expert speaks in Asheville
Barbara Blake, Staff Writer Asheville Citizen-Times
March 29, 2001
– At a high school on the West Coast, when the history teacher
played a video of "Shindler’s List’’ for her class, students
laughed and jeered as the horror of the Holocaust unfolded
on the screen.
movie theaters on the East Coast, young people viewing the
re-release of "The Exorcist’’ – which a generation ago caused
many a teen to sleep with her light on for months afterward
– laughed and cheered and mocked the characters, all the
while munching on Milk Duds and buttery popcorn.
millions of homes across America, children of all ages stare
dully at TV screens as Bad Guy X blows away Bad Guy Y, yawning
with boredom as blood spills across the screen.
in millions more homes, children of all ages are frantically
jerking the joysticks connected to their video games, racing
the clock to commit as many cyber-murders as possible before
time runs out, pumping their fists triumphantly as the death
toll is proclaimed.
adults wonder why children kill.
culture of violence oozing from every orifice of the American
media is an invitation – even a mandate – for children to
grow up desensitized to others’ pain, thrilled at the prospect
of horror and destruction, cheered on by the sight of blood
and gore, an expert on aggression and violence said Wednesday
Col. Dave Grossman, who heads an organization called the
Warrior Science Group, told Western North Carolina educators,
civic leaders, clergy and physicians during three "strategy
sessions’’ that the number of school shootings and other
violent acts committed by children is destined to continue
shootings are not going away – there will be more and more
(killers) slipping through the cracks, because there are
thousands of children out there who want to do it,’’ said
Grossman, whose two-day visit to Asheville was billed, "How
Our Kids are Learning to Kill … and Learning to Like It.’’
"It’s not going away until we cut to the root dynamics of
what makes it happen,’’ he said.
the session with educators and civic leaders, Grossman presented
statistics showing the drastic increase in violent acts
in the years since television was introduced in the 1950s,
along with ever-more-violent movies and the advent of video
games requiring the player to kill, maim and destroy.
who are exposed to any of those media outlets at a young
age are bound to feel the impact, he said.
the age of 6 or 7, children have enormous difficulty telling
the difference between fantasy and reality. The behaviors
we learn during those years are the hardest to unlearn –
and violence is the most difficult of those behaviors to
unlearn,’’ Grossman said.
every part of the world where media violence has appeared,
15 years later the murder rate had doubled, he said. "And
in every place where media violence has appeared, there
has been an explosion of violence on playgrounds – and 15
years later, you reap what you sew.’’
Grossman, a military and law-enforcement trainer and psychologist
who worked with health professionals and law-enforcement
officers in the aftermath of the Jonesboro, Ark., Springfield,
Ore., and Littleton, Colo., school shootings, said media
violence alone does not necessarily turn kids into killers.
have to think of it like heart disease; all kinds of factors
contribute – smoking, lack of exercise, stress, obesity,
many other factors. And violent crime? You have the breakdown
of families, drugs, child abuse, the availability of guns,
and many other factors.
you take any of those factors, and add the death and horror
and destruction being sold to kids, and you will see an
explosion of violence,’’ Grossman said. "That’s the new
variable – the death, horror and destruction being sold
solution would seem simple: don’t buy ‘em, don’t watch ‘em.
But it’s not that simple, Grossman said, when the culture
of violence is everywhere, and media corporations are making
billions in the process. "Even Ted Turner concedes, and
I quote, ‘TV violence is the single most significant factor
contributing to violence in America.’ But did he stop selling
it? No,’’ Grossman said, likening such media moguls to drug
dealers and tobacco companies who know their products kill,
but continue selling them to make more money.
also took issue with those who would oppose the regulation
of media availability to children, describing the public
outcry he would expect if alcohol, tobacco and guns were
not regulated and children had free access to those and
other tools that could harm them.
violence in media surrounding children at every turn translates
into learned behaviors, similar to the training tactics
used in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to desensitize soldiers
to killing. And children are becoming expert marksmen as
they play their "children’s’’ video games, Grossman said.
"Today, kids are taught to kill every living thing in front
of them with the greatest possible efficiency,’’ he said.
"And kids are on murder simulators every night, shooting
with supernatural accuracy.’’
said when he was a boy, playing shoot-em-up with cap guns
with a friend, the deaths were imaginary, the "victim’’
often denying that he had even been shot. If one boy poked
the other in the ribs, saying, "Yes you are dead!,’’ and
pushed a little too hard, the offended likely would run
for his mother to complain about the offender.
Mama comes out, and I get in big trouble,’’ he said. "I
learned from an early age that inflicting pain on someone
else resulted in bad things happening to me. Today, kids
are blowing heads off in the water (on video games) and
watching the blood spurt everywhere. But do I get in trouble?
No, I get points.’’
Japan, he said, it is against the law to put a juvenile
offender’s picture on the television, not to protect the
child, but to deny him the fame and glory he may be seeking.
In America, teen-age shooters like those who killed at Columbine,
Jonesboro and Paducah likely are seeking that fame and glory,
and the higher the number of deaths, the better, Grossman
said. "It’s about racking up a new high score on the national
video game,’’ he said. "Nothing motivates teen-agers more
than their chance at glory and fame.’’
urged parents to prevent their children from watching TV
shows with "toxic, addictive substances’’ and clearly would
enjoy seeing violent video games banished from the face
of the earth in a burning pyre. He urged them to write to
lawmakers and policy-makers to make meaningful changes in
media availability. But he said all change must start with
got to make a decision, right now, if we’re on the path
of peace, or on the side of a culture of death,'' he said.
"But it’s got to start with each home.
2001: Asheville Citizen-Times