The worst school shooting in U.S. history happened yesterday on the campus of Virginia Tech. Thirty-two defenseless, innocent individuals lost their lives to someone we can only call a disturbed, selfish and thankfully deceased individual in Cho Seung-Hui.
When I heard the account of one female student, I physically paused and felt ill. Of the 25 students in her German class, she and three others were the only ones to walk out the classroom. I thought back to my 25-person classes at UNH, and asked myself how I would have coped with having an entire room snuffed out in an instant. I received no answer.
There are many questions about this massacre that still need to be asked. One of them is what we always ask in cases that seemingly defy comprehension: “why?”
And I’m sure there will be many varied and haphazard answers to that question in due time. Perhaps it will never be answered. Such is life. That said, I can safely say what did NOT cause yesterday’s blood bath: video games.
Unfortunately, individuals like attorney Jack Thompson were out in front of this issue mere hours after the shootings took place. There he was, on FOX News, slanderously framing the issue while the video games industry stayed silent.
Make no mistake about it, what Thompson said yesterday was slander in every sense of the word (grammar explainer: Libel is when defamatory remarks are made in print). The fact that it was made broadly against a faceless entity like “video games” makes it harder to combat, yes, but regardless there is no excuse for not trying. And that is exactly what’s happening. Nothing.
There are a few blog posts here and there, and maybe an article will be written on some web site, but is that really what passes for a defense today?
Where are the lawsuits from Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony and all the rest? Yesterday’s claim, while baseless, negatively influences the reputations and bottom lines of these companies. Silence from the industry leaders on this issue is tantamount to an admission of guilt in the court of public opinion, and today the silence is deafening.
In the past Thompson had more ammo in his belt: there were relatively few (if any) studies debunking his wild claims, and the court cases he participated in were hazy affairs at best. But no longer. A new study released this month shows stable individuals are unaffected by violent video games. It was a “no shit” moment for many of us here in the Internet, but for mom and dad at home ”“ those folks Thompson really wants to get to ”“ it was something they might have believed at face value if some slick attorney on the TV told them to.
And then there was Virginia Tech. Thompson’s imaginary WMD. Yesterday, a line was crossed that showed us just how far a crazy individual like Thompson will go to win, and how far the indifference has seeped in the video game industry. Truly, another line was NOT crossed by the video game community yesterday that betrayed how indifferent it has become to those who mean to water down or destroy a medium that has no demonstrable effect on sane, level-headed individuals.
The fact that Thompson’s words were lies the moment they left his lips is irrelevant. Attacking Thompson as Kotaku did is a start, but in the end does little to stop the “debate” about video games from going forward. This is because he still garnered press attention and framed the debate when the public was still reeling and ill-informed about what actually occurred at Virginia Tech. Just like cigarette companies or oil conglomerates, Thompson’s “product” is not winning trials, it is creating doubt. He has done that in spades. When John Q. Public looks back on this event in his memory, video games will be linked to it.
When someone tells the “Big Lie” ”“ a firm example is the garbage he spewed about on FOX News yesterday ”“ people begin to consider at least a part of what the person says, if not all of it. That’s the beauty of the Big Lie ”“ it’s so crazy that people are almost forced to consider it. Again, we have doubt. Thompson’s Big Lie was that video games caused the massacre.
With doubt, the “debate’ about video game violence becomes a he said, she said affair with Thompson and his ilk on one end, and the proponents of video games on the other. It’s the talking head game you see on cable news these days between Democrats and Republicans. Both sides are given a chance to say their peace, and then the interview is over. What we need instead of this never ending tire spinning is radical, drastic action, just as Thompson was able to do with this unimaginable tragedy.
So I ask again, video game industry, when are you going to start fighting back?
UPDATE: Here is a link to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. If you can, head over and check it out, and leave a donation if you are able. -jack