posted on Nov, 1 2009 @ 12:07 PM
I’ve always enjoyed Penn and Teller’s comedy magic act. They’re entertaining guys.
But lately they’ve been speaking out on issues with a bit more mixed results.
In my opinion there is definitely plenty of room for discussion on the issue of youth gun violence, and the role violent video games might play.
One guy in the video mentioned a formula: Troubled youth + available guns + games that simulate shooting = a recipe for youth gun violence. That
seems pretty reasonable to me. However, like any recipe, you can change any one of the ingredients to change the final outcome. So perhaps each one
of them should be examined:
Why are our youth troubled? This would seem to be the number one problem and where we should be focusing our attention. But it’s a large, general,
cultural issue and not easily addressed. Broken homes, working parents, poor schools, over--permissiveness in the name of freedom… there are many
possible contributors. No easy fix here.
Why are guns available to people that shouldn’t have them? This is already a hotly debated issue in our society. There is a real conflict between
freedoms for law-abiding people versus restrictive laws to keep stupid people from doing stupid things. But people are imperfect. Only the most
absolute and sweeping bans would have much chance of being effective. And then only the criminals would have guns. Again, no easy fix here.
So what about violent video games as trainers to shoot? I suppose there is some truth there. But really our whole culture in America is training for
violence. Sure there is lip service against using force, but the contrary message comes across much louder. From the President of United States
invading countries for dubious reasons to the cop on the street using unnecessary force. Television shows where the macho fantasy figure hero solves
problems with a fist to someone’s face. Gangster music. Sports where winning is everything. The list is endless. To be tough and to win is
supposed to be cool. To give in and walk away is to be humiliated.
Teenagers trying to fit into a claustrophobic school social scene don’t like to be humiliated. To be humiliated is like the worst thing that can
happen. When our society provides no acceptable solution to their conflicts that doesn’t make them look like a loser or a coward or a tattletale,
they may feel hopeless and desperate.
But our culture will tell them what to do. They can try using words--but not to negotiate or make peace or resolve the issue. We’re taught that
words are for putting people down, for making them look foolish and showing how clever you are. Every conflict is a contest where someone wins and
someone loses. Words are just another way to win at someone else’s expense.
And if you can’t win with words, then you punch them in the face. And if they’re stronger than you are, you go get a gun. Anything not to
So, in the end, I guess I have to agree with Penn and Teller in one way: good kids aren’t going to go around shooting people. Good kids know the
difference between fantasy and reality and understand the consequences or their actions. But I have to add that the problem of violence in our
society is complex and deep-seated. Violent video games may be a part of the problem or they may just be a symptom. Or for good kids they may just
be harmless fun. But when parents aren’t available and guns are, when our culture whispers in your ear that you must never, ever be a loser, it’s
getting harder and harder to raise good kids.