Andrew Sullivan really loves getting gold medals for cavalier theorizing. Here he is in a discussion of testosterone and its relationship to rape (yes, naturally).
Because the religious impulse is so strong and universal – like testosterone…
I really thought that we’d gotten over one of trendiest moral panics of the early 21st century: violent video games.
Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) proposed a bill directing the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study the effects of violent video games on children.
According to a draft proposal of the bill obtained by Politico, Rockefeller wants the NAS to specifically look at whether exposure to violent games “causes children to act aggressively or causes other measurable cognitive harm to children; has a disproportionately harmful effect on children already prone to aggressive behavior; and has a harmful effect that is distinguishable from any negative effects produced by other types of media.”
Oh ferfuxake. Despite innumerable studies that have sought to answer the exact same question and found no link, some legislator always has to get the vapors and trot himself out to the media as “doing something”.
The moral panic crew always claims that there are studies that support their argument that violent video games are bad, but that’s not true. Every single study they cite tends to either have serious methodological problems, or to show something other than claimed (such as the fact that immediately after playing a violent video game, gamers may feel slightly more aggressive — but with no evidence this lasts or leads to violence). A few years ago, a very thorough review of all of the research trying to connect video games to violence showed that there was no real evidence of any real world impact. Instead, what they found was that some studies used “poorly standardized and unreliable measure of aggression” to make their arguments, but that no study had shown any real world impact. Furthermore, in going through all the research, they concluded that “Overall, effects were negligible, and we conclude that media violence generally has little demonstrable effect on aggressive behavior.”
Let’s recap just a random sampler of some of the studies that have found no causal, or even significantly correlational, relationship between violent video games and actual violence.
Item the first:
In the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry, University of Essex researcher Patrick Kierkegaard answers that query by stating there is no data to support the theory that video game violence promotes violent crimes. His study interestingly provides the opposite correlation.
Kierkegaard asserts that past studies were predominately biased. His data shows that there is no correlation between the rise of violent videogames and the amount of crimes committed. Despite violent games becoming more mainstream within recent years, statistics show that violent crimes committed from juvenile delinquents have declined since the early 1990s.
New research contradicts popular opinion that media exposure, particularly violence viewed on television or in video games, leads to youth aggression or violence among Hispanics in the US. […] The potential negative effects of violent video games on adolescent antisocial behavior  is a highly debated issue… But the research is inconclusive largely due to methodological problems.
[The study concluded that: “Depressive symptoms stand out as particularly strong predictors of youth violence and aggression, and therefore current levels of depression may be a key variable of interest in the prevention of serious aggression in youth. The current study finds no evidence to support a long-term relationship between video game violence use and subsequent aggression.”
And on and on we go:
Christopher John Ferguson from the Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas has devised a meta-analytic review of the studies published since 1995 relating video games to good and bad effects in those who play them.
Ferguson says that one of the most cited studies of violent video games conducted by Anderson and Dill, which claimed to show a causal link between violent video games and aggression was flawed. Ferguson says that the Anderson and Dill study when inspected closely actually supports the exact opposite of the publicized findings that video games don’t correlate to aggressive behaviors in players. […]
A similar study by Ferguson et al. using a standardized version of the “noise blast” program found no relationship between violent games and aggression. What was found from these study reviews was that once predication of family violence was eliminated by players of violent video games, there is no correlation between the two.
Can we please move on to a more amusing example of trés retro moral panic? Reefer Madness!! was much more fun.
Blame it on the racialist thugs who continue to terrorize lower Manhattan with unhinged fear-mongering about some Muslims setting up a community center in an old Burlington Coat Factory, or blame it on a meth-addicted paranoid tooth fairy, it really doesn’t matter.
What does matter, however, is the fact that widespread hyberbolic demonization of always-evil government and the tens of millions of stealth Muslim jihadis in our midst really does drive crazy people to do crazy things:
Roger Stockham, a 63-year-old Army veteran from California who was reportedly angry at the U.S. government, was arrested by police in Michigan and charged with allegedly threatening to blow up a Mosque in Dearborn.
