“Colorado Shooting Is About More Than Gun Culture,” by Dr. Henry A. Giroux

(NOTE: Dr. Giroux has provided written authorization to the diarist to reproduce his work in its entirety for the benefit of the Voices On the Square community. Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. Here's the LINK to his website.)

Colorado Shooting Is About More Than Gun Culture
By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis
Monday, 23 July 2012 09:51


The current reporting about the recent tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, is very discouraging. The media response to the alleged murderous rampage by James Holmes largely focuses on the guns he used, the easy availability of the ammunition he stockpiled, the booby trapping of his apartment and the ways in which he meticulously prepared for the carnage he allegedly produced. This is a similar script we saw unfold after the massacres at Columbine high school; Virginia Tech; Fort Hood; the supermarket in Tucson, Arizona; and the more recent gang shootings in Chicago. Immediately following such events, there is the expected call for gun control, new legislation to limit the sale of assault rifles and a justifiable critique of the pernicious policies of the National Rifle Association. One consequence is that the American public is being inundated with figures about gun violence ranging from the fact that more than 84 people are killed daily with guns to the shocking statistic that there are more than 300,000 gun-related deaths annually. To bring home the deadly nature of firearms in America, Juan Cole has noted that in 2010 there were 8,775 murders by firearms in the US, while in Britain there were 638. These are startling figures, but they do not tell us enough about the cult and spectacle of violence in American society. Another emerging criticism is that neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney has spoken out about gun control in the aftermath of the Aurora shooting. Gun control matters, but it is only one factor in the culture of symbolic and institutional violence that has such a powerful grip on the everyday workings of American society. The issue of violence in America goes far beyond the issue of gun control, and in actuality, when removed from a broader narrative about violence in the United States, it can serve to deflect the most important questions that need to be raised.


Violence saturates our culture both domestically and in our approach to foreign policy. Domestically, violence weaves through the culture like a highly charged electric current burning everything in its path. Popular culture, extending from Hollywood films and sports thuggery to video games, embraces the spectacle of violence as the primary medium of entrainment. Brutal masculine authority and the celebration of violence it embraces have become the new norm in America. Representations of violence dominate the media and often parade before viewers less as an object of critique than as a for-profit spectacle, just as the language of violence now shapes our political discourse. The registers of violence now shape school zero-tolerance policies, a bulging prison-industrial complex and a growing militarization of local police forces. State violence wages its ghastly influence through a concept of permanent war, targeted assassinations, an assault on civil liberties and the use of drone technologies that justifies the killing of innocent civilians as collateral damage. Just as body counts increase in the United States, so do acts of violent barbarism take place abroad. Increasingly, we are inundated with stories about American soldiers committing horrendous acts of violence against civilians in Afghanistan, with the most recent being the murders committed by the self-named "kill team" and the slaughter of men, women and children allegedly by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. The United States has become addicted to war and a war economy just as we increasingly have become addicted to building prisons and incarcerating minorities marginalized by class and race. And, moreover, we have become immune to the fact of such violence.


Also See: "Henry A. Giroux | Violence, USA: The Warfare State and the Brutalizing of Everyday Life"


Also See: "Violence, USA: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux"


Violence in the United States is a commodity mined for profit, a practice that has become normalized and a spectacle that extends the limits of the pleasure quotient in ways that should be labeled as both pathological and dangerous. We are not just voyeurs to such horrors; we have become complicit and reliant on violence as a mediating force that increasingly shapes our daily experiences. The culture of violence makes it increasingly difficult to imagine pleasure in any other terms except through the relentless spectacle of gratuitous violence and cruelty, even as we mourn its tragic effects in everyday life when it emerges in horrifying ways such as the senseless killing in Colorado. Increasingly, institutions are organized for the production of violence such as schools, prisons, detention centers and our major economic institutions. Rather than promote democratic values, a respect for others and embrace social responsibility, they often function largely to humiliate, punish and demonize any vestige of social responsibility. Our political system is now run by a financial oligarchy that is comparable to what Alain Badiou calls a "regime of gangsters." And as he rightly argues, the message we get from the apostles of casino capitalism carries with it another form of social violence: "Privatize everything. Abolish help for the weak, the solitary, the sick and the unemployed. Abolish all aid for everyone except the banks. Don't look after the poor; let the elderly die. Reduce the wages of the poor, but reduce the taxes on the rich. Make everyone work until they are ninety. Only teach mathematics to traders, reading to big property-owners and history to on-duty ideologues. And the execution of these commands will in fact ruin the life of millions of people."(1) It is precisely this culture of cruelty that has spread throughout America that makes the larger public not merely susceptible to violence, but also luxuriates in its alleged pleasures.


