Video-games Do Not Cause Violence.

It’s May, 2013 as I write this, and the USA is deep into a national debate regarding the ownership of guns and gun violence which has come about in the wake of some very famous rampages where many innocent people have been killed by one, sometimes two, young men with guns. Some people have brought up violence in video-games, film, and television as a part of the problem, that is to say, as one of the causes of what seems to be a disturbing trend towards violence. I can agree with the first part of that statement, it certainly is part of the problem, but video-violence is not causative.

Both of these phenomena, the high-profile shootings and the amazing popularity of the violent video-games, are effects, and neither is a cause. Both these trends can be viewed as the result of violent fantasies, which fantasies can be played out both ways, virtually and literally. Although I do not wish to weigh in on the American gun control conversation or divert this book towards that debate, I must say that America’s unique view of the gun issue would seem also to suggest the presence of violent fantasies in American society. I would note that America is among the last of the former First World nations to ratify the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child legislation; America is a great supporter of the practice of the punishment of children, and also the American lawmakers will not seem to support any sort of limitation of the sale of guns. Again, this suggests the existence of a strong undercurrent of violent fantasies, as well as the reason for them.

Punishment is a form of violence, certainly physical punishment is, and really, there is no other kind. Punishment is unpleasantness imposed, and imposition means force; forced unpleasantness is a pretty good definition for violence. So, if we can grant that (which, maybe not just yet, but we will, someday), then we can view the video-game theory this way:

There is real violence in our society, crime including some rather random mass killings, and there is real violence practiced upon children in the form of abuse and punishment, both corporal and “non-physical,” all of which has been shown, in study after reputable study to be harmful and to increase crime, violence, and poverty. There is also much virtual violence in the form of movies, TV and video-games. Do we really think that virtual violence is a cause and actual violence is not? The real violence is not a problem, but it is the virtual violence on the videoscreen that causes the shocking mass killings?

It is fantasies of violence that makes a child love the virtual violence he or she finds in videogames, a disposition that must exist beforehand, because simple exposure to a stimulus doesn’t cause a need, it only fills it (or not). It is the actual experience of violence during childhood punishments that produce the need, the experience of helplessness that Alice Miller speaks about that creates fantasies of power and violence, and the fantasies predate the experience of virtual violence. If the need wasn’t there before, there would be a much smaller market for violent video-games and movies. If we were unable to identify punishment as violence before, this reasoning would be enough, the size of the market for anything that plays upon our violent fantasies. The other side, the argument against that conclusion would be the same ones about ‘human nature’ and Original Sin:’ it’s nothing we do, we’re just born evil and full of longing for violence, naturally.’ That is counter to evidence, and counterintuitive, to phrase it in the most dispassionate way I can muster.

I must add that the mental illness issue that arises as an alternative conversation to gun control is very largely due to the culture of punishment also; mental illness is one of abuse and corporal punishment’s well documented negative outcomes. If shooting your parents and a bunch of teachers isn’t some kind of reaction to punishment, I don’t know what would describe it better.

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8 thoughts on “Video-games Do Not Cause Violence.

  1. Pamela Spiro Wagner October 7, 2014 / 12:37 pm

    Bravo! I would venture to add that in almost every case of mass violence the young men had been subjected to prior treatment for some putative “mental health” problem. I suspect that this “treatment” had been involuntary and unwanted. Forced, to wit, and therefore a perceived punishment…if you git mah drift. Everyone is saying, Oh, they were not in treatment at the time or they needed MORE or more intensive treatment. But I say Bullshit, they likely were either brain damaged from the drugs that they had been given and were reacting to the drug’s toxicity, and likely they were reacting to the punitive nature of such treatments. This is not even to mention their rage arising from punishments they had received not in the grotesque name of “treatment” (the ultimate betrayal) but by their parents etc in the name of “childrearing”.

    Again and again I find such incredibly fresh and brave discussions here. How come NO ONE has dared bring this up before on the net, not at least that I have seen? Oh, maybe they have, but the blogs are well hidden or perhaps more technical and psychoanalytical (gag me with a spoon)l than I would casually come across.

    Anyhow kudos to you! This is good stuff and I have waited to see it publicly on a blog for years,…

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  2. Pamela Spiro Wagner October 7, 2014 / 12:55 pm

    I also agree that abuse and punishment produce fantasies of aggression and violence — that is, lead to perpetrators, and hence to sadism more often than to masochism, which I have discussed before. It is only natural to want to get back at those who hurt you, and how better than through fantasies of revenge? I dunno where Freud arrived at his notion that sadism and masochism go together. I am no psychoanalyst, nor a big reader of such texts. I mostly go on observation, my own experience, and what my gut tells me. At any rate, I think sadism is a much bigger problem than masochism, and I doubt whether the balancing opposite to the sadist truly exists except when someone responds to abuse with continued feelings of helplessness and in a situation where that helplessness itself continues. Once the person can react differently, i.e experience power, it may be that this tendency would change. But when I talk about sadomasochism, I refer to the power trip of one and the victim position of the other. Whether a masochist truly enjoys being victimized, or just gets some unidentified psychological gains from it — all of it due to past abuse experiences — that he or she experience as pleasure, I am not able to say.

