SBC Life Articles

Children Trained to Kill

Following the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., CBS's 60 Minutes interviewed retired Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman, a former professor of psychology at West Point who now teaches a course on the psychology of killing to federal agents and the Green Berets.

On the April 25, 1999 broadcast, Grossman suggested the shootings at Columbine and prior school shootings were facilitated by the proliferation of violent video games which teach quick response and deadly accuracy, and systematically desensitize players to the notion of killing.

According to Grossman, "The average child in America spends countless hundreds of hours practicing and practicing on murder simulators. And when some of them go out and execute it, we should not be surprised. … (a violent video game) teaches you to associate pleasure with human death and suffering. You're learning to like it. … (and) it's providing you the motor skills that make you capable of extraordinary acts of accuracy with the weapon."

As part of the interview with reporter Ed Bradley, Grossman and Bradley entered a video arcade in which Grossman identified video games which were particularly effective in training kids to kill. Pointing to a game, he said, "There's a game over there that equips you to fire a shotgun and get extraordinarily good with a shotgun, like the kids in Denver did. Then there's this one that develops your pistol skills and teaches you to go for the head shots and persevere and hit multiple targets with incredible skills. The same basic mechanisms that we use, step by step, to make killing a conditioned response in our soldiers, are being done in the games now that the kids go and play."

The 60 Minutes report indicated that Grossman was hired as an expert witness in a lawsuit against the makers of violent video games. The suit was filed by the parents of three teenage girls shot by Michael Carneal, a freshman at Heath High School in Paducah, Ky., while they took part in a prayer meeting. Their suit claims the eighteen video game makers charged are partially responsible for turning Michael Carneal into a sharpshooter who killed their daughters.

Grossman observed, "Michael Carneal, a 14-year-old boy, has never fired a pistol before in his life. His total experience was countless thousands and thousands of rounds in the video games. When Michael Carneal opened fire, he fired eight shots. Now as best we can tell, he fired eight shots, he got eight hits on eight different kids. Five of them were head shots. The other three were upper torso. The FBI says in the average engagement, the average officer hits with less than one bullet in five.

"It is very, very easy to miss," he added. "He never fired far to the left, he never fired far to the right; never far up, never far down. He just put one bullet in every single thing that popped up on his screen."

Grossman indicated such accuracy is virtually unprecedented in military and law enforcement ranks. Referring to a case in which an African immigrant was killed by law enforcement officers in New York, Grossman said, "Four elite law enforcement officers at point-blank range fire forty-one shots, and they hit with nineteen. In that case, the officers hit with less than 50 percent at point-blank range.

"Here's what's fascinating about this crime," he continued in his interview with Bradley. "He held that gun and he fired one shot at every target. Now that is not natural. Anybody that's ever hunted, anybody that's ever been in combat will tell you that the natural thing is to fire at a target until it drops. But the video games train you. If you're very, very, very good, what you will do is you will fire one shot, don't even wait for the target to drop – you don't have the time – go to the next, and the next. And the video games give bonus effects for head shots."



Why Make it a Blockbuster Night?
by Heather Price Lawrence

With more than 4,000 stores nationwide, Blockbuster Video boasts that it's larger than its next 550 competitors combined, and the company's success is largely based on its family-friendly video-rental policies.

But all that has changed, according to an article in the June 1999 issue of HomeLife magazine. For example, among its 4,000 plus video titles, Blockbuster features more than seventy Playboy and Penthouse videos. In addition, Blockbuster has created an in-house 17+ rating that identifies videos containing sexually explicit material closer to X-rated than R-rated. The 17+ rating, which differs from the NC-17 rating mandated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), is labeled on videos with themes including lesbian sex and sexual bondage.

"It's our opinion that the 17+ rating soft-pedals videos that should be X-rated," says Jon Kent Walker, editor in chief of HomeLife magazine. "It looks a lot better to have a bunch of 17+ videos listed on your inventory than X-rated or NC-17."

"We want parents to also be aware that Blockbuster is providing two versions of many movies, one cut and one uncut," says Walker. "The uncut versions include explicit scenes originally edited by movie companies in order to avoid a harsher MPAA rating. Now they're available uncut in your local Blockbuster store."

The article, written by youth culture specialist Bob DeMoss, cites an abundance of sexually violent "slasher" films. In one Blockbuster outlet, DeMoss found more than 750 videos of this genre, several of which include disturbingly graphic scenes, including human sacrifice. "They've added the Faces of Death and Death Faces to their collection of horror titles," says DeMoss. "These are some of the most irresponsible videos ever marketed because they feature scenes of actual death. This is accomplished by either blowing up an animal, close-ups of accident victims, or even images of a person dying in an electric chair."

Walker added, "We're all grappling with violence in our schools, and yet the largest video rental company in the country is expanding its inventory of graphically violent films. It just doesn't make sense. The Blockbuster outlet in my community recently added two extra rows of violent horror films." Walker lives in Hendersonville, Tenn.

The article also notes Blockbuster has reversed itself on several controversial titles it previously refused to carry, such as The Last Temptation of Christ. Based on the thousands of violent and sexually explicit titles Blockbuster provides, the HomeLife article encourages Christian parents to seriously consider deleting the word "not" from Blockbuster's well-known ad campaign: "Why not make it a Blockbuster night?"

Heather Price Lawrence is a freelance writer.

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