thing is that Cooper’s remarks were expunged from the record after a vote by Liberal and NDP MPs.
On the one hand, we might be witnessing the development of a new status quo wherein parties capitalize on mistakes by the other side and use the public perception and attention to score points on certain issues. In this case then, the individual case is merely a stunt. If, however, it is a growing trend, then it is cause for concern.
Yet, from a higher level of abstraction, we can see the dynamic between expression and censorship as one that waxes and wanes over time, but constantly tracks majority/minority dynamics in any given society, and arena of discourse therein. Many do not see the importance of issues like those in question, when they think of the fact that so many groups have faced stronger forms of persecution and censorship in the past. This does not excuse it, but it does explain some of the apathy.
It is very important to pay attention and call out infringements, but it is wise to recognize that the tendency to censor and render taboo are permanent, and that efforts are better spent modifying existing, and cultivating new institutions and platforms when old forums dry up. This is more effective and will win people over in the long run. The boundaries of the public and the private are always shifting; it is better to swim with the tide than headlong against it.
Let us hope that the seeming Conservative acquiescence to the Cooper, and Shepherd/Steyn/Robson incidents are calculated, and prudent. Let us also hope that people will not back down in the face of calls for censorship, and that efforts to cultivate spaces for vigorous debate on the issues that matter most are continued with increasing vigour.