The heinous crime late last week that took the lives of 12 persons and wounded 58 in Aurora, Colorado, has led to a number of so-called pundits and commentators pontificating about the danger caused by America’s inadequate gun laws, even though Aurora had strict gun control laws. However, to put the monstrous criminal act in some perspective, in President Obama’s adopted hometown of Chicago, there have been more than twenty-five times the number of people murdered so far in 2012 than died in the Aurora massacre.
Most of us respond to the murdered victims of Chicago with a mere shrug of the shoulders, and perhaps a momentary outrage, but then we move on. Sadly, that includes President Obama. Had one or two persons in Aurora brought their legal and licensed, concealed weapons with them to the theater, lives would have been saved. Although the Second Amendment serves primarily as a check on an oppressive and authoritarian government, it has other benefits to our society. As most of my readers know, an armed society is a polite society.
I noted that one of the alleged killer’s former classmates said that the accused killer Holmes had lost touch with reality after becoming “obsessed” with video games. His classmate told the Daily Mail: “James was obsessed with computer games . . . I can’t remember which one, but it was something like World of Warcraft . . . He did not have much of a life apart from that. . . . James seemed like he wanted to be in the game and be one of the characters. . . It seemed that being online was more important to him than real life.” And in his first court appearance, media reports said the accused killer believed he was The Joker playing his role in a film.
In the midst of the terror caused by the gunman, few have dared to suggest that the violence in video games, television programs and films have spawned and contributed to the violence in our society. I understand that the research into media violence and its effects on children is a “highly polarized research field,” according to Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor at Texas A&M International University. Nevertheless, numerous studies have shown that watching excessive amounts of violence on television or playing violent video games produces aggressive tendencies in children and young adults. Even so, we are fortunate in that for most children, even though they are affected at some level by watching excessive violence, they do not typically trigger violence in real-life situations.
One of the few who has sought to link the events of Aurora, Colorado, with excessive media violence has been Charles Hurt, who wrote an open letter to Christopher Nolan, Sean Penn and Warner Brothers. In his open letter, available here, he appeals to the consciences of “a bunch of smutty purveyors of violent fantasy, half-rate actors and an industry of sick narcissism.” I quote at length from his letter:
Your celebrations of diabolical mayhem and pornographic violence prey on the fantasies of sick, fragile minds. You insulated them from the painful reality of bloodshed. You have inspired mass murder. You are the Osama bin Laden of this travesty. . . . When you die, your grave stones should read: Here lie men who created such horrific, meaningless violence in such realistic scenes that a sicko carried it out for real and shot 70 people, killing 12, including a 6-year-old girl. To be fair, you haven’t only inspired murderous rampages. It is true that you have also entertained. But is the fleetingness of that entertainment nearly so profound as the terror you inspired here? Will it outlast the irreversible permanency of 12 deaths, including that of a 6-year-old girl? Which brings us to Warner Brothers, those titans of decency. You bankrolled “The Dark Knight Rises” and so many other pointlessly violent movies that infect feeble minds and bring hatred upon America. You, it is reported, are feeling really sad about those poor saps who paid to see your wicked movies — only to have the very scenes come alive and kill them in the dark, sticky rows between seats of a movie theater. Out of your “respect” for these people, you declared you would not announce box office receipts from this weekend’s snuff film. Instead, you will count your $150 million in blood money — privately. One day, you will meet the original Joker, the inventor of all evil who is diabolical and depraved so far beyond your furthest, sickest imaginations and there, in his lair, you will spend the rest of eternity wishing you had had a little decency back when you had the chance.
Yes, Mr. Hurt is very, very angry, and we should be as well. I am reminded of St. Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” And perhaps it might help change things in a more positive direction if we refuse to go to such violent films and to stop buying violent video games. After all, the journey to a national recovery must begin with a single step. Let it begin with me.