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Yes the gun debate takes on yet another facet as what is being called the weakest gun legislation is making its way through the US congress, commentators remarking we are down to begging lawmakers for universal background checks. Beating the other dead horse in the violence discussion is Campbell Brown appearing on MSNBC’s Moring Joe saying president Obama singled out the NRA while giving his friends, his powerful electorate in Hollywood a pass in terms of their contribution to tragedies like Newtown, decrying Washington’s narrow focus on guns while never addressing the violence spewing out of our televisions, available to play on every game console, while calling the TV and videogame rating system a joke, the V-chip a massive failure. The show’s host,Joe Scarborough agreed saying president Obama and fellow Hollywood heavy weights should call Quentin Tarantino, and people like him,out for the “pornographer of violence” he is, they are for coarsening, bloodying our culture instead of receiving praise for it, as he was just after Newtown at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Others at the round table discussion, while not necessarily disagreeing with Brown, see a practicality problem having nothing to do with Washington politics but the ability to actually regulate everything when we, and our children have access to content via something as fluid as the internet, when there is no regulatory body for cable television and even more inability to regulate video games. Further completely absent from a tirade on widening the conversation is anything more than a passing reference to mental health, something arguably if we got a handle on, we wouldn’t need to give off the perception we’re taking everyone’s guns away.

First and foremost Campbell Brown’s two biggest premises for  her arguments are false; those being that A- violent media is the primary factor in teens, college kids planning and carrying out a mass shooting plot and B- a majority of mass shooting plots are carried out by that age group. Whether or not you buy said logical fallacy or simply think regulating Hollywood is one step to preventing more tragedy, seems fairer than going to town on the NRA, once again we are back to blaming television and videogames for the mass shootings, music and movies for anyone who picks up a gun for any negative reason. Ms. Brown pointing out, most counties handle violence and sexuality the exact opposite of the way we do in America, strongly regulating violence in movies, on television while being completely liberal with both language and sexuality. Her comments clearly indicating we should take the same approach allowing the FCC to regulate violence too, rather than being limited to putting restrictions on language and sexual content. Let us remember she’s referencing the same FCC that enforces a paranoid, puritanical value system a majority of people don’t agree with simultaneously going after Christian TV stations for erroneous violations because they spoke the name of Jesus, the same FCC who has allowed the words bitch and slut and a certain w-h word to become allowable air content for daytime soap operas. More of her suggestions for keeping violence away from kids, violence everyone agrees is bad for them to see, includes not giving a PG 13 rating to The Dark Knight Rises riddled with what she believes is graphic violence while something like The King’s Speech gets an R rating for language. Letting consumers buy cable channels al-a-cart rather than in bundles makes good business sense because it means they get to pay for only what they want and nothing that they don’t, but don’t expect that to mean parents will only order channels for their kids and nothing for themselves even if you could mandate or get cable companies to go along with it, meaning there is still every bit of a chance they will see programing they shouldn’t. Similarly you can make a ratings system; you can’t make people use it, much less agree with it. You can create parental controls not just for TV’s but blocking software for computers; you can’t make people use it, better yet make them technologically capable of operating it or counteract kids smart enough to get around it.

Hear with your own ears; see with your own eyes a conservative’s praise of cable TV