We are a country gripped in a survival of the fittest ethic and one consequence is not merely a form of hyper masculinity and a new-found indulgence in the pleasure of violence, but the toxic emergence of a formative culture in which matters of ethics, justice and social responsibility are absent from what it means to create the conditions for a citizenry able to hold power accountable, produce citizens capable of caring for others and offer the conditions for young and old alike to be able to think critically and act compassionately. Justice in the United States has taken a bad hit and its absence can be measured not only in the vast inequalities that characterize all facets of everyday life from the workings of the justice system to the limited access poor and middle-class people now have to decent health care, schools and social protections, but also in a government that separates economics from social costs while selling its power and resources to the highest bidder. America needs to talk more about how and why violence is so central to its national identity, what it might mean to address this educationally and tackle the necessity of understanding this collective pathology of violence not just through psychological and isolated personal narratives, but through the wider ideological and structural forces that both produce such violence and are sustained by it.(2)


1. Alain Badiou, "The Rebirth of History (London: Verso, 2012), p. 13.
2. I want to thank Brad Evans for his advice regarding the importance of emphasizing structural violence.


Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

# # #

IMPORTANT NOTE: Dr. Giroux will be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, tomorrow (am awaiting time/publication/broadcast info from him right now), on the subject matter of this piece from Truth-Out, published ten days ago: “ From Penn State to JPMorgan Chase and Barclays: Destroying Higher Education, Savaging Children and Extinguishing Democracy.

# # #

Recent Daily Kos re-posts from Truth-Out.org by Dr. Giroux:

"Hoodie Politics: Trayvon Martin and Racist Violence in Post-Racial America," Dr. Henry A. Giroux (4/12/12)

“The ‘Suicidal State’ and the War on Youth,” Dr. Henry A. Giroux (4/15/12)

"Violence, USA: The Warfare State and the Brutalizing of Everyday Life," Dr. Henry A. Giroux (5/2/12)

# # #

Via Truth-Out, some background on Dr. Giroux…


Henry A. Giroux

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Youth in a Suspect Society (Palgrave, 2009); Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy (Paradigm, 2010); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (co-authored with Grace Pollock, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011); Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011). His newest books: Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang) and Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers) will be published in 2012). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His website is www.henryagiroux.com.

Here’s more on him from his website

Henry Armand Giroux was born September 18, 1943, in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Armand and Alice Giroux.


Giroux received his Doctorate from Carnegie-Mellon in 1977. He then became professor of education at Boston University from 1977 to 1983. In 1983 he became professor of education and renowned scholar in residence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he also served as Director at the Center for Education and Cultural Studies. He moved to Penn State University where he took up the Waterbury Chair Professorship at Penn State University from 1992 to May 2004. He also served as the Director of the Waterbury Forum in Education and Cultural Studies. He moved to McMaster University in May 2004, where he currently holds the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies.


He currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with his wife, Dr. Susan Searls Giroux.

Voices on the Square

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I appreciate this post & Dr. Giroux's permission for our benefit

priceman's picture

Thank you, Bob Swern. Personally, I disagree with a small portion of it having to do with violence in movies/video games(I don't know why we have to have this debate every-time something bad happens as if artistic expression is somehow responsible. History is full of violence before movies and video games. Video games are everywhere, not just in this country. We also have people looking through and analyzing old Frank Miller Batman comics which is ridiculous), but everything else is right on.

I would add that the lack of a decent safety net, as vitally important as SS is, it lacks compared to some Scandinavian countries is very relevant, especially in fucked up desperate economic times as these. We also have a war culture as Dr. Giroux talks about with veterans coming home to a country that chooses not to invest in their mental health or mental health in general. I think that is a definite factor, and that is the additive to the gun control argument that is still relevant. High grade military weapons and equipment+the breakdown of a society in an economy that broke down=disaster.

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I sort of disagree with you, Priceman, on some issues.

