From the May 2004 Idaho Observer:
Pentagon, media conspire to produce legions of killers
No parent, teacher or concerned citizen should underestimate the impact media violence and sexual depravity is having on our society. Today's children are incessantly bombarded with extremely graphic images that are destroying their sense of reality and blurring the division between right and wrong. We can see the evidence all around us and published science supports what we already know to be true: A daily diet of perverse sex and violence adversely affects individuals and has an adverse affect on society as a whole. It would be one thing if media violence were a simple matter of supply and demand. But, apparently, Hollywood, video game developers and the Pentagon are conspiring to destroy polite society and create legions of mass murderers.
by Don Harkins
Military Consultant Colonel David Grossman has written the book, Stop Teaching Our Children to Kill (2003). The book is a shocking expose' of the effects that violent movies, TV shows and video games are having on today's children. The book also gives a rather chilling peek into future society when generations of children raised amid all this media violence assume positions of authority in society.
Grossman explained that over 1,000 studies have determined a link between media violence and increasing violence among children. Grossman is particularly concerned about video games, many of which are developed with the help of military consultants employed by the Pentagon.
The nation's most popular on-line video game, America's Army, was developed by Colonel Casey Wardynsky as a recruiting tool. The game has been so successful that home video play station and gameboy editions are currently being developed to increase the numbers of cyber-soldiers deployed on the Army's virtual battlefield. Video games are teaching future soldiers and police to kill without thinking, Grossman said.
Renate, a Swiss school teacher, gave a presentation of media violence based on Grossman's book during weeklong discussions in Switzerland about the rising tide of classroom violence to some 250 teachers, psychologists and physicians April 9-17, 2004. Renate explained that the relationship between school-aged obsession with violent media is critical to understanding why teachers are seeing dramatic increases in violent behavior among school children.
Renate, who speaks, reads and writes English very well, was so moved by the information Grossman put into his book she contacted him and is currently working to translate Stop Teaching Our Children to Kill into German.
These things should not be referred to as games. They are training programs for mass murderers. They are militarizing our youth, Renate observed.
To become competent at these programs, young, impressionable children must spend hours each day in front of a computer or with a little gameboy in his hand. During that time, the child disappears completely into the virtual world of the game. Winning many of the most popular games available today require assaulting, mass murdering and even raping other people.
Craig Anderson of the University of Iowa recently published his findings that children who are not well-attached to their parents more readily attach themselves to violent video games. Historically, children raised in well-attached home environments tend to develop fewer neuroses as adults.
Another study shows that children commonly react to these games by taking on the identity of the character. A perfect vehicle to get children hooked on violence, Renate commented.
Video game technology has progressed significantly since Atari came out with Pong in the mid-70s. In just 30 years the electronically unsophisticated, conceptually benign and visually unexciting Pong has been replaced by extremely complex computer games with high resolution, extremely graphic, full color images depicting perverse sex and mass murderous violence. While Pong and popular 1980s games such as PacMan, Asteroids and Space Invaders were seemingly harmless arcade entertainment, today's video games commonly require the player to virtually engage in visually graphic violence and mass murder.
At the same gathering attended by Renate indicated above, Giorge, a software engineer, reviewed the history and development of computer games from Pong to Jonestown Massacre -- a popular mass murder video game. Giorge charted the steady increase in violent incidents among school children since the introduction of video games.
Brain scan studies
Grossman believes the final nail in Hollywood's coffin will be the brain scan studies that are now coming out around the world.
Once upon a time I could show you two X-rays: One of a smoker's lung and one of a healthy lung. End of discussion, Grossman said and continued, Now I can show you two brains scans: One of a healthy child and one of a child 'whacked out' from media violence. End of discussion.
According to Grossman, The Center for Successful Parenting (CSP) funded the original brain scan research conducted by the Indiana University Medical Department in 1996. This research has since been replicated in Texas and Japan.
Grossman believes that science proves what we see in society, that increases in violence among children correspond with increased exposure to increasingly violent video games.
