Comment 6412

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 17, 2007 at 11:49:04

The thing is, Jason, that rates of violence have been falling steadily for a long time.

Regardless of what effects violent TV or video games might have on an individual viewer (and I'm not sure what those effects are, although I also prefer to limit my children's exposure to violent images), the general trend is toward more respect for basic norms of civility.

As Steven Pinker wrote in a recent essay:

Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler. Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets for frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.

Events like school shootings are newsworthy precisely because they are so rare. Consider that on the same day that 33 people were killed at Virtinia Tech, over three times as many people in the US were killed in motor vehicle accidents. The same number will be killed today; and again tomorrow, and again the day after that. These are not reported (except possibly in local news) because they are a regular occurrence and hence not newsworthy.

None of this is meant to make light of the event. It's a terrible tragedy, and over the next several months a combination of investigation, analysis, speculation, and punditry will move us slowly and painstakingly toward an understanding of just what happened.

What won't help to get us there is hasty, dogmatic appeals to "TV", "video games" and other scapegoats.

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