This article originally appeared on PolicyMic on 6 October 2011.
The modern media splashes us with live, up close reporting from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, violent political and social unrest in places like Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, and the aftermath of terror attacks such as 9/11, the Bali bombing, and the mass killing in Norway. We are all familiar with violent and controversial movies, TV shows, and music lyrics. Video games are another violent and arguably more controversial new medium. Though there is virtually no strong scientific evidence to support it, many continue to argue that “gamification” and exposure to violence increase violent tendencies and “desensitize” us to violence, and that this has led to an overall increase in violence in our society.
Many approach the issue of violence in society from a false perspective. Some claim that violence is always wrong and has no place in society whatsoever. Others believe that violence has a place against those they disagree with. For still others, violence is the main tool through which they deal with the world.
Violence is a natural force, regardless of what people think of it. It has been with us for all of our history and isn’t likely to leave us anytime soon. The idea that violence is something that can and should be treated like a disease is naïve and false.
Most people have likely had a conversation with someone who asserted “it didn’t used to be like this” and they’ve gone on to theorize about where we’ve gone wrong, with movies, TV, and video games being the likely culprit. The fact is that the world today is no more violent (but no less violent) than it ever was. The difference is that news of violent acts that used to takes months, weeks, or days to travel to us reaches us instantly, sometimes in graphic video form, on computers and phones. And there are a whole lot more news outlets than there used to be. This has the effect of making one believe the world has gone mad. The truth is these things were always going on. We just hear about them all now almost instantly. It is both a blessing and a curse.
There has been much discussion about America’s use and the “collateral damage” of unmanned drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen and how “push-button killing” is desensitizing us from the results of military action. Drone strikes sometimes kill several untargeted civilians to take down a single military target. The U.S. killed 150,000 in Hiroshima. The Allies killed nearly 100,000 in Dresden. Sending U.S. troops into Afghanistan and Iraq has resulted in the deaths of over 6,000 service-members. I personally can’t think of a more “sensitive” way to conduct warfare, no matter which side you’re on.
Video games and movies are not responsible for violence in our society. We are responsible for it. Violence is in our nature as human beings. Instead of decrying the existence of violence, we should focus more on the reasoned, proportionate, and realistic controlled use of it.