Tag Archives: The Sun

Violent games didn’t cause Sandy Hook shooting


Did Call of Duty make Adam Lanza kill? Not likely.

I don’t know if this seems fishy to anyone else, but over the weekend, politicians and the press began speculating that violent video games must have had something to do with the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. For example, you had Connecticut’s own senator, Joe Lieberman, saying things like, “Very often these young men have an almost hypnotic involvement in some form of violence in our entertainment culture – particularly violent video games. And then they obtain guns and become not just troubled young men but mass murderers.”

That’s not the fishy part. Well, okay it is, but it gets fishier: a few days later, the UK’s oh-so-reputable Sun unearthed a plumber who swears that shooter Adam Lanza played Call of Duty for hours every day. I don’t even know where to start.

It’s hard to imagine how a plumber could have a good window into someone’s behavior over time, unless for some reason he lived in the Lanza home. So there’s that.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Lanza did play the game. Then there’s the fact that more than 55 million people play Call of Duty. Sure, Anders Breivik also played Call of Duty. I bet both Anders Breivik and Adam Lanza also ate toast, or wore pants, or saw The Sound of Music. In other words, this is a pastime so common that it can’t be linked to any particular sort of behavior. All sorts of people play Call of Duty. It has wide, massive appeal. One or two of them is potentially going to go off the deep end in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Their gaming habits aren’t relevant.

This week, the Internet has been awash with writeups arguing that video games did — or didn’t — lend a hand in the Sandy Hook shooting. I’m not going to go through them exhaustively, but you can check them out on the Backward Messages Pinterest boards. I do want to call two pieces of news and commentary to your attention.

In the first, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has introduced a bill to study the impact of violent video games on children. What a complete waste of taxpayer money. We’ve had dozens, even hundreds of studies — and even those that suggest a correlation between violent video games and aggression a) cannot prove that games lead to actual violence, b) only rarely show any verifiable link at all, and c) can’t prove whether it’s players’ need for an aggressive outlet which draw them to the games, rather than the games leading to aggression. Visit this blog’s video-games category to see articles on many of these studies.

In the second, the Washington Post looked at video games and gun violence in 10 countries and found, basically, “that countries where video games are popular also tend to be some of the world’s safest (probably because these countries are stable and developed, not because they have video games). And we also have learned, once again, that America’s rate of firearm-related homicides is extremely high for the developed world.”

A decade ago, studies showed that mass shooters tended to be kids who played video games less than average. Now that pretty much everyone plays a video game now and then — much more so than 10 or 20 years ago — it’s probably safe to say that these killers do play. But again, gaming is now so common that it’s akin to watching television or blockbuster movies; you just can’t say that engaging in it will lead to any specific outcome. And you can’t use one violent act to justify taking games away from the millions and millions of people who enjoy them safely.

In fact, it’s likely that Lanza enjoyed them safely, too. It’s likely that his gaming had nothing to do with his crime. It’s also likely that something in his mind went awry, and the fact that his mom trained him to shoot gunsnot the fact that he’d played a shooter video game — gave him the means to act on his brain’s break with reality.

Fear leads to anger — and goth-bashing


Thirteen-year-old Casey-Lyanne Kearney was stabbed to death. Her accused killer has been called a “goth.” Not likely.

On Valentine’s Day, Casey-Lynne Kearney was crossing Elmfield Park in Doncaster, England when a woman allegedly stabbed her and left her to die.

Police, who called the assault random and isolated, arrested 26-year-old Hannah Bonser, a Doncaster resident, for Kearney’s murder and and for possession of two knives. Her trial is scheduled to begin July 2.

Even before Bonser appeared in court to defend herself, neighbors described her to the UK’s sensationalism-prone Sun as a goth:

… neighbours in Doncaster described her as having the look of “a Goth” — sporting dark hair and dark-rimmed glasses. She was said to be “addicted” to computer games.

One resident, who asked not to be identified, said: “The police were round here and they took some boxes of stuff from her flat. She was like a rocker, gothic type. She was very quiet.”

Talking to the neighbors is one of the oldest tricks in the reporter’s book. There are a variety of good reasons for this practice, but what neighbors say must always be taken with a grain of salt — these days, many people don’t know their neighbors particularly well, or may even have conflicts with them that drive them to say things they shouldn’t.

Not only are those descriptions very vague and patched-together, they don’t really describe an actual goth. (And, you can see in the court link, Bonser doesn’t look particularly goth.) Most of the time, it takes more than dark hair and “dark-rimmed glasses” to identify a goth. (Also, nice how the slipped in the “video games” angle too, eh?”)