Glinda's picture

"Old, older" violence wasn't as violent as it is today.

I'd seriously be in favor or raising the age to attend violent movies or purchase violent video games to age 21.

Of course 16, 17, 18, 19-year-olds will watching the movies or playing the video games, but the higher the age, the older those who want to fake their ages have to be.

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Really?

priceman's picture

Crucifixions weren't violent? Where do you think the phrase "going medieval" came from? Medieval torture is way more violent than some of what you see today. No, years and years of violence in history contradicts that. If you read what's in the old testament it's like a horror movie. There was also the Roman Colosseum.

No, I know you mean well, but whenever you take it to video games and violent movies you are playing into the religious right's hands. Marilyn Manson wasn't responsible for Columbine. The Beatles were not responsible for the Manson murders. Raising the age to 21 would have absolutely no consequence on anything because that is not the problem. It's the people who can't distinguish fantasy from reality that have the problem that again goes to my mental health inquiry.

There's no convincing evidence violent movies or video games are the cause of these problems at all. But the campaign to limit artistic expression does have a violent history of book burning and McCarthyism, and in the 50s when parents burned their kids comic books. It's just irrational and has no basis in reality.

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I have to agree with you about games re: violence

aigeanta's picture

I used to lean more heavily in the direction that violent media were to blame for atrocities, but my views have become a little more nuanced since then. I have a journalist friend who has been writing about video games (and other oft-maligned hobbies) and their (lack of) connection to young adult violence for years. You might be interested in her blog on the subject here: http://backwardmessages.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/looking-for-answers-in-...

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Thank you for that link, aigeanta

priceman's picture

I'm glad I am not alone. I understand leaning the other way at first.

Yeah, there are many studies that show the purported studies showing the purported link are based on faulty data analysis. I also personally have grown up on violent movies and video games and most of the children I grew up with also did, and though anecdotal, there were no incidents having to do with that.

I will definitely check this blog out.

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It's not possible to nail down the exact effects

type1error's picture

of media violence on actual violence and aggression. But there is a plethora of scientific evidence which suggests such a link. The exact mechanics aren't clear, but you can't say that media violence has no effect on our culture unless you dismiss all of the research.

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I didn't say it has no effect

priceman's picture

But the direct causation effect it's always portrayed as? No.

I also don't think burning paintings(Goya) that have violence in them depicting war ever stopped new wars from happening and I would be right.

I'm just tired of these arguments.

I guess it goes down to me considering movies and video games to be an art form. Years and years of history also back up what I said.

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Also:

priceman's picture

Violent video games and young people

In one paper, Dr. Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor at Texas A&M International University, argued that many studies on the issue of media violence rely on measures to assess aggression that don't correlate with real-world violence — and even more important, many are observational approaches that don't prove cause and effect. He also cited data from federal criminal justice agencies showing that serious violent crimes among youths have decreased since 1996, even as video game sales have soared.

Other researchers have challenged the association between violent video game use and school shootings, noting that most of the young perpetrators had personality traits, such as anger, psychosis, and aggression, that were apparent before the shootings and predisposed them to violence. These factors make it more difficult to accept the playing of violent games as an independent risk factor. A comprehensive report of targeted school violence commissioned by the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education concluded that more than half of attackers demonstrated interest in violent media, including books, movies, or video games. However, the report cautioned that no particular behavior, including interest in violence, could be used to produce a "profile" of a likely shooter.

The U.S. Department of Justice has funded research at the Center for Mental Health and Media at Massachusetts General Hospital to better determine what impact video games have on young people. Although it is still in the preliminary stages, this research and several other studies suggest that a subset of youths may become more aggressive after playing violent video games. However, in the vast majority of cases, use of violent video games may be part of normal development, especially in boys — and a legitimate source of fun too. Given the likelihood of individual variability, it may be useful to consider the impact of video games within three broad domains: personality, situation, and motivation.

I don't really think there is a wide scientific consensus here as there is with other issues. It will be interesting if we find out that Grimm's Fairy tales are responsible for a lot of violence though. The original ones are very dark and violent.

