This is the final post in a series exploring the idea that storytelling, gameplay or entertainment of any kind may precipitate acts of violence in the real world. First post here.
In setting out to prevent mass murder as much as humanly possible you have learned a great deal. Most of what you learned will do nothing to keep anyone from being killed, at least for a long while, but you no longer feel confused. It is understandable that people attribute motive to all kinds of things, including mediums of entertainment, and particularly to mediums that feature violence. It is also true that violent entertainment — along with every other aspect of life — may, in some instances, be a contributing factor in murderous mayhem, but it’s equally clear that there will never be any methodology by which such eventualities can be predicted. Even banning the most violent mediums would do nothing to prevent acts of violence from happening because acts of violence have been a part of human history since long before the invention of entertainment technology.
One thing you are convinced of, which you did not believe before, is that stories do play a big part in violence — but not the fictional kind that people usually blame. Narratives are always hard at work in life, including when people go berserk and start killing, but the most dangerous stories do not come from mediums of entertainment, they come from the omnipresent tension between society and the individual mind. They are persistent fictions that people believe in all the time, not just when the telly is on for a couple of hours or a game is played or a movie is streamed. They are beliefs that may even have no basis in reality, yet people are nonetheless convinced those beliefs not only explain how the world works, they unfailingly reveal how the world should be.
One of the most corrosive of these cultural narratives, by far, is the false belief — the protective fiction, endlessly reinforced by the profit-driven press — that we can ever truly know the motive behind any act of madness. Not only does this widely held mistaken belief lead to waste as everyone tries to assign and avoid blame after an act of madness, it perpetuates the false hope that understanding motive in one instance will enable us to predict and prevent acts of violence in the future. Worse, by pretending that the divination of motive can save lives, the real-world benefits of limiting access to the means of violence go largely unreported, and those who might otherwise consider such options remain perpetually misled about the viability of the choices before them. [ Read more ]