 Missed by the part time conservative dingbat all along from her comparisons to her observations is say the difference between fantasy violence depicted in The Dark Knight based on the Batman Marvel comic, vs. the thematic portrayals of abuse, adult subject matter on top of language presented in The Kings Speech. Simultaneously documentaries like Bully are likely judged the same way; those were real kids, in real life not actors and that was taken into consideration in addition to the language used, however stupidly considering what that film was trying to accomplish. Speaking of stupid, Campbell Brown appears even more so as she either tries to link FCC restrictions and National Motion Picture Association (NMPA) ratings or confuses them by painting a picture their ratings are based on the same principles. Not discussed, more important than a rating system to keep violent video games out of the hands of kids is making sure they are of age to buy the game or their parent buys it for them, a carding system already used in an effort to keep M rated mature games and R rated DVDs out of underage hands; unfortunately like related attempts to keep alcohol and cigarettes out of the hands of minors, it can be woefully ineffective.  Going completely over her head is one of the reasons the NRA was pounced on was because of the utterly insensitive comments made by their spokesperson, Wayne LaPierre; even things he said that had merit drowned out by the way he said them, as opposed to Quentin Tarantino who didn’t chose the release date of his latest movie, who didn’t chose to honor himself let alone the date, time, season of the award shows in which it happened and who wasn’t praising himself. Ignored by everyone is the question of who is actually playing Modern Warfare 3, Halo, Call of Duty, who is interested in films like Kill Bill, Django Unchained, because it may not be a primarily teen audience as assumed rather adults who like to play video games, assumptions that make sense considering the average gamer is 35 not 13 and games are manufactured accordingly. To say nothing of the hypocrisy of Mr. Joe Scarborough blaming Hollywood for their part in things like Newtown, agreeing with Campbell Brown’s chastisement of the president for not bringing fire and brimstone down on Hollywood too when she was his guest, then a week later hosts Eddie Falco talking about the new season of her hit show voicing his awe of the changes in the television industry, the high quality, rich storylines being created without network restrictions to what Ms. Falco casually referred to as the lowest common denominator; leaving this commentator saying wait a minute what happened to all that railing on violence, calling out media makers?

However even if you did all the recommended things, the president had called on Hollywood to change its ways or at least perfect a better rating system to keep violence and kids away from each other, were the systems they asked for 100% perfect, you have still gone for the stock answer and not gotten to the heart of the problem, not dealt with the bigger elephant in the room, not the gun, not the game but the abysmal mental health system in this country; yes other nations regulate violence on TV and they still have psychos like Anders Breivik, the shootings in France, the German case of a devastating school shooting or the Scottish case of a man shooting 16 kindergarteners with 6 handguns. Still people call those outliers though compared to the US. Yes other countries have stricter gun controls; they also have significantly more effective mental health services available to all their citizens, at all age groups in the interest of public health. In addition to not buying into the American alphabet soup of behavioral disorders ADD, ADHD ODD, intermittent explosive disorder, instead diagnosing children with violent outbursts and such with things like bipolar disorder then treating with appropriate medication and cognitive, talk therapy, they removed several food dyes linked to behavior problems in kids. They too obviously have a more centralized system for helping those who are mentally ill vs. a woman whose blog about her mentally ill son, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mom,” went viral and she opened her home, her son to PBS talking about the team of people working with him; his pediatrician, his alternative school, his psychiatrist, his occupational therapist stating they all have the best of intentions but it is all disjointed. She talked about no shortage of diagnoses, medications, yet doctors really don’t have any comprehensive, forget effective, treatments to help her child, when they can’t begin identify his disorder, the origins behind it while she does everything she can to get him help, to ensure he is a productive member of society and not the next  tragic news headline. She spoke about her own state entertaining the juvenile justice system and mental health meaning to be eligible for some programs, to have full access to mental health options your child has to be already a part of said system i.e. have already gotten into trouble. She remarked on battles with insurance companies over what they will and won’t cover, often refusing to pay for occupational therapy designed to teach children with mental illness, behavior problems how to interact in social situations, how to function normally.

