Violence in the media and politics in the Senate

Senator Jay Rockefeller (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

I really, really didn’t want the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut to touch Pixels or Death. We write rather silly, sometimes angry, and hopefully insightful commentary about video games here. This isn’t the place for a serious discussion about gun control laws, mental healthcare issues, or gender politics without somehow relating it back to our digital pastime.

School shootings should have nothing to do with us, but we keep getting dragged kicking and screaming into the debate over the cause of these tragedies.

This time, it’s the U.S. Senate that has raised the call once again to deflect discussions away from areas where real social progress can be made and instead focus on media violence long after most researchers have exhausted the topic. As reported by the Huffington Post, Senator Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia introduced a bill this week that would have the National Academy of Sciences investigate the impact of violence media with a specific interest in video games. Study would be done in cooperation with the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission. Both senators from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal and Joe Lieberman, have come out in support of the bill.

This is all because, according to reports from people close with the shooter, he apparently played Call of Duty and Starcraft. Well, at least it wasn’t Manhunt for once.

This is exhausting. How many times do we have to go through this? Since the days of the first Mortal Kombat and then later Columbine, video games have been the first scapegoat people jump to when looking for someone to point fingers at and claim that society is crumbling (despite violent crime overall falling consistently year over year while video game sales continue to rise). So what can we do?

Let them study it again. Go ahead, do it. I say we put up zero argument and let this bill slide through.

What have we got to lose? We already know what the findings will be, they’ve been found dozens of times before through the last fifteen years. Maybe once we get this out of the way, we can start focusing on real issues. Plus, forcing the National Academy of Sciences to perform a study of their own will just make the people who came out with the idea that violent games are to blame look even more out of touch.

Yes, the Senator that proposed the bill may seem biased in his approach to the research, saying:

“Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it. They believe that violent videogames are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoon…Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists know better. These court decisions show we need to do more and explore ways Congress can lay additional groundwork on this issue.”

But remember that Rockefeller isn’t the one doing the research; it’s the National Academy of Sciences. Every study begins with an observation and hypothesis. Bias comes in while looking at the results, and for some reason I trust the NAS to at least try to approach the study with objectivity. It is literally their job.

Plus, as was referenced in that quote, the Supreme Court has already extended First Amendment rights to cover video games back in June 2011.

So whatever. Push the bill through and let’s get back to actual issues in Congress. That way, we here at Pixels or Death can finally get back to telling you how fond we are of Shaq Fu.

[photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via Adweek]