Does Playing Violent Video Games Make Kids Violent?

In the wake of the Newtown shootings, a variety of people are trying to connect violent video games and mass murder. Like most 12 year old boys, my sons love playing FPS games on the Xbox. Their mother and step-mother aren’t big fans of allowing this, which means I’m out-voted, so I have limited what they can and can’t play over the last few years, much to their chagrin.

Like everyone else in my generation, i grew up watching violent films and playing video games. Obviously the technology has changes a lot over the last ten years, and playing Black Ops II is a world away from playing Frogger or Doom, Wolfenstein and Duke NukeEm which were available when we were in our 20s. But the same Chicken Little cries that video games are making kids violent is what we heard about Arnie movies and rap music in the 80s.

Now I love violent movies, the bloodier and gorier the better. I love rap music too, particularly of the NWA / Dr Dre / OG variety. Yet I don’t have a violent bone in my body. I also love classical music, art, poetry, philosophy, art-house films, Shakespeare and kittens. But perhaps I’m the anomaly?

So I keep an eye on the research every few years, looking to see if there is a conclusive link between violent movies and games and violence in real life.

I recently read a report on the Australian Government’s classification site called “Literature review on the  impact of playing violent  video games on aggression” from September 2010. I actually opened this report expecting it to be critical of video games, however it’s conclusion states:

Significant harmful effects from VVGs have not been persuasively proven or disproven.
There is some consensus that VVGs may be harmful to certain populations, such as people
with aggressive and psychotic personality traits. Overall, most studies have consistently
shown a small statistical effect of VVG exposure on aggressive behaviour, but there are
problems with these findings that reduce their policy relevance. Overall, as illustrated in this
review, research into the effects of VVGs on aggression is contested and inconclusive.

The report suggests that the evidence shows that kids with aggressive family situations or prior aggression of any kind may be more affected by VVGs than other kids, which makes sense.

If there was a correlation between video games and violence, we should see similar levels of violence in all countries where video games are popular – which is ALL of them. And that just isn’t the case. Levels of violence have been dropping in most countries over the last couple of decades – the United States being a major exception.

Dr Christopher Ferguson, associate professor of psychology and communication at the University of Texas,

recently pointed out that 

“in fact, in most countries youth violence has reached 40 year lows during the video game epoch.”

 

What are we to conclude from all this?

1. There is no conclusive evidence that violent video games lead to aggression or violence.

2. People suggesting that they do are either a) ill-informed or b) trying to distract people from the real issues driving mass shootings in the USA – easy access to semi-automatic weapons and ammunition and lack of access to mental health treatment.

 

 

Which Is Safer? Iraq, Iran or USA?

Data Comparison from GunPolicy.org Facts

 

 

Based on this data from The University of Sydney, you are safer living in Iran or Iraq than in the USA.

By the way, I included France because one justification I’ve heard for America’s gun obsession lately is that they fought a revolution and a civil war, so, you know, they, like, need guns.

Yeah well France had a revolution, too. Oh and they were fucking INVADED BY THE NAZIS. Was America invaded by the Nazis? No? Then shut up. The French actually have a very high rate of gun ownership. In a comparison of the rate of private gun ownership in 179 countries, France ranked at No. 12. However their access to handguns, semi-automatics and full automatics is highly restricted.

Here is how France’s gun homicide ranks against the USA:

france vs USA

The Facts About Guns In Australia

It's funny the kinds of bullshit you hear from people when they are trying to justify their ideology.

I got into a Facebook discussion today with Rob McNealy, my guest on a recent podcast about gun control in the USA. Rob posted comparing gun laws in Mexico to America, suggesting that tighter gun laws in Mexico haven't made it safer. I pointed out that Mexico's GDP is about one fifth that of the United States and he should really compare the USA to a country with similar economics – like Australia.

Rob replied “You are trying to deny the fact that gun control don't stop murder from happening. You are a typical anti-liberty liberal that wants to create MORE murder victims.”

I explained that in the years after the Port Arthur massacre, the risk of dying by gunshot in Australia fell by more than 50% — and stayed there, quoting an article from CNN.

He then replied with this post, claiming that “the percent of murders committed with a firearm (in Australia) was the highest it had ever been in 2006″. His source even claimed this data was from “Australian Bureau of Criminology”.

