The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about Basketball Diaries?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it. The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory.
“Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
NOT THE ONION. This is a United States Senator, who has an enormous amount of power and responsibility. If you live in Tennessee, and don’t agree that video games are a bigger problem than guns, maybe you could pick up the phone and let him know: (202) 224-4944
I live in Tennessee and held a great deal of respect for Mr. Alexander’s service to our state until he made this asinine statement. His record on gun control is not surprising. One of his largest sponsors in the 2008 election was the NRA. Mr. Alexander has received an “A” rating in the past (2003) regarding his support of pro-gun legislation. Conveniently, the NRA locks their current rating information behind the pay wall for members. Like Wil, I encourage anyone who enjoys gaming as a hobby or feels strongly about limiting the types of weapons available on U.S. streets to call Mr. Alexander or email him here.
It is beyond belief that following the Newtown tragedy, the National Rifle Association’s leaders want to fill our communities with guns and arm more Americans. The NRA points the finger of blame everywhere and anywhere it can, but they cannot escape the devastating effects of their reckless comments and irresponsible lobbying tactics. The NRA leadership is wildly out of touch with its own members, responsible gun owners, and the American public who want to close dangerous loopholes and enact common-sense gun safety reform. It is clear that their real priority is to help gun manufacturers sell more guns—not to protect our children or Americans’ rights. The extreme rhetoric of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA is disturbing and dangerous, and will only exacerbate America’s deadly culture of gun violence.