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I'm with Glinda on this one, Priceman

geomoo's picture

I understand there is no necessarily direct connection, but a culture saturated with violence is bound to be more violent. I know of one horrific case that deeply disturbed my daughters while they were in high school. In this case, a couple of men copied exactly a violent crime they had seen in the movies. Not the first time. Anyway, it's just common sense. See someone eat a potato chip and it makes you want to eat a potato chip. It's just how we're hard wired as a herd animal. Not to mention the desensitization. I accidentally took my daughter to a horrible tense film which we had to leave after just a few minutes. This is the sort of film most of America enjoys without giving it a second thought. My daughter came home and vomited, which I believe is the reaction of a healthy person.

I'm not as adamant about video games, but I feel strongly, just from my observations of human nature, that violent films foster a violent culture. But that's not the place I would start. I would start with the gun culture.

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That's fine, but I think you're absolutely wrong

priceman's picture

"The plural of anecdote is not data."

It's also not common sense. That's what separates us from animals that we can ignore our instincts with our brains, which is why we make laws for people who do not and just act out on every instinct they have. Not all of us succumb to "You can't east just one" or whatever other desire. As someone with an active imagination who thinks directos like Quentin Tarantino are brilliant, I don't want to live in a country that celebrates attacking peopel's free expression and falsely applying causation or suggested causation pretending we can't identify what's real or what is not. I feel strongly about this, and I don't like seeing us bow down to the religious right on this one. The reasoning is not that different from when they attack sex education.

The science is not in on this(flawed plethora of studies or not, there are many that contradict them with better mehtodology), and like I said it contradicts centuries of a violent history. I'm sorry you and your daughter had a bad experience though, and I'm glad that you are pointing to gun culture because that is the culprit.

We must think about whom we are attacking when we make false judgments such as these, though. It's basically every artists ever and then anyone who wants to symbolize a real world problem to get people to think about it is then attacked. Satirists like Jonathan Swift used crude metaphors many found offensive like how to eat Irish children, but he wasn't serious. His points alluded to were though. That doesn't bode well historically. It's pre-enlightenment thinking.

But no worries, there are other people that post here besides me that agree with you..

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It's a tough question

geomoo's picture

We can agree on that. I'll respond to a couple of things, then let it go. Just because everyone will not be influenced to commit violence, that doesn't make it okay to allow these images to work their nasty effect on the few who are less, shall we say, self-controlled? Of course we are only discussing a few people who would ever commit murderous acts. In addition, however, I think we pay a much more subtle price in living in a culture influenced so strongly by violent imagery and language. Along the same lines of what I consider to be your over-generalizing, I am not indeed attacking "every artist" when I believe there should be some lines which a culture does not cross. Fifteen-year-old kids going to the movies are nothing like people going to museums or performance art. In the movies, we turn our consciousness over to the movie-makers, many of whom are much more interested in profit than in art. The movie in question seems to me a pretty good example of that. Finally, just because a group you don't like (for good reason) supports something, that doesn't mean it is wrong to support it. Such reasoning has been used on dkos to counter criticisms of Obama which happen to sound something like the criticisms coming from the right.

I hear your passion on this, and I think I get the very valid place you are coming from as a defender of free speech and of art in general. But we do disagree on this one. If we started proposing possible responses, we might find that we are not so far apart as it may seem, because I'm also not a big fan of censorship. I guess at the very least, I think we should take a look in the mirror and understand the extremely violent nature of our culture in practice, in images, and even in art, and understand this as a problem. I mean, so much of the violence is not in the service of art; rather, it is in the service of a cheap and temporary thrill.

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I didn't mean YOU when I said "attacking every artist"

priceman's picture

That was a general statement towards the argument, but I do disagree with you. I regret responding as harshly as I did, but you do understand where I am coming from. Movie makers more interested in profit than art are easy to identify and there's a whole lot of crap out there, but the ones in it for the material you can tell because it comes out in the work. Also there are ratings for a reason.

And you can't control what is going to give people a violent reaction like the Son of Sam killer being talked to by his dog. There is reality and there is fantasy and art should not suffer because some people don't want to invest in helping people realize the difference.

Batman has been around for way longer than any movies about him. I do think it's kind of ridiculous to implicate the character in this massacre in anyway. I have to be honest. IT's very irrational to me to even suggest that. I'm responding to years of crap hounded onto society by the hypocritical moral majority and my argument was not that you are part of that, but that it is a slippery slope and to just implore you not to go near that kind of thing if I can. But everyone has their own POV. I'm not doing what they O-faithful does on kos, I'm just saying when we get into censorship and start blaming images and movies for society's problems it's way too close to comfort. And it's the argument you and Glinda are presenting, not either of you, yourselves. I hope that is clear now.

