Why blame guns or gangs when you can blame video games?

Agnes Sina-Inakoju, 16, was accidentally gunned down in a UK pizza shop last April. Her killers were targeting rival gang members.

Let’s say a group of young men — ages 17 to 22 — are involved in street gangs. And let’s say they have a small arsenal of automatic weapons. Now, let’s say they take one of those firearms, get on bicycles, and spray bullets into a local pizza shop, hoping to kill rivals. Instead, one of those bullets hits a 16-year-old schoolgirl in the throat, and she dies two days later.

Would you blame the killing on video games? Well, you might, if the killers turned out to be avid video-game fans. (Even though there’s no evidence that video games make players kill). However, there’s no indication that the gunmen, Leon Dunkley, 22, and Mohammed Smoured, 21, were gamers.

Nevermind that pesky detail. Actress Stefanie Powers and Anne Diamond have clearly got it all sorted out. The duo — obviously experts on video games and culture — appeared on UK television last week to offer their well-informed opinions just as Dunkley and Smoured were being sentenced to 32 years in prison for Agnes Sina-Inakoju’s murder.

“I hate to think that as Americans we’ve exported along with rap music and the horrible video… I say the horrible video culture. It’s the horrible violent video games [wiggles thumbs] which, I’m terribly sorry, they’ve been used far too long as baby-sitting devices, so that children are raised with these flashing, hot symbols of violence. And irresponsible violence; there’s no responsibility to the violence,” Powers said. What?

Diamond’s comments made even less sense: “Well in fact, having just that sort of armoury under his bed – just like you’d have a couple of Nintendos and a PlayStation under your bed.”

I highly doubt that Dunkley and Smoured thought of this cache of weapons as being anything like “a couple of Nintendos and a PlayStation.” In fact, the only person who seems to think that they are comparable is Diamond. At least, I hope the folks watching and listening to her didn’t actually think she was onto something.

This is at least as ridiculous as Carol Lieberman’s comments on Bulletstorm. I realize that getting ill-informed celebrities to talk on television — and offer outrageous theories on topics they know nothing about — is a tactic that draws readers, conversation, clicks, retweets, and so on. Unfortunately, such tactics only bring attention to dangerously misinformed ideas and makes vulnerable people (parents especially) afraid that the people talking are right.

If we, as a culture, ever want to get to the bottom of youth-involved shootings — and perhaps prevent them from happening — then this kind of malarkey really has to stop. Fortunately, UK gaming site ComputersandVideoGames.com is launching W.R.O.N.G., “a concerted campaign to stop (or at least loudly mock) the Witless and Ridiculous Opinions Of Non-Gamers.” Not that “experts” like Powers and Diamond actually pay attention to the gaming press — if they did, they might know more about the non-link between gaming and violence.

Readers: what’s the most ridiculous claim you’ve heard regarding youth violence and media influence? Share your stories in comments.

Oh, and while I’m at it, remember Thursday’s piece about a Belegarth player being charged with molesting kids whose parents he’d befriended in the game? According to one commenter in Arkansas, his Belegarth group has been banned from fighting in local parks as a result of the case. Way to punish the wrong people, city of Auburn, Arkansas.


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