Oh really? I googled “Australian Bureau of Criminology” and I came up blank. There is an “Australian INSTITUTE of Criminology” but Rob's source doesn't reference any particular report or website, so I don't know where they got their data from. In fact, it is likely they pulled it out of their asses.

This information about the high rate of 2006 gun murders is totally at odds with data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which shows that in 2006, gun homicides in Australia were at an all time LOW.

Here is a graph from UTS. See that huge drop after 1996? That's when Johnny Howard introduced the National Firearm Agreement and the buy-back scheme that aimed to eliminate semi-automatic firearms in Australia. It appears that our gun homicide rate fell by 50% immediately and has continued to drop.

gun homicides australia

Tell me again how “gun control don't stop murder from happening”?

This second graph is from the ABS and shows the falling rates of guns homicides as a percentage of all homicides. Again – a big drop off after 1996. Although this chart stops at 2003, the ABS site for 2006 confirms that the percentage of homicides from firearms in 2006 was an all-time low.

 

homicides australia as percentage

Unfortunately, Rob's source was the “National Center For Policy Analysis” which, according to SourceWatch, is funded by conservative billionaires like the Koch brothers. You can tell people are desperate when they resort to making up bullshit to support their arguments. Of course, most of their readers are not likely to do their own research, much like Fox News viewers, and will just regurgitate the NCPA's claims.

The real question is whether or not the NFA had much of an impact on overall homicides or if they were already dropping due to other factors. What we *do* know for certain is that there hasn't been another mass shooting in Australia since 1996. However homicides have only demonstrated a slight decrease since then. The rise in sexual assault is thought to be an increase in reporting of sexual assault, not an actual increase in incidents.

By the way, here is a chart of America's gun homicides since 1998:

gun homicides USA

So, the next time you hear someone tell you that gun control didn't work in Australia, you can just send them to this post and facepalm.

 

 

 

 

No Illusions Podcast #58 – Brad H Talks Iran

Today I welcome back to the show Brad Heitmann (aka Brad The Mormon). This time we’re talking about Iran. FOR TWO HOURS. Fer realz.Ermahgerd.

Brad travelled to Iran in 2009 around the time of their Presidential elections and the riots. He spent a couple of hours at a dinner listening to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

We discuss the history of Iran, their current nuclear program and America’s history of invading countries to get at their natural resources.

The Further Decline Of Commercial Radio

The recent “Royal Prank” episode of 2DayFM in Sydney is just the most recent scandal in current spate, mostly coming out of Sydney. Kyle Sandilands, Alan Jones and now Michael Christian and Mel Grieg – why are these radio hosts and their employers resorting to creating scandal after scandal?

Because it works.

Every time one of these hosts says or does something to outrage people, we see the same old process:

1. There’s lots of hype in the news media about it – not because it is news per se, but because a artificial scandal makes it easier for “news” organisations in Australia to fill up airtime or column inches than actually having to commit acts of journalism. As we all know, there are hardly any journalists actually working for news organisations any more in this country, but anyone can rent their garments and decry acts of bad taste. A scandal pulls in eyeballs and that means more money for the “news” organisation without actually having to do any real “news” work. Total win.

2. The stations and the hosts involved either claim they don’t know what all the fuss is about or put on a false act of contrition. The host is pulled off the air for a day or two. Advertising is pulled from the show for a few days. Station management claims the host will be counselled (while I suspect they are quietly all popping champagne corks in the backrooms).

3. Finally, the show goes back on the air and is rewarded with a ratings bump, which means more listeners, which means more advertising dollars. Everyone wins.

Thank you, capitalism. The idiocracy rules. To keep the public’s attention, radio needs to pull stupider and stupider stunts.

Let’s look at the data.

After Alan Jones’s most recent scandal, the comment about Gillard’s father, his show actually increased its lead. And his lead has continued to increase since then.

Kyle Sandilands’ much maligned show continues to perform well, although apparently Kyle & Jackie O’s show has taken a small rating slide of late, so expect another “scandal” from him, as soon as this whole royal affair has blown over.

The recent scandal-created suicide is a tragic outcome to this marketing tactic. Of course, the corporate media who bleated about it incessantly for the first couple of days haven’t taken any responsibility for the tragic denouement. It’s almost as if they had absolutely no involvement in the story blowing up.