But no, films are like paintings, the canvas is just different. There's also a whole lot that goes into film making, including storyboarding, lighting specialists, CGI(I know about this first hand), makeup artists, along with lots of other production value people don't realize. Those people don't deserve to be equated however innocently with a deranged madman who easily obtained high grade military equipment because of the NRA.

I guess there is sort of a generational divide between me and some people here wedded loosely to some doctrines I find unsettling. I've had to listen to how the way i dress, the music I listened to, the movies I like are responsible for murder and chaos without a single data point that's relevant to point to that. I liked Beavis and Butthead so now I'm responsible for arson.

Scorsese is supposedly responsible for Reagan getting shot because Hinkley was deranged and in love with Jodie Foster. Sorry, that is irrational and i will have no part of it. I don't want to think of a world where Scorsese blacklisted because of specious arguments like that. George Carlin's 7 dirty words went up to the SCOTUS and he was ruled against because of the false belief that filthy language was somehow corrupting society.

On this I am a first amendment absolutist, because this is where it does apply, not Citizen' United which has nothing to do with speech like money. There are a lot of crap movies out there, but if one believes in free speech you have to defend speech you find abhorrent if one really believes it and I do.

Western culture and our war like mentality is something we need a mirror to see sometimes, but movies help with that. Oliver Stone's Platoon come to mind, like Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now and Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. I love those films because they show that war is not awesome. They show it's obscene ugly and immoral nature in an entertaining way so more can see it. They helped with my overall views towards war over the years growing up watching them.

I'm sorry, geomoo. I probably was not as careful with how I worded everything as I should have been as i did in this comment. I truly regret that, though this is coming from years of dealing with these kinds of criticisms that involve me personally as well. I just have to be honest here, because this issue is important to me.

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Priceman, I dig the passion

geomoo's picture

and appreciate the discussion. You have nothing to apologize to me for, although I am also hoping that I have not said anything to hurt you personally. The reason we want Vots is so we can discuss these important issues realistically, honestly, and respectfully. That is all we need ask of one another.

I'll mention that you have associated my remarks with some views which seem similar but which I do not endorse, so that the divide between us is not so wide as you might imagine. I'll just repeat my one assertion that I believe is unassailable--our culture is saturated not only in violent images but in glorifications of violence, often in ways which are deluded, such as the notion of clean strikes using drones. For whatever reasons, we are a society that seems able to easily forget war crimes, for example. I'm not exactly blaming the movies--I think they are yet another symptom that becomes a cause.

In any case, I believe this debate needs to happen and I am content to debate this with you, my friend.

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Thanks, geomoo. This is a good place for debate

priceman's picture

I think we understand each other better now whatever disagreements we have. Not being clear and nuanced enough in my criticism is what I regret but it looks like you understand where I am coming from now however any disagreements.

I'll just repeat my one assertion that I believe is unassailable--our culture is saturated not only in violent images but in glorifications of violence, often in ways which are deluded, such as the notion of clean strikes using drones. For whatever reasons, we are a society that seems able to easily forget war crimes, for example. I'm not exactly blaming the movies--I think they are yet another symptom that becomes a cause.

I think though sometimes movies can be a symptom of this, we often forget that some movies remind us of who we are or supposed to be in some ways.

Post 9/11 mindsets were disturbing and are still with us and that arena of propaganda is very dangerous like some WWII/Vietnam propaganda back in the day but probably the worst like the fairly recent Seal Team 6 Navy Seals movie that just came out.

A book that explores some of that is by David Sirota called Back to Our Future. I've read excerpts, but it also explores Rambo and Red dawn and other movies form the 80s that sort of indoctrinate us. IT can be a double edge sword as far as some movies becoming a symptom of that. I think the problems with our culture are built within the structure of this country's violent past which make up its future in some ways.

Anyway VOTS is a good place for these kinds of debates, and I appreciate that my friend.

