Human Events Blog

Hollywood gets off the gun-violence hook again

Absent from President Obama’s blizzard of executive orders on gun control Wednesday was any real pressure against the entertainment industry, which some (notably NRA executive Wayne LaPierre) have blamed for creating the culture of nihilism and violence that leads to mass shootings – or, to cite the lingering problem that will remain long after Newtown hysteria has faded, the mass number of individual shootings that our media “gatekeepers” scarcely even notice.

The Washington Times noticed that the silence on cultural issues was deafening:

President Obama’s plans to curb gun violence focus heavily on firearm restrictions and on mental health, but video games and movies — two cultural issues that many Americans blame for violence — got little attention Wednesday.

Mr. Obama said he would ask Congress to pump $10 million into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a study on the relationship between video games and violence, but didn’t ask for any additional controls.

“Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” the president said. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”

Mr. Obama didn’t mention movies or television programs at all in his remarks.

It’s a shift from last month, when Mr. Obama assigned Vice President Joseph R. Biden to head a task force to “look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence,” in addition to mental health and access to guns and ammunition.

When the biggest spender in history only wants to blow a measly $10 million on a pointless study and some toothless recommendations, you know he really doesn’t care about the issue.  $10 million is barely half of a Hawaiian vacation to him.

Of course, Obama and his Party get big bucks from the entertainment industry.  It’s one of the very special “special interests” that Obama would never actually identify using that name, even though he spent part of his big gun control speech railing against other “special interests,” by which he means “anyone with a subscriber database who opposes me.”  As it happens, the current titular head of the movie industry is a political bigwig who has a massive amount of political clout, having joined Barack Obama in skating away from any serious blame for his role in nearly crashing the financial system of the entire planet:

Ahead of Mr. Obama’s speech, the entertainment industry warned the White House against going further.

Motion Picture Association of America chief Chris Dodd, a former U.S. senator from Connecticut who served in the Senate alongside Mr. Obama, told the Hollywood Reporter last week that he would “vehemently” oppose any government mandates to limit violence in movies.

After Mr. Obama’s speech, several film industry groups released a statement welcoming “further academic examination.”

The Entertainment Software Association on Wednesday praised Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden for a “thoughtful, comprehensive process.

Personally, I think the business of blaming violent behavior on movies, television shows, or video games tends to be overdone.  It is very difficult to measure such things empirically.  There have already been many studies along the lines of the one Obama wants the CDC to undertake, and the results have been contradictory – some claim to find a link between entertainment media in general, or video games in particular, and aggressive behavior, while others do not.  Some of these studies report signs of aroused physiology while playing violent games, but that’s hardly direct evidence of an increased willingness to injure or kill people.  (It only seems like common sense that people would display physical signs of excitement while interactively participating in an exciting activity.)

This isn’t a debate the CDC is well-qualified to settle, as the Wall Street Journal observes:

Beyond the question of politicizing scientific research, however, [Texas A&M psychology professor Chris] Ferguson noted that the CDC’s background in epidemiological research may not be the best way to review a psychological study like the effect of violent video games on their players. This type of research, he argued, would require a long-term, longitudinal study of a relatively large group of participants, and tend to only deliver new findings in “very tiny, very hard to find details.”

“None of them would be easy, none of them would be short term,” Ferguson said, chuckling. “And at the end of it, what do they have? They’ve got one more study to throw into the mix.”

“Is the study likely to quote-unquote ‘answer the question?’” he concluded. “Probably not.”

But let’s not allow such practical considerations to keep us from blowing another $10 million of taxpayer money on a pointless exercise that lets President Obama check off the “cultural concerns” box.

As the Journal points out, any serious effort to control these cultural factors would swiftly run afoul of the First Amendment.  But if the Second Amendment is negotiable, and those who wish to exercise it must constantly defend and justify their rights, why should that stop us?  Let’s face it, a big chunk of the First Amendment is gone already, as ObamaCare gives government bureaucrats the power to decide who deserves “freedom of religion” and who does not.

Another executive order from the President explicitly deploys ObamaCare as a gun control tool, by using doctors to gather information about gun owners.  The government control of health care gives it limitless power, because anything and everything can be defined as a “health issue” with a little creativity.  Hollywood and its First Amendment rights mean nothing against such an imperative.  But they donate vast amounts of money to the ruling Party, and they are happy to make even more valuable in-kind donations by transmitting its cultural message, so they don’t have anything to worry about.  At worst, they might be obliged to issue some promises to tone down the violence a bit, and perhaps increase their output of family-friendly movies, which tend to be more profitable anyway.

But in truth, the cultural factors most directly conducive to violence are not emanating from video screens, and most of that violence is not delivered by mentally unbalanced self-destructing mass murderers.  The Wall Street Journal’s account of Obama’s gun control press conference veers close to the cultural truth nobody really wants to discuss:

Obama’s press conference focuses primarily access to and control of real-world weapons, so the President did not make any sweeping statements about the need to limit or censor video game content. In its June 2011 rule on Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that video games are protected speech, which would make any proposal to ban certain games or types of content legally tenuous. That same month, Obama commented somewhat critically on the amount of time children spend playing video games, writing in a Father’s Day essay for People magazine that “every father can encourage his child to turn off the video games and pick up a book; to study hard and stay in school.”

Fathers?  What are those?  Why would they be important?  What could we do to increase our supply of them?

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