    Anyhow, this is a bit garbled as I am trying to figure out my thoughts as I write. It is a dangerous subject to broach, not one people wish to think about, as you can imagine. What would most parents think if they permitted themselves to contemplate the notion that spanking involved sadomasochism, both their own and in the fantasies of their children? Perhaps they might think twice before “indulging” sadistic impulses to hurt their children…But maybe not. Cynicallly, I don’t think many people permit introspective thinking, by and large, and even when they do, they don’t tend to control themselves well!

    Cheers if not very cheefully.

    Pam

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    • neighsayer October 7, 2014 / 1:33 pm

      I really have no idea how to market this stuff, amn frankly, I’m kind of cynical that anyone wants to hear it . . . thanks for everything.

      Like

      • Pamela Spiro Wagner October 7, 2014 / 7:31 pm

        Hmmm, is it important to you to “market it”? Yeah, I know, you want this to be read more widely, but perhaps “If you build it, they will come.” (from Field of Dreams, if you recall that marvelous movie some years back…) I do not have many readers myself but I write and write and write and over many years the hits have accumulated and I don’t much care if I have thousands of hits a day or only twenty…This world of blogging is way too much like a big popularity contest for my comfort. I have actually told people DO NOT “LIKE” ME if you aren’t going to bother to read my blog…because I am not going to “like” you back just to get fake followers…I am really sick to death of people who click “like” one second after I post a long thoughtfully written post, because I KNOW they didn’t bother to read it, they just want to get credit as if they did. I never bother to go to their blogs or click “like” likewise…That is the sort of “reader” I can do without. Sorry but I am equally cynical about some things and this is one of them…

        On the other hand, your stuff is definitely FRESH and original and unlike other websites. For that you should keep it going if for no other reason, (unless you are sick of writing about it.) If so, there is plenty of material here for people to read. You could always start another site on other subjects and take a break or only write here on occasion, when you felt like it…I dunno, I understand the frustration, that is all I am saying and it is partly why I branched out on my Wagblog to some other subjects than just the main one. It depends on what you feel impelled to write about.. If this is IT and only and all of it, then by all means, continue, because it is worth it. But I also think it is a terrifically important and under-discussed subject myself, worthy of many more posts yet!

        I will work on reblogging and/or publicizing some other of your posts further to get you more traffic…

        My best to you.

        Pam

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        • neighsayer October 7, 2014 / 8:06 pm

          Oh, thank you so much, Pam. Yes, I do have another one, for other things, critiques of things, political stuff, etc., creatively named “Neighsayer’s Other Stuff.”
          Lately, I’ve taken to trying to write grabby headlines on Twitter with links the blog, and I write a new one between a few a week and one every few weeks, while tweeting older ones every few days in between . . .

          it does seem to be getting a few more views since I started using Twitter like that. But I’m with you on that, I know if anything went viral, if I became very popular, that I will have abandoned the message. That sort of popularity is for mindless stuff. I’ve made my peace with that. For a minute there, I thought I might sell a book and get rich and famous, but I now know what sort of parenting books get sold, and I’ll have no part of that. I wouldn’t bury this message for Colbert’s money, I really wouldn’t.
          What I would really love is for some PhD to steal my writings, do the studies and publish. That’s really what I’d like to see happen.

          I promise to pay some attention to your blog soon. Hey, do you have novel-writing skills? I’ve got an idea, I’ve started, but it needs a lot of work, with time I don’t have. I work full time, and I need some exercise.

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          • Pamela Spiro Wagner October 7, 2014 / 8:55 pm

            Hmmm, I wrote 50,000 words last november during NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month, which is no joke),,,and I have written two other novels, which i never tried to publish,,, actually three… Was encourage to try but I just didn’t have the energy to go through all that BS.

            Why? What’s your idea? I am working on the one I started last year…but who knows, two ideas could mesh, it isn’t impossible and I’m stuck with my own at the moment.

            Pam

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            • neighsayer October 8, 2014 / 9:50 pm

              Well, what I really need is the time to do it. The idea is fully formed, the whole plan is there, it’s a novel that takes place in an alternate universe, an Earth where the ‘no-punishing’ idea somehow caught on, at least in the West. So there’s some ‘adjusted’ history about how that idea spread and some ‘adjusted’ present day drama, characters growing up, with some characters dropped into this changed world from isolated religious communities . . . thing is now, I’ve got myself into needing to read the bible and do some more research into religion and other things, stuff this blogging business doesn’t leave much time for . . .

              Like

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