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Good post

geomoo's picture

I woke up thinking of a question to put to you, but you have already addressed part of my question in this comment--the part that wants to ask whether you believe the propaganda machine has been ignoring the movies. It seems that you think not, and I agree. Surely the movies are deployed along with the rest of media to create the feelings, emotions, and attitudes which the oligarchy wish to see in the American people. Along these lines, I would ask whether you think we should avoid critiquing the effects of Fox News on us on the grounds of free speech and the artistry which goes into creation of their broadcasts, from set design to graphics to especially the creative fiction used in their broadcasts. My point is that there is a big difference between supporting censorship and opening a discussion about the effects of our media on our behavior.

Thanks for the excellent post.

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Thanks

priceman's picture

Movies definitely can be a tool for propaganda like John Wayne's poor Vietnam propaganda film The Green Berets. Oliver Stone's Platoon was a decent response to it. IT can go both ways. Same thing goes with Oliver Stone and Wall St. The public got the wrong message from it even though it was powerful and hip to the problems. We saw, "greed is good" and didn't pay attention to the ending. We said, "yeah!"

I guess the point is that we, the public, need to work on our perception and critical thinking skills as a whole rather than be barred from seeing movies or a POV. I wouldn't say Fox news has a lot of artistic merit, but I get the point. Most people know what they are about, though many know an still don't care because they want that pablum, maybe part of them need that pablum. I respect their right to exists with the 1st amendment but that is it. I guess they could be considered good propaganda broadcasts and there is some art in propaganda, but I think it's relevant to criticize them and MSNBC who both are kind of looking more similar than not these days in this Coke vs Pepsi election.

I see your point better about exploring how violent media can affect us rather than wanting censorship. I'm glad., I just wish when the collective we have these conversations in a general sense as people it could be more general instead of pointing to it in a causation type of way after a tragedy. It's not easy to to live in a world like this so some people like fantasy and like escapism. I like fantasy and I like escapism. My subconscious knows it's not real, but in those dreams can mimic real life, heroism, even if not real, a trait you'd like to think you posses and gets you thinking ass someone shows in a bad flight or fight situation.

This guy on the TV Londas is skewed but there's some truth to his speech(he goes to extremes but he makes you think) and all these exchanges(from my favorite anime) in response to it:

I think escapism allows us to analyze life and ourselves. It's not always healthy and can be a double edged sword, but it inspires a lot of creativity and many modes of existence and purpose for people. We should look at it as an mind exercise because we are going to have to make choices with our brain that interprets what we see around us. There's no getting around that. That's how you defeat whatever violent imagery set out as propaganda. You see through it and help others see through it.

There are no guarantees in this life. People will commit acts of violence. WE should do what we can to stop them and more importantly stop them from obtaining technological advances that result in a lot of death in a sacred place for the purpose of escaping the horrible world politicians created in the theater which I imagine feels violated for a lot of people looking for that escapism from this world. That is what also disgusts me about this incident besides the loss of life. Our government pretending like they care and only care about staying in office.

In many ways everyday we are robbed from any escape of the hapless disgusting world they are all propping up while fooling the public into thinking they want to change it. It's pretty disgusting the whole thing and I find myself wanting to tune out of politics a lot these days and find escapism because it can at least be inspiring in some way.

Well I think you opened up a deeper explanation than I thought was in me, geomoo. Thank you.

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Good stuff, Priceman

geomoo's picture

This year at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the man who put together the Shoah program (and chose several wonderful films) in introducing a film said that the theater is sacred to him. I can go along with that.

I saw 38 films in 10 days this year. None of them had the bullshit that virtually every mainstream U.S. film offers. The more I see those more human, more thoughtful movies, the less interested I find myself in the big thrill of the Hollywood blockbusters--the more empty they seem. Still, nothing wrong with escapism.

I think we still do have differences of opinion here, but I'm glad we refined them down more fully. Thanks for the discussion.

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Forgot to add this quote:

Glinda's picture

The United States has become addicted to war and a war economy just as we increasingly have become addicted to building prisons and incarcerating minorities marginalized by class and race. And, moreover, we have become immune to the fact of such violence.

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I agree with that quote

priceman's picture

and we have become addicted to war, and to a certain extent the obsession with war games does speak to some of that, but the problems of being addicted to war were there before video games and violent movies were around. Look at all the major wars we have had? Real life violence all around you can desensitize you, but most rational people know movies are not real and neither are video games. That's where the line is.

