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Jewish World Review April 27, 1999 /11 Iyar, 5759

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez
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Beyond 'Why?'

(JWR) ---- (
I SUSPECT CHURCH PEWS were a little more crowded on Sunday than usual, as many Americans sought comfort from the horror of last week's killings in Littleton, Colo. I know Columbine High School was on my mind as I drove to Mass.

Churches and synagogues are still the place where most Americans seek refuge and solace in times of pain and loss.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not natural born killers. It is easier to think they were deranged than to admit that our culture has been carefully preparing them throughout their childhood and adolescence to wreak death and destruction on their peers, with little or no interference from parents, teachers or neighbors.

The entertainment industry today saturates young people with violent images unlike anything most of us ever saw growing up. While film violence is nothing new -- and indeed violence has been depicted in the theater since the Greeks -- both the quantity and quality has changed drastically in the last 20 years. From the current fantasy flick "Matrix" to last year's critically acclaimed "Saving Private Ryan," violent images of severed limbs, gaping chest wounds and flowing blood are the staple of virtually every action film, whether its theme is frivolous or serious.

I used to think it mattered whether the violence in a movie served some higher, dramatic purpose. Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" was fine, his recent "Payback" wasn't. I don't believe that anymore. It's becoming clear that the images themselves help desensitize youth to violence. They literally fill young minds with violent pictures that can be replayed over and over again, creating a pornographic, violent fantasy that would be beyond the imaginative capacity of normal people had Hollywood not created the images in the first place.

Even worse than the violent films are the brutal videogames that turn players from passive viewer into active participant. Harris and Klebold were reportedly fans of "Doom," one of many popular videogames that require players to mow down as many characters as possible in the shortest amount of time, using a variety of simulated assault weapons. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a retired Army psychologist, says these videogames are similar to methods used by the military to train soldiers to overcome their natural inhibitions against killing other human beings.

In a recent speech that was adapted into an article for "Christianity Today," Grossman explains that most people have a natural aversion to killing and must be trained to ignore their instincts, which even in the heat of battle will prevent most men from firing their weapon to kill another person. In World War II, one study determined that only about 15 percent to 20 percent of riflemen could bring themselves to shoot at an exposed enemy soldier.

In order to solve this problem, the Army changed its training to include specific exercises in brutalization, classical conditioning, operant conditioning and role-modeling. By the Vietnam era, the Army had achieved a 90 percent shooting rate. The constant barrage of violent films and videogames that are the daily fare of many teen-age boys today serve the same purpose -- with the same effect.

In the last few years, we have witnessed one after another murderous rampages within our schools, each incident more shocking than the last. We created Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold by allowing our popular culture to turn into a non-stop training film on how to kill. And then we left them without proper supervision from parents or schools, with too much money and too much time on their hands to seek diversions in violent films and videogames, and too much access to unfiltered information on the Internet.

If we cannot reduce the violence in our popular culture, there will be more scenes like those out of Columbine High School in our future.


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03/30/99: Are euthanasia advocates truly compassionate or do they merely fear being burdens themselves?
03/27/99: Time for the ‘Real Thing’?
03/16/99: How to keep anti-immigrant sentiments low
03/11/99: Why Bush is the GOP front-runner
03/03/99: If only these were normal times
02/24/99: Unsettling news about ‘feminism’ --- for the NOW gang
02/18/99: 50 years and trillions of dollars up in smoke --- literally?
02/11/99: Why Dems have the most to fear
02/02/99: Look who supports a people-of-color tax
01/26/99: When sports are truly a diversion
01/20/99: Ken Starr as Mark Fuhrman?
01/12/99: Leave Monica out of it
01/05/99: Forget Danny Williams, what about Bubba’s trade and campaign abuses!?
12/29/98: Ya never know
12/15/98: Whose reality?
12/08/98: Why the House must make sure Bubba gets his due punishment
12/02/98: Remember when libraries were for expanding the mind!?
11/26/98: When Thanksgiving means more than commercialism
11/17/98: To Ken S. --- if you'll only listen
11/10/98: What did you expect?
11/04/98: Shame on those who don't vote!
10/27/98: It's spreading!
10/20/98: It ain't over yet
10/15/98: Mourning motherhood
9/23/98: Sosa and the race card
9/23/98: Believable and truthful are two different things
9/16/98: Time for a new Amendment!
9/08/98: When silence is truly golden
8/25/98: Bears and blunders
8/25/98: Only consistency about Prez's anti-terrorism policy: its inconsistency
8/18/98: Is our 'broken-compass' beyond fixing?
8/11/98: Reno's risk
8/04/98: When Truth is of the highest odor
7/28/98: No way to protect ourselvesagainst a nut's wrath
7/22/98: These 'choice' advocates are being demonzied ... by the Left.
7/15/98: Will 'neonaticide' become the new buzzword?
7/07/98: Urge to mega-merge, stopped in time
6/30/98: Why take responsibility if
somebody else will pay?
6/23/98: Blinded by the red, or is it the green?
6/17/98: Flotsam in the wake of romance
6/10/98: We have a ways to go in the bilingual war
6/3/98: Tyson's triumph over tragedy
5/28/98: Why Univision's Perenchio is out to hurt his fellow Hispanics
5/20/98: Sometimes Buba actually tells the truth ... as he sees it
5/12/98: Chill-out on the chihuahua and ... Seinfeld
5/8/98: The revolution is just about over
4/28/98: Let's face it: both parties are full of hypocrites
4/21/98: Legislating equality
4/14/98: One down, many to go
4/7/98: Mexican mayhem?
3/31/98: Of death and details
3/25/98: Americans are unaware of NATO expansion
3/18/98: Intellectual-ghettoes in the name of diversity
3/11/98: Be careful what you wish for ...
3/4/98: The Press' Learning-disability
2/25/98: 50 States Are Enough!
2/18/98: Casey at the Mat
2/11/98: The legal profession's Final Solution
2/4/98: Faith and the movies
1/28/98: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Politics Vs. Principle
1/21/98: Movement on the Abortion Front
1/14/98: Clones, Courts, and Contradictions
1/7/98: Child custody or child endangerment?
12/31/97: Jerry Seinfeld, All-American
12/24/97: Affirmative alternatives: New initiatives for equal opportunity are out there
12/17/97: Opening a window of opportunity (a way out of bilingual education for California's Hispanic kids)

©1999, Creators Syndicate