Nearly a week after the Virginia Tech shooting, and with no credible evidence to support it, Tim Russert of NBC's Meet the Press twice suggested that violent video games had something to do with the tragedy.
Take a look at today's Meet the Press and fast forward to the 19:35 mark.
Russert asks the Sec. of Education, Margaret Spellings this leading question: "Has any studies been done about video games, there are reports that Mr. Cho spent inordinate amounts of time looking at violent video games."
Spellings answers that there are many such studies and that "we do have evidence that children...exposed to violent television and video games, that that certainly does net out in more violent behavior."
Russert, who can't seem to drop the topic, then goes on to ask Sec. of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, "Any thought of looking into video games and the impact they may have on young children?"
Leavitt gives a very generic answer essentially saying that "we have to look at a lot of things".
Despite Russert's insistence that video games were somehow linked to the shootings, the search warrant for the shooter's dorm room revealed no video games.
Also, the only mention of video games being involved in the case (other than from pundits) was from a Washington Post article, which is suspect on many levels. Essentially, it reports that peers who attended high school with the shooter said he played Counterstrike. However, later, that piece of information was taken out of the story, ostensibly to make room for newer information.
Russert's assertion that there have been, "reports that Mr. Cho spent inordinate amounts of time looking at violent video games," is wholly untrue. There was only one report, from the Washington Post, which was based on interviews with students who attended high school with the shooter.
All of the shooter's roommates in the 3 1/2 years he attended Virginia Tech said they never saw him playing video games. What's more, the warrant turned up no evidence of console video games.
To be fair, we have yet to learn if he played any video games on his computer. Still, we have yet to hear anything about that from the media, and, again, we have the reports from his roommates that they never saw him do anything other than write on his computer. So, even if there is some sort of video game on his computer, there is no evidence of "inordinate amounts of time looking at violent video games."
Let's move on to Margaret Spellings, the woman who famously condemned the PBS children's show, Postcards from Buster, and her comment that "we do have evidence" that violent games lead to violent behavior.
The only thing that can be pulled from these studies, and I agree with the theories, is that people who are predisposed to violence may seek out violent games, much as they do violent TV, videos, movies, etc.
Also, kids who play games are more aggressive (not violent) for about 15 minutes after they play a game. I've personally experienced this, but it has more to do with the fact that games are often a competition, not because of the content of the game. Ever played a "violent" sport like football, hockey, or lacrosse? Ever watched your favorite sports team with a "friend" who cheers for your team's rival? Ever gotten into a heated political debate? After any of these events, do you have a tad more aggression than usual? I know I do, and that's normal.
However, Spellings assertion that violent TV and video games leads to violent behavior is not proven and intellectually lazy.
It's interesting that after Russert gets done with Spellings, he asks the same question of Mr. Leavitt. Russert is really reaching here, hoping to get somebody to say that violent games made the shooter do it and if we can ban them, we can solve all of this country's problems.
As H.L. Mencken said, "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple...and wrong."
Also, let us not forget that NBC is the "news" agency who decided to air the shooter's video tape, which is exactly what the shooter wanted.
The quality of the coverage by NBC is absolutely reprehensible from the news department right down to Russert. From one Boston College alumnus to another, I'm ashamed of Mr. Russert, his lack of research, and his suggestive questions.
Transcript of the sections dealing with the video game questions:
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary Spellings, has any study been done about video games? There’ve been reports that Mr. Cho spent an inordinate amount of time looking at violent video games.
SEC’Y. SPELLINGS: Well, I think we do have some evidence that when children, mostly the research is around young children, are exposed to violence—violence on television or video games and the like—that that certainly does net out in, in more violent behavior. And I think, again, those are the sorts of things that we’ll engage in as we talk with educators and law enforcement professionals, parents and policy makers about these issues.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary Leavitt, any thought of looking into video games and the impact they may have on young children?
SEC’Y. LEAVITT: I, I think we’ll have to look at a wide range because, while what we’re focusing on right now is what’s happened at, at Blacksburg, we do need to think about this pattern of unexplainable violence that occurs, and ask ourselves what can we learn from each of these. It will undoubtedly cause us to reweigh many of the judgments we’ve made in the past, and recalibrate on some, and others recognize that we just need to do what we’ve already decided better. I, I expect we’ll—there’ll be conversations about guns. There’ll be talk—we’ll have conversations about mental health policy and how we balance that. All of these things are—these are festering conflicts that, that have been inflamed by this. Every sensitivity of, of us as human beings is offended by this, and it will be an opportunity for us to rethink the decisions we’ve already made and perhaps make, make adjustments.
Thanks to Uptown on Digg for linking to the transcript.