Building prisons and incarcerating minorities marginalized by class and race is mired within the institutional racism this country was built on which is violence and I could never become desensitized to that even if I like to play GTA sometimes.

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Easier to get a gun than mental health care

aigeanta's picture

This is purely conjecture, but I would assume the suspect was suffering from mental health issues. I saw an early report that said the parents remarked "you've got the right person" when their son was revealed to be the shooter by the media. That, to me, is a hint that they realized he was having issues. Nobody can be compelled to receive mental health services unless they seem to pose an immediate threat to themselves or others. Unfortunately, this leads to Catch-22 situations where parents and friends of adults who are mentally ill might know they pose a danger, but can't prove it to anyone in time to prevent a tragedy. This plays out time and time again in our country, when ill people don't get the help they need and people end up getting hurt. I'm not sure what the most sensible policy would be to prevent such tragedies, but I don't think it would hurt people's 2nd amendment liberties if they had to pass a mental wellness checkup before purchasing a gun.

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I agree with you

sartoris's picture

Wasn't that Virginia Tech killer turned down for mental health services? It should be easier to receive mental health care than it is to order 6000 rounds of ammunition.

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I think so

priceman's picture

and you're absolutely right.

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Great post!

type1error's picture

Thanks for sharing, Bob.

Our society doesn't value human life. It's that simple.

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it's everything and it's nothing

sartoris's picture

What sort of video games do they play in Rwanda? What violent movies were the Turks watching when they committed the first genocide of the 20th century? What music were the Khmer Rouge listening to that led them to genocide? No, I don't think we can say it's this or that which causes these now too frequent massacres. They are no longer even distinctly American. They now seem to be a common occurrence in Europe. The one thing that I do know with 100% certainty: there are too many guns in this country and they are too easy to acquire. It should at least be a bit of a chore to buy a gun.

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Yep, history doesn't bear this theory out.

priceman's picture

People can conduct psychological studies and play fast and loose with the results if they want(as shown by better more through studies) but it contradicts history.

Had there had been no easy access to high grade military assault equipment in a country with no mental help whatsoever for those that really need it this wouldn't have happened. Banning Christopher Nolan's Batman Movies would have had 0 result but some people want the easy answers.

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The media may change, but . . .

geomoo's picture

I expect in every historical culture of violence one would find the violence supported by the dominant images and rituals of the culture and, contrary wise, in the more peaceful cultures one would likely find the culture of peace supported by images and rituals supporting peaceful interaction. In short, just because pre-movie cultures were violent, that does not prove that violent movies do not support actual violence in the culture. In fact, I would guess one would never find excessively violent cultures in the absence of images and rituals which support and honor violence.

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there is a definite need to try to understand the motivation

sartoris's picture

however, I don't think that it's as easy as pointing at 'culture'. What made the Rwandan people kill 800000 of their brothers and sisters in less than 60 days? Was it movies? Music? Art gone bad? Seems probable that it was not any of those things. Can you point to any peaceful society in the scope of history? The Mongols? The Greeks? Rome? China? No, people have not changed at all over the last 100000 years. The only thing that allows these massacres to happen is the ease with which anyone can purchase firearms and ammunition. That's all. It's not Batman movies or Lady Gaga music. It's just the ease with which our mentally unstable people can acquire weaponry that lets them kill so many in one instant.

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Rwanda suffered a brutal colonial history

geomoo's picture

That one is fairly easy. Aleuts have lived relatively peacefully. Likewise, Tibetans, who happened to have a well-entrenched culture supporting compassion. Furthermore, there have been more and less peaceful times throughout history, and I don't think that's an accident. While disarming people is important, I believe we can do a lot more to maximize the potential for humans to settle conflicts without resorting to violence, and one of the main things we can do is surround ourselves with images and behaviors which model what we want. It seems obvious to me that a society which studies peace, which considers and debates alternatives to violence, that such a society will in fact live more peaceably. I don't even understand the resistance to this idea, unless you really can't separate the points I am making from simplistic and moralistic attitudes which are quite different from what I am contending. Your rephrasing of my argument in simplistic terms is not fair to the points I am making.

Take the U.S. During WWII, we treated German prisoners of war so well that they returned home full of stories about how great the Americans are. Contrast that to our behavior in the current fake wars. There is a difference and it is a worthwhile pursuit to consider what may be behind the difference.