More than that, though, these flimsy descriptions reinforce the false idea that goths are a remotely violent group. This idea, popularized after the Columbine High School killings in Colorado in 1999 (committed by two young men who were also falsely identified as goths), has been tough to shake. People outside the goth culture see the black hair, theatrical makeup and clothing, piercings and studs, and assume their fear of such an off-putting appearance must mean goths are aggressive. In fact, the most aggressive thing about goths is probably their appearance. Religioustolerance.org notes, “Goths tend to be non-violent, pacifistic, passive, and tolerant.”

Often to a fault. In fact, goths are much more often the victims of violence, as in the cases of Sophie Lancaster and Melody McDowell, both of whom were coincidentally assaulted in England.

In some ways, the comments made by Bonser’s neighbors constitute another kind of attack on goths — and reveal the layers of misunderstanding and discomfort that exist against them in modern society.

When someone on UK Yahoo Answers asked why goths are so stigmatized, another responded:

Unfortunately a lot of people (especially those who live in small towns & don’t have a lot of life experience, or even those of a low level of intelligence) will always feel threatened by something that is outside their own experience and/or they do not understand.

Or, to quote a certain wise green muppet, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

When will we stop being so afraid of one another?

How fundamentalists control the story


Dawn Jewell’s horse, Erik, was slaughtered in Cornwall last weekend. Probably not by Satanists.

Satanic fervor has overtaken both British newspapers and Internet forums following the death of a 2-year-old stallion last weekend. Details of the death have been scarce, stoking public imagination. Because he died either late Sunday night, Jan. 8, or early Jan. 9, on the full moon (Jan. 9) and close to the supposed Satanic holiday of “St Winebald Day” (Jan. 7), speculators believe the horse’s death must somehow be related to Satanists or the occult.

BBC’s first article played up the “St Winebald” idea. Other, more predictable British papers, took it even further. “Eric the horse mutilated on ‘Satan sacrifice day’,” screeched the Sun, which also shared a few gruesome details. Their piece also contains this potentially libelous gem:

Rumours are rife among locals that the butchery in Stithians, near Falmouth, Cornwall, was part of an evil occult ceremony.

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, has attempted to connect Erik’s fate to a second horse’s death nearly 300 miles away, in Wales.

However, in a followup story, the BBC has toned down the Satanism:

Some internet forums have contained speculation that the most recent killing coincided with St Winebald Day on 7 January, which is said to have been included on Satanic calendars as a date for blood rituals.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said: “We’re keeping an open mind with many lines of inquiry as to what happened. There is nothing specific to suggest that this is the case, there are no facts, it’s speculation.

“It was a savage attack on or near a date, but there is nothing to suggest that it is things like a Satanic worship attack.”

Worrisomely, if you look up “St. Winebald’s Day” on Google, the first link you come to is one from The Forbidden Knowledge, which presents a “Satanic” calendar without sources or explanation. Click through to the front page of this site and you’ll see an above-the-fold warning that, “Your government is poised to inject you with a tracking chip manufactured by Applied Digital Solutions called, ‘Veri Chip.’ Don’t believe me? Click below, I’ll prove it to you.” Reporters who visit this site should be backing away, as quickly as they can, from any information it contains.

However, the second link with information about this “holiday” is a piece by pagan leader and former cop Kerr Cuhulain debunking the aforementioned calendar. He believes the source is the Calvary Chapel, a fundamentalist Christian organization, based in West Covina, California. In other words, not exactly experts on occult and Satanism — in fact, they have a vested interest in making such faiths look bad.

Cuhulain explains:

This calendar claims that Satanic groups perform between 4 and 8 human sacrifices (“blood” or “Da Muer” rituals) per year. It also claims that every year these groups must engage in 10 sexual orgies with males and females between the ages of 1 and 25 as well as with animals. Let’s look at this awful calendar in detail:

“DATE: Jan. 7, CELEBRATION: St. Winebald Day, TYPE: Blood, USAGE: Animal or Human Sacrifice, AGE: 15-33.”(5)

NOTE: January 7 is Sekhmet, the ancient Egyptian New Year’s Day. It is not a Satanic holiday. Winebald was the brother of Saint Walburga, also known as Walpurgis.

Reporters, or even Internet speculators, don’t seem to have gotten as far as link #2. Or even questioning link #1.

Regular readers of this blog already know that Most Satanists do not practice animal sacrifice. That’s not to say that people playing at “devil worship” won’t hurt animals. It just means it likely has nothing to do with established faiths or the people who follow them.

In short, a calendar cooked up by evangelicals is being used by some police, locals, and even British newspapers to explain a horse’s death — one even going so far as to finger a butcher shop and accuse workers both of horse slaughter and occult activity. Meanwhile, Satanists and occultists who actually follow their faith and their laws are quietly implicated.

Next, people will be believing that the government wants to put a chip in their brain.