Tag Archives: media

Violent video games, Satan, and murder (again)


Did video games make Peter Charles John Jensen, left, shoot his wife? Did Satan make Christopher Roalson, right, stab an elderly woman to death? If not, why are police, prosecutors, and the press mentioning it?

On Sept. 25, police in Jacksonville, Florida, charged Peter Charles John Jensen with murder. Allegedly, he apparently was “playing violent video games under the influence of some type of drug,” police said, before he got into an argument with his wife, Karina, and shot her. A witness — who was playing video games with Jensen — reported the shooting, and fled when Jensen pointed the gun at him. Karina was dead when police arrived and found her.

A few days earlier, a Hayward, Wisconsin, jury found Christopher Roalson guilty of first-degree murder. Roalson, along with accomplice Austin Davis, broke into 93-year-old Irena Roszak’s Radisson house and stabbed her to death in 2009. They have called it a “thrill kill,” and Davis told the court that he heard screaming and someone saying “Hail Satan” coming from Roszak’s bedroom the night of the murder. Roalson also reportedly claimed he was “Satan’s son” as he and Davis left the house that night.

As you can see, the headline in the Jensen case is:
Man killed wife in Julington Creek shooting Saturday, police say
Police: He played video games and took drugs before the slaying.

And for Roalson, the lede in a Duluth newspaper:
A Sawyer County jury on Friday found 30-year-old Christopher Roalson guilty in the murder of 93-year-old Irena Roszak, a case that officials called a “thrill kill” with satanic overtones.

Coverage in both cases has been sketchy and doesn’t point to a clear, legitimate motive. Maybe that’s why everyone has latched onto these sensationalistic but meaningless details. I can point to Jensen’s glazed demeanor and compare it to that of (allegedly schizophrenic) Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes, but that’s guesswork at best. How we can get through an entire trial, in Roalson’s case, and not be clear on why he killed an elderly woman, is beyond me — especially since you have to prove premeditation for first-degree murder, and premeditation suggests a motive.

Instead, we’re left with violent video games, drugs, and Satan: scary things many people don’t understand, but are happy to consider valid motivations for killing — as valid as any other impetus we also might not understand. We’re also left with the impression that these things might make anyone else commit murder. Better take them away before that happens, right?

How not to get hysterical about a pentagram


Pentagrams and walls seem to go hand in hand — like bored teens and vandalism. Photo by Flickr user The Trousered Ape.

As the weather turns warmer, kids in suburban and rural areas go outside. They’re bored. They’re looking for something to do. They’re angry, or at least irritated. Maybe they have a magic marker in their back pocket. They’re walking through town, maybe past a church, and an idea strikes them.

Churches in Santa Rosa, California, and Prairie Grove, Arkansas, have suffered recent vandalism — one more seriously than the other. In Santa Rosa, The Church of the Incarnation was tagged with a few pentagrams and other designs. In Prairie Grove, the Illinois Chapel Baptist Church has been vandalized repeatedly over the years, culminating with arson late last month.

Two different cases, in two different parts of the country, reported in two very different ways. Let’s look, shall we?

From Arkansas Matters:

A church is set ablaze in Prairie Grove and officials find satanic symbols spray-painted on the building.

From the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

The Church of the Incarnation on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa was tagged with possible Satanic graffiti on Wednesday afternoon, and police said they may have a suspect.

Hmm. One seems more cautious than another. Let’s look again.

Prairie Grove:

“Devil worshiping signs, you know, and stuff, this is nothing but the Devil … People that does this stuff, they are lost … They haven’t the slightest what hell is really about.”

But everyone we spoke with said, there is one thing still standing strong, and that is their faith.

“The Devil can’t beat us down, not as long as we hold faith in Him … I know the good Lord is with us,” said Burnett.

Santa Rosa:

[Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Mike] Lazzarini said the suspect also tagged St Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church, as well as other buildings and signs.

“It’s not church specific,” he said.

A pentagram is a five-pointed star connected with lines considered by some to have magical connotations, and to have satanic meaning when inverted with two points up.

Lawrence said while the pentagrams are potentially upsetting to members of the church, “it’s not enough to make us feel threatened.”

You could chalk up the sensationalism of the Arkansas article to the fact that the crime is more serious, but there have been plenty of times when graffiti like Santa Rosa’s has been reported in a tone more like Prairie Grove’s. In fact, more alarmist reporting tends to be the norm. The Press Democrat reporters offer something refreshing: a report of the crime that doesn’t hysterically imply that the Devil controlled the vandal’s hand — or did the dirty deed himself.

The fact remains, most such vandalism is made by bored, aimless people — kids especially — and not Satanists with an anti-Church agenda. Reporters should write their articles this way, unless they know for certain who the suspect is, and what his/her motives are.

And yet, it’s still plenty interesting to read. Factual reporting that doesn’t descend into fear-mongering. When’s the last time you saw that in a story like this?