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Thanks for bringing this here, Bob Swern

geomoo's picture

I had read it and was stunned at how important a conversation it opens. Now if only we could get people's attention long enough to discuss these matters.

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Not familiar with the Aluet society

sartoris's picture

I have to confess that I'm not too familiar with the Aluet society. They would truly be unique among the peoples of the world by being peaceful. Perhaps it was their isolation that led them to treat other humans differently. Ancient man certainly was as violent as modern man. However, I'm not trying to 'reframe' your ideas, I just don't agree with them. The reason that I don't agree with them is because they seem too eager to fulfill an agenda that contends that American society is somehow different than other societies. I have offered multiple examples of violent societies that were obviously not influenced by the ideas presented by you and others. I guess I'm not even sure I understand what you're proposing. Do you some sort of commune living structure like that envisioned by Lysander Spooner and others? If you mean reframing how society thinks then that seems sort of fantastical thinking. I suppose this is not worth discussing, however, it seems to me that the only thing that separates our individuals with mental health disorders from the individuals with mental health disorders in other societies is the ease with which we allow ours to acquire weapons. It is my contention that the issue is not complex but simple. To prevent these types of occurrences from being as frequent as they are our country must enact serious gun control. It's not our culture, it's our weaponry. My apologies if you were offended by anything that I said. It seems we have a classic Failure to Communicate conundrum. I'll move on to less philosophical matters...........

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I'm not sure about simple vs. complex

geomoo's picture

What I am questioning is your stance of throwing up your hands in the face of what you see as inexorable human behavior. It is most likely that we will continue consuming fossil fuels until we make the planet all but uninhabitable. Do you support a similar resignation in the face of this likelihood? Humans have always been greedy, selfish, violent, delusional, etc. There have also been signs that we can do better. I object strongly to the proposition that it is human nature to engage in endless warfare and violence and there is nothing to be done about it. This is the attitude of gun advocates and military fanatics who think themselves hard-headed realists for pushing he view that it's a dog eat dog world and the only valid response is to be more violent than the other guy.

Humans respond to circumstances in their environment. It has been shown in famous experiments that it is simple to create the conditions under which ordinary people turn into heartless brutes. There is another side to this equation, however, which is that conditions can be created in which people behave like compassionate members of an extended community. The vast propaganda machine in this country works hard to create the conditions which will have citizens supporting their endless wars and their obscene profit-making from weapons sales. Movies are one part of this propaganda effort. One doesn't need to support censorship to want to discuss the effects on us of our media and to look for ways to create conditions which bring out the better side of human behavior.

I don't claim to have all the answers--I'm not that foolish--but I wonder why on this issue as opposed to others which are equally complex you want to short-circuit discussion of what is so and of options for changing things. There actually is technology of the mind which does support better human behavior. Simple practices of meditation, prayer, collective exuberance, etc., are known to create these effects. Every year I watch between 30 and 40 excellent films at the Santa Barbara Film Festival--all of these films are artistic and almost all of them remain on a human level rather than supporting clear notions of good vs. evil along with macho posturing which is so common in mainstream U.S. films, a posturing which insists that violence is the one and only solution to conflict. I propose that we discuss this just as we discuss Fox News, even though it is unlikely that Fox is going anywhere soon, just as it is unlikely that human nature will change.

I appreciate the civility. I likewise hope that I have not been personally offensive.

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I don't think it is possible to change human nature

sartoris's picture

I suppose that my reasoning on this issue is that man is by nature a creature prone to being violent. I believe that the history of man demonstrates this part of our nature and is probably a gene somewhere in our DNA. I see this as being something that we cannot 'fix' in certain people (the mentally unstable prone to violence) so we have to make sure that it is difficult for them to harm themselves or others. I see this as primarily a gun control issue. I do agree that our culture is in a phase of glorifying violence. My opinion is that is a result of money/profit motives but that's a long discussion for another day. We are bracing for another 100 degree day today in Chicago and I'm taking my grandson to the local county fair before it gets too warm. Have a great day today and thanks again for the interesting discussion.

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We are in full agreement

geomoo's picture

on the gun control issue. And yes, the rest is a long, long discussion. Have fun at the fair.

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