See brain scan images next page. [in the hard copy edition of the Idaho Observer]
Entertainment industry disagrees
In an effort to diminish the impact these reports may have on sales, the entertainment industry has come out in denial of the link between media violence and violence in the classroom. The Media Coalition, a First Amendment advocacy organization, supported by the Video Software Dealers Assn. and the Interactive Digital Software Assn., recently released the results of its study, Shooting the Messenger: Why Censorship Won't Stop Violence. The Coalition stated its study, demonstrated that, while research indicated there were various causes for street violence, none was linked directly to media violence.
The Coalition agrees public access to media has grown tremendously during the time period covered in the study. However, the Coalition disagrees with those who believe incidents of violence are increasing. "...violent crime has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 30 years" the Coalition said.
CSP has produced a brochure entitled, Parental Warning: Violent Media Exposure Has a Negative Effect On Your Child's Brain. The brochure succinctly describes the results of the brain scan research it funded (see page 5).
Though independent studies have linked biochemical imbalances in children to childhood violence, organized medicine has thus far refused to acknowledge the link. However, organized medicine is willing to link media violence to the increased incidence of violent behavior among children. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a joint statement endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, told Congress that, of all the causes of violent crime in American, media violence is the single most remediable factor.
Another approach in determining the impact media violence has on children would be to see what happens when their exposure to it is removed.
In spring, 2001, Stanford University published the results of such a study. In essence, the study showed that less television equals less violence. Grossman commented that, The study found a 50 percent decrease in verbal aggression and a 40 percent decrease in physical aggression, just by encouraging kids to turn off their televisions and video games.
Grossman describes the Stanford study:
According to the U.S. Secret Service, in 1998 alone there were 35 kids murdered in acts of school violence and a quarter of a million were seriously injured.
If we had a quarter of a million kids seriously injured by school fire every year, and we knew that fire drills would reduce that by 40 percent, would we have a moral obligation to conduct fire drills? You bet. So, if we have a quarter of a million kids a year seriously injured by school violence, and we knew that educating them about the health impact of media violence would reduce that by 40 percent, would we have a moral obligation to conduct media violence education? You better believe it.
The Stanford data was gathered at two similar San Jose elementary schools. Researchers first carefully assessed the baseline level of aggressive behavior in 192 third- and fourth-graders through playground observations and interviews. They then introduced a curriculum at one school meant to encourage children to cut back on video games and watch less television. Two-thirds of the pupils agreed to participate in an initial, 10-day effort to turn off their televisions, which was monitored by slips signed by parents. Over half of them limited their television watching to less than seven hours per week during the next 20 weeks.
After 20 weeks, the researchers found a 40 percent reduction in physical aggression, and a 50 percent reduction in the level of verbal aggression in the overall population at the experimental school, compared with the other that did not follow the curriculum. The children who were the most aggressive at the outset of the study had the most to gain, and did in fact show the greatest benefit. The researchers also noted a significant reduction in obesity and overeating problems in the school where the curriculum was introduced.
We should be encouraged by the Stanford Study. It indicates that problems associated with media violence are not permanent and can simply disappear when exposure to media violence is removed.
The Stanford Study was supported by an anecdote supplied by Grossman. I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful lady who runs a state-sponsored school in Canada for violent Native American boys from the backwoods country. The kids in this Canadian school were placed there because they are prone to violence, so much so that the Mounties had to be called almost daily. The program was designed so that kids would attend the school for a short while and then get cycled out at the end of the semester.
With one group of boys, the principal removed television and all violent video games from their lives. Remember that the Stanford Study found that the most violent kids were impacted the greatest when television was taken out of their lives. At the Canadian school, there was a 90 percent reduction in violence among the boys who had television and video games removed, compared to any previous group of boys who had been through that school.
The common denominator
Investigations into every homicidal schoolyard rampage in America reveals that the perpetrating youths involved play violent video games and watch violent movies and TV shows. There is no indication our government intends to pass intervening legislation to regulate underage access to violent entertainment.
Similarly, biochemical imbalances triggered by childrens' exposure to vaccines, drugs and chemicals have been linked to schoolyard violence and government is just now beginning to realize the need to study the problem (see page 9).
It appears that government has no real desire to reduce violence or admit the relationship between TV, video games and violence or drugs, chemicals and violence. Why? Because government policies actually promote violence as if it's critical to some perverse national security interest.
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