Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The People Who Believe The Victims of Sandy Hook Were Actors

I don’t know if any of you guys reading have ever been part of a nationwide conspiracy that includes staging shootings in multiple states, spoon-feeding the story to the media, and using a ton of Black Ops and bribes to cover it all up each time an investigator puts two and two together.

I imagine it gets expensive, though.

At least that seems to be the logic behind one of the latest conspiracies to spring up in the wake of the recent tragedy I was discussing in my last post; these guys are claiming that many of the families, news reporters, victims and in some cases even the perpetrator are all actors hired by the government to play roles in staged tragedies and massacres. Apparently the major conspiracy that controls the entirety of the USA is trying to keep costs down by re-using these actors in different places.

The lovely folks have Snopes have traced the origins of this theory to Wellaware1, a site that, amongst other things, has claimed that both Hitler and Walt Disney were characters portrayed by the son of US President Theodore Roosevelt. And that Jack White was the real perpretrator of the Aurora shootings, amongst others. So clearly they know what they’re talking about.

Others have taken this nuttyness and run with it since then, however; this video uses a photo of the Two and a Half Men actor Angus T Jones from when he was around eleven years old (he’s nineteen now, by the by) to claim that he portrayed one of the victims of the tragedy just a few weeks ago. Oh, and apparently Fox News, CNN and many other news sources are all under the control of Obama as part of a conspiracy to destroy the Second Amendment and take away the guns.

Obama’s even more cunning than we thought; he’s using Fox News’ frequent and excessive criticism of him as a smokescreen for the fact that they secretly do his bidding, the diabolical bastard.

I know I’m not really giving this thing a fair trial but honestly, what else am I supposed to do? The people spreading this particularly noxious brand of shit aren’t just paranoid as hell, they’re insulting the real people who were affected by this tragedy, insulting the memories of the real victims. It’s deplorable.

Seriously, if such a widespread, quasi-omniscient conspiracy existed you’d think they could afford to hire more actors.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Question: Do Video Games Cause Violent Behaviour? Answer: No.

“Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.”
- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, majority opinion in Brown v. EMA/ESA

Merry ‘Insert-Whichever-Holiday-You-Happen-To-Celebrate-At-The-End-Of-The-Year’ and a Happy New Year to you, dear readers. Sorry for the truly atrocious rate of updates for this thing; I am trying to get stuff written, I swear.

With that said, let’s get stuck right into the topic at hand.

So, confession right off the bat; I’m a fan of video games, and have been since I was a kid. I grew up on games like Mario and Sonic, the Half-Life series is nothing short of magnificent (give us Episode 3, Gabe), and I think they’re an exciting, ever-expanding form of entertainment with opportunities for audience interaction unparalleled by any other form of media.

I’ve also never murdered anyone, either.

Strange that I should have to add this, yes, but in the news frenzy that tends to follow on from senseless tragedies I’d forgive many people for being led to believe otherwise. I’m going to avoid addressing the aforementioned tragedy directly; you know the one I’m referring to, it’s been discussed, and repeatedly bringing up such a travesty only helps to exacerbate the problem. In the wake of such events, it’s understandable that many seek an explanation as to what could cause something so awful to happen. This is only natural; we are pattern-seeking animals, after all, and we desire a reason for an act.

Yet this understandable phenomenon can very often take a nasty form, namely the labelling of some form of media as the cause of the tragedy. It’s happened time and time again. When John Lennon was shot and his killer claimed he was inspired by The Catcher In The Rye, people called for the book to be banned. Hip-Hop is often blamed for violence amongst young people.

And when a mentally disturbed individual walks into a public place and starts firing, people often blame the video games.

Now, commentators far wiser, well read and wittier than I have already covered this very topic, and their rundowns of the issue are pretty damn comprehensive (I’ll link them at the end, and you guys should really consider checking them out), so you might think that someone like me writing about this is a little pointless. But given that just a few days from now the town of Southington, Connecticut intends to collect together violentvideo games and likely burn them (because nothing says calm and rational like a bunch of townspeople getting together to destroy things they don’t like), I do feel the need to make known the colours I fly and let people know why folks making the correlation between violence in video games and violence in real life are wrong.

Correlation does not equal causation, people.

The idea of video games being linked to violence is not a new one. It’s been around for many a year, and in those years many a study has been conducted. Thus it’s safe to assume that if a link between violence in video games and violence in real life was indeed a thing, we likely would have found it by now or at least have an inkling of its existence. Yet consistently, the studies that are worth a damn (that is to stay, properly-conducted studies with decent control and whose authors didn’t set out with an agenda already in mind) have shown that no such link exists. In fact, as the ESA note in one of the links, “violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s. During the same period of time, video games have steadily increased in popularity and use, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if there were a causal link.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. There are plenty of things wrong with video games and the video game industry today. Please don’t get me started on the shitty business practices of companies like Sony and EA. They are guilty of plenty of things, but the blame for the recent tragedy and others like it is not one of them. Simply put, speculation as to what the cause of a school-shooting might be is an extremely tricky tight-rope to walk; as Stephen Novella noted in a recent The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe episode, there are more variables in such an event than there are data points, so anyone offering up answers like “video games done it” are guilty of massively over-simplifying the issue.

Whether you personally disapprove of the violence it portrays, violent media has a right to exist. As I’ve said before, I think such media can be extremely valuable, powerful and worthwhile. Don’t believe me? Check out stuff like ‘Spec Ops: The Line’ (one of the few games to really nail the horrors of war in a truly mature, sincere manner) or Telltale’s ‘The Walking Dead’. And if it really isn’t your thing? That’s perfectly fine, too, but blaming it for events we have no explanation for isn’t the way to go about things.

To quote the guys at Penny Arcade, “it’s a very odd sort of Patriot that would destroy the First Amendment to protect the Second.”