What can we do about it? Is more media regulation the answer? It wouldn’t hurt. But the real answer is STOP LISTENING TO COMMERCIAL RADIO. Listen to podcasts. If you MUST listen to radio, listen to the ABC or Triple J.

I haven’t listened to radio for close to a decade. My life is much better off as a result. Commercial media can only continue to plumb the depths of idiocy while people keep listening to them. I seriously don’t understand what value people get our of radio in 2012. In an era of ubiquitous iPhones and podcasts and Spotify, radio is, more than ever, a dinosaur. I know I’ve been predicting the imminent demise of radio for a long time, but seriously…. what is wrong with people?? I really don’t understand how people put up with the ads. After ten years with no ads (I don’t have a TV either), they drive me nuts when I accidentally hear one. How do people allow their brain to be constantly polluted with that shit?

TURN OFF – TUNE OUT – TAKE CONTROL

 

Bundaberg’s Hidden Slave Trade

From the Brisbane Times:

Hidden under an old cane plantation outside the Queensland sugar city of Bundaberg lies an awful secret.

Beyond the weeping fig trees the bodies of 29 South Sea Islanders are buried in an unmarked grave.

(Slavery buried in Qld mass grave: Islanders)

They were called “Kanakas“. Growing up in Bundy I was taught that they were “workers”. Wikipedia claims “Of the more than 60,000 Islanders recruited from 1863, the majority were to be “repatriated” (that is, deported) by the Australian Government between 1906-08 under the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901 legislation prompted by the White Australia policy.”

Or, as the above story suggests, just murdered and thrown into mass graves.

 

Fascination With Blood Sacrifice

I’ve been wondering lately about why we are so deeply affected by stories about religious martyrs.

I’m guessing it goes back to worshipping bronze age gods and deciding to sacrifice a prized calf or first-born daughter in return for a bountiful crop or success in the battlefield. The person willing to sacrifice their child (or themselves) was doing it for the good of the tribe and we learned to treat them as holy figures. Fast forward a few thousand years and people still go weak for the idea of “he died for our sins”. It seems to have a very powerful effect on their Paleomammalian brain.

I was thinking about the Mormons yesterday and postulating that one of the reasons their particular cult survived was because Joseph Smith was assassinated and martyred. Religious types like nothing more than a martyr.

Sam Harris wrote about blood sacrifice in his afterword to “Letter To A Christian Nation”:

Humanity has had a long fascination with blood sacrifice. In fact, it has been by no means uncommon for a child to be born into this world only to be patiently and lovingly reared by religious maniacs, who believe that the best way to keep the sun on its course or to ensure a rich harvest is to lead him by tender hand into a field or to a mountaintop and bury, butcher, or burn him alive as offering to an invisible God. Countless children have been unlucky enough to be born in so dark an age, when ignorance and fantasy were indistinguishable from knowledge and where the drumbeat of religious fanaticism kept perfect time with every human heart. In fact, almost no culture has been exempt from this evil: the Sumerians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Canaanites, Maya, Inca, Aztecs, Olmecs, Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Teutons, Celts, Druids, Vikings, Gauls, Hindus, Thais, Chinese, Japanese, Scandinavians, Maoris, Melanesias, Tahitians, Hawaiians, Balinese, Australian aborigines, Iroquois, Huron, Cherokee, and innumerable other societies ritually murdered their fellow human beings because they believed that invisible gods and goddesses, having an appetite for human flesh, could be so propitiated. Many of their victims were of the same opinion, in fact, and went willingly to slaughter, fully convinced that their deaths would transform the weather, or cure the king of his venereal disease, or in some other way spare their fellows the wrath of the Unseen.

The Ca$holics of course take it a step further. They literally believe (well, they are supposed to) that they are eating the actual flesh of Jesus when they take communion. Holy Cannibalism, Batman!  It’s a wonder there aren’t religions devoted to Hannibal Lecter. Oh no, wait, he’s the eatER, not the eatEE.

So anyway, I’m interested in understanding more about the evolutionary reasons for our fascination with blood sacrifice. If anyone knows anything about it, please educate me. Oh and I’ve started a Branch on the topic, too.