Children With the Ability to Kill: MSSNY Alliance Holds
Conference Addressing Youth Violence
MSSNY's News Of New York, December 2000
their book, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A call to
Action Against TV, Movie & Video Game Violence,
authors Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano write:
Paducah, Kentucky, Michael Carneal, a 14-year-old boy
who stole a gun from a neighbor's house, brought it to
school and fired eight shots at a student prayer group
as they were breaking up. Prior to stealing this weapon,
he'd never shot a handgun before. Of the eight shots he
fired, he had eight hits on eight different kids. Five
were head shots, the other three upper torso. The result
was three students dead, and one student paralyzed for
FBI states that the average, experienced, qualified law
enforcement officer, in the average shootout, at an average
range of seven yards, hits with less than one bullet in
does a child acquire such a killing ability? What would
lead him to go out and commit such a horrific act?
MSSNY Alliance addressed these very questions and today's
epidemic of youth violence at its Conference 2000, held
October 20-22 at the Long Island Marriott Hotel in Uniondale,
NY. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman was one of the dynamic and fascinating
speakers who shared, with over 60 members and spouses who
attended, his knowledge and research of this critical public
to right: Joan Cincotta, AMSSNY president; speaker Lt.
Grossman; Judy Ciccio, AMSSNY president-elect; and Marlene
AMSSNY immediate past president.
Col. Grossman, in addition to having been nominated for
a Pulitzer Prize for his writing, is a world renowned expert
in the field of aggression and the roots of violence and
violent crime. He is the founder of a new field of scientific
endeavor "Killology," which focuses on
the reactions of healthy people in killing circumstances
(such as police and military in combat) and the factors
that enable and restrain killing in these situations. A
former West Point psychology professor and Army Ranger,
he has testified before US Senate and Congressional committees
and numerous state legislatures. He was an expert consultant
in US vs. McVeigh (the first Oklahoma City Federal
Building bombing case), and he was called on to brief teachers
and administrators on how to deal with the aftermath of
Columbine and other high school shootings. Lt. Col. Grossman
spends much of his time teaching physicians, school faculty,
and elite law enforcement organizations about killing.
and Horror as Entertainment
Based on recent major scientific
studies and empirical research, Lt. Col. Grossman advocates
that movies, TV and video games are not just conditioning
children to be violent and unaware of the consequences
of that violence but are teaching the very mechanics
of killing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics
Task Force on Juvenile Violence, "Children don't naturally
kill; they learn it from violence in the home and most pervasively,
from violence as entertainment in television, movies, and
interactive video games."
Col. Grossman states that just as the military increases
the killing rate of soldiers in combat, our culture today
is doing the same thing to our children. He cited evidence
that during World War II, only 15 to 20% of the individual
riflemen could bring themselves to fire at an exposed enemy
soldier. He stated that when the military became aware of
this so-called "problem," they fixed it. By the
Korean War, around 55% of the soldiers were willing to fire
to kill. By Vietnam, the rate rose to over 90%. The training
methods the military used to accomplish this are the same
methods being used by the media industry today to train
our children to kill. They are brutalization, classical
conditioning, operant conditioning and role modeling.
child is first able to discern what is happening and mimic
actions on television at the age of 18 months. But it is
not until children are six to seven years old that the part
of the brain that helps to understand where information
comes from kicks in. Even though children have some understanding
of what it means to pretend, they are developmentally unable
to distinguish clearly between fantasy and reality.
his article, "Trained to Kill," Lt. Col. Grossman
young children see someone shot, stabbed, raped, brutalized,
degraded, or murdered on TV, to them it is as though it
were actually happening. To have a child of three, four,
or five watch a "splatter" movie, learning to
relate to a character for the first 90 minutes and then
in the last 30 minutes watching helplessly as that new
friend is hunted and brutally murdered, is the moral and
psychological equivalent of introducing your child to
a friend, letting her play with that friend, and then
butchering that friend in front of your child's eyes.
And this happens to our children hundred upon hundreds
of times. ...In the end, you are desensitized to violence
and accept it as a normal and essential survival skill
in your brutal new world.
Col. Grossman explained that Classical Conditioning is to
associate killing violent acts with pleasure. Classical
conditioning doesn't just teach you to kill; it is a subtle
but powerful mechanism that teaches you to like it. He stated:
result is a phenomenon that functions much like AIDS,
which I call AVIDS - Acquired Violence Immune Deficiency
Syndrome. AIDS has never killed anybody. It destroys your
immune system, and then other diseases that shouldn't
kill you become fatal. Television violence by itself doesn't
kill you. It destroys your violence immune system and
conditions you to derive pleasure from violence. And once
you are at close range with another human being, and it's
time for you to pull that trigger, Acquired Violence Immune
Deficiency Syndrome can destroy your midbrain resistance.
Col. Grossman explained that operant conditioning is a very
powerful procedure of stimulus-response, stimulus-response.
"Every time a child plays an interactive video game,
he is learning the exact same conditioned reflex skills
as a soldier or police officer in training." He further
stated that our children are learning to kill, learning
to like it and from all the practice and training
they receive from interactive video games children
are becoming extremely accurate at killing their targets.
Lt. Col. Grossman further mentioned how children can scan
the faces of fellow classmates, teachers or family members
onto these video game characters to make their victims even
sociopaths" - these are the role models Lt. Col. Grossman
feels the media are providing children with through movie
and TV programming. He points to the following:
in the 1970s demonstrated the existence of "cluster
suicides" in which the local TV reporting of teen
suicides directly caused numerous copycat suicides of
impressionable teenagers. Somewhere in every population
there are potentially suicidal kids who will say to themselves,
"Well, I'll show all those people who have been mean
to me. I know how to get my picture on TV, too."
Because of this research, television stations today generally
do not cover suicides. But when the pictures of teenage
killers appear on TV, the effect is the same: Somewhere
there is a potentially violent little boy who says to
himself, "Well, I'll show all those people who have
been mean to me. I know how to get my picture on TV too."
Children from this Addictive Substance
Col. Grossman believes that violence is the addictive substance
in television, movies, and interactive video games, just
as alcohol is the addictive substance in beer and nicotine
says that in order to remove this addictive substance, a
national mobilization, to which the MSSNY Alliance and their
physician spouses should play a part, is needed. Lt. Col.
Grossman suggests three strategies: 1) Educate the public.
2) Legislate the product. 3) Take on the producers and purveyors
of media violence through litigation.
must educate the public about how to spot warning signs
in their children and how to go about reporting when signs
are there. "When we fail to take action, it is the
same as giving that child permission to proceed," said
Lt. Col. Grossman.
stressed that we have helped parents fight for safeguards
concerning alcohol, pornography, tobacco, and even consumer
products such as cribs, car seats, and toys. "Our focus
must now center on the media industry, which sells death
and horror to children and teaches them violence is fun."
media will shout out that this is censorship," but
Lt. Col. Grossman adds, "You will never hear anything
on the evening news about joint statements being made to
Congress by the medical community about the effects of television
violence on children? Who is trying to censor who?"
to Lt. Col. Grossman, "The day may be coming when we
are able to seat juries in America who are willing to sock
it to the networks in the only place they really understand
their wallets." Time magazine predicts
the same future and said, "As for media violence, the
debate there is fast approaching the same point that discussions
about the health impact of tobacco reached some time ago
it is over. Few researchers bother any longer to
dispute that bloodshed on TV and in the movies has an effect
on kids who witness it" (April 1998).
his shooting spree, Michael Carneal was sentenced in December
1998 to life in prison with the possibility of parole in