Dearborn police allegedly found Stockham inside his vehicle outside the Islamic Center of America with a load of M-80s in his trunk and other explosives, the Detroit News reported.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Counsel on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), told the newspaper that police told him the suspect was drinking in a Detroit bar on Monday and threatened to do harm to a mosque in Dearborn. An employee at the bar followed the man outside and wrote down his license plate, which he reported to police, Walid told the newspaper.
The 63-year-old grandfather is charged with one count of a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of possession of bombs with unlawful intent, according to the newspaper.
Let us always be wary of the threat that Decoy Muslims pose to America:
I’m not convinced that Jared Loughner was inspired to violence by Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. He seems like a pretty disturbed guy who is mentally ill and lacked anything resembling a coherent political philosophy.
But…if history tells us anything, it’s that these things inspire other sickos to do their worst. In 1963, the JFK assassination was so shocking because the murder of political officials was so rare and even unthinkable. Within a decade, assassins had taken Kennedy’s brother, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and George Wallace’s legs (I know, couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, but still). Violence begets violence, and in none of these cases were the killers motivated by the same thing Kennedy’s killer was, whatever it might have been (Jack Ruby’s bullets kept us from ever knowing). Everyone was shocked by John Kennedy’s death, but suddenly political murder went from just not being done to something that nuts of all stripes suddenly could consider.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed, and maybe this most recent killing will just be a blip, an isolated incident of madness. I hope so. But there’s no guarantee of that, and assassinations like this have sparked trends on more than one occasion (see this old Yglesias post for some examples). It might well be that Beck/Palin/Limbaugh don’t deserve the blame for this incident, but this could be the beginning of increased violence instead of the end. It would probably be a good idea for those types to tone things down for a while, until this incident is suitably behind us. I hardly expect they will, but next time (should there be one), and the killer is one of their followers, they will suffer their richly deserved consequences.
My internal jury is still mostly out on the Giffords shooting but that won’t stop me from pointing out some of the always delicious thoughtgarbage emanating from the Palin camp on on the topic:
An aide to Sarah Palin claims the crosshairs depicted in her now-infamous target list of Democrats were not actually gun-sights, and that it’s “obscene” and “appalling” to blame Palin for the shooting.
“We never ever, ever intended it to be gun sights. It was simply cross-hairs like you’d see on maps,” said Rebecca Mansour on the Tammy Bruce radio show. Moreover, there was “nothing irresponsible” about the image, and to draw a line connecting Palin and Saturday’s shooting is “obscene” and “appalling.”
Yup, just like all those crosshairs we see on Google Maps and old-timey nautical atlases. Nothing to see here.
I am in 100% agreement with everything John Cole says on this:
So now we’re burning mosques:
Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.
Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson. . . .
We’re getting to the point that I just don’t want to even talk about politics any more. It is just too depressing, and even smart people I know are spouting nonsense. I had a discussion with someone I’ve known a long time about the Glenn Beck nonsense yesterday, and all that person could say was “If the Democrats want my vote, they need to distance themselves from Al Sharpton.” Because you know how much power Al Sharpton has in the Democratic party, as opposed to the lunatics in the driver’s seat of the GOP. I swear to God every white person over the age of fifty has just completely lost their shit.
I just changed the topic. FOX news and the race-baiters have us all by the balls.
There are some really fucked up people in this country:
A mosque in Texas was heavily vandalized last weekend, coming in the wake of a national intolerance movement by the right wing against Muslim places of worship. On Friday, members of the Dar El-Eman Islamic Education Center, in South Arlington, found “graffiti depicting Uncle Sam and Allah in a sexual position spray-painted in the parking lot.” Then, early Sunday morning, in a case of suspected arson, a fire destroyed playground equipment at the mosque, causing $20,000 worth of damage. The vandals also cut a pipe, allegedly thinking that it was a natural gas line.
I’d bet you a million dollars that the fucktards who did this also think that “Obama is taking away our freedom” or “health care reform is unconstitutional!” or other similar nonsense. Irony is apparently lost on those with feeble minds.
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