 Here in the US getting a concrete diagnosis of a known, recognized disorder is no guarantee it’s all smooth sailing from there; even once you understand the nature of what you have there is finding the right psychiatrist, psychologist who can treat your condition, who you feel safe with, as a parent, who you feel safe in trusting your child to, trying available medications, combinations that will work specifically for you, your child, there is what you need vs. what the insurance company will pay for, medication that may greatly reduce or eliminate your mental health symptoms yet cause liver problems, tics and you have to balance side effects against benefits. This brave mother described above provides an example of the complexities surrounding mental health and drastically different approaches to another now infamously famous mother, the actual mother of Adam Lanza. Where our frazzled, blogging parent works with a team of people to ensure the success of her son, the latter largely home schooled her son after battles with the school system, where blogger mom places knives and sharps in Tupperware to prevent an episode of violence, allows videogames, TV however, certainly not violent things, the latter, skipped completely over media and went straight to having assault riffles in the home, taking her son to a shooting range to learn how to operate them. Bringing us to an ever touchy subject, parenting and what role it plays in such discussions; very few of the talking heads screaming about gun control, laying responsibility at the feet of media industries creating such “entertainment,” have called out this mother for knowing her child had problems and not only allowing guns around him, but these guns in particular. Beyond the mentally ill child for the rest of us one of the best things parents and care givers can do is teach their children to self-protect, teaching them if what you see on TV makes you uncomfortable change the channel or turn it off, perhaps making it a rule that until a certain age you only watch TV with mom and dad, later on discussing what your children have watched on TV, being educated about internet safety so you can pass those safety parameters on to your child. Equally necessary, knowing your child; my friend has 3 kids. Early on she noticed how influenced they were by what they saw, causing her to fight with the school over older children’s bad behavior at her kindergartener’s bus stop, she does not allow them to watch wrestling never mind anything more violent, while they are currently too young for video games, nothing violent will be on the menu until they are much older. Of course if we are going to talk about parenting then we also have to talk about the drastically different approach not specifically in parenting styles used in other countries but a vastly greater understanding of what it takes to raise a whole and healthy, societally functional child; more than just tight nit social groups, there is the state/government help given to French parents in the form of daycare from age 3 to beginning school, stipends paid to parents to afford caregivers and so forth, work culture and hours that allow even the highest career professionals the time to invest in their families, maternity leave seen as mandatory to provide to employees. And because the majority of people are stable financially, socially and mentally due to how things are structured they have less need for things like child protective services, but what they do have actually works. As a result, kids don’t grow up in drug addict, alcoholic homes, you don’t go into a practical arts high school class on relationships and discover at least half to three fourths of the class was sexually abused, kids don’t walk around with the emotional battle scars of that or physical abuse, neglect, parents choosing romantic relationships over their child and that being seen as normal, being seen as get over it, so what else is new, rise above it or me too, as it is here.

Click link to read about cultural differences in mass shooting incidents

 Where researchers studying other countries flopped is naming the source of America’s violence problem, rooting it in the increasingly popular idea our culture is to blame not just through media, gender expectations, mandating aggression in men, boys, degradation of stable households, rather via our individualistic ways, people allowed to become loners, socially isolated with no social support when they need it, no one to console them, no one to redirect them, if they should go off the rails. Wrong over and over people did see, and as you head into the more adult, college age and beyond shooters said persons usually had mental health histories longer than most career criminals’ rap sheets many times going back to childhood; early on the rule was don’t touch Adam in elementary school, a babysitter was told not to take their eyes off him and his mother was so concerned about him just prior to Newtown she was seriously contemplating having him institutionalized for help, evaluation. Jared Loughner was the kid who couldn’t come out to play and whose father became the neighborhood antisocial building a wall around their; however shortly before we knew his name neighbors commented he might be a serial killer, fellow college students pegged him as someone they feared would attack the school and friends commented on things he said that made no sense. Seung Cho had a documented history of psychological problems and was receiving special education services until he was a junior in high school; his college career was riddled with other commonalities found in those who end up committing a mass shooting, frightening creative writings talking about killing people, frightening fellow students with his demeanor, lack of emotion, he was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation that turned up indicators of mental disturbance a full 2 years before the massacre at Virginia Tech. Jimmy Lee Dikes’ neighbor commented to press about increased paranoia and hatred for the government as the years progressed; the assailant in the Lone Star college stabbing just this week openly admitted to police he fantasized about killing people from the tender age of 8. Nor were these shooters, teen or otherwise, loners primarily due to our individualized culture in America; instead their isolation stems from their own strange behavior, their own anti-social tendencies, often times choosing to be alone. Not to mention surely it’s easier to remit someone to mental health if you know when you take that step not only will there be comprehensive, multifaceted help for your loved one, your friend but also support for you, people who understand the emotional toll taking that step exacts on you, people you can talk to about your experience with who went through almost the same thing. Likewise it’s easier to seek mental health assistance if you know you won’t be stigmatized for it, easier to humor friends and family if you know that receiving a positive psychological evaluation recommending no more than a passing benefit of outpatient counseling means you get to go back to your life hopefully gaining newfound respect from those concerned for you, all things that would not, does not happen in the mental American system.                         

But the next problem trying to hold specifically Brown’s theory up against other mass shooters, people like Christopher Dorner, Jimmy Lee Dikes begins at their age, the fact they are adults well past the susceptibility of the teen, 20 something mind; neither do they any longer remain an oddity in the mass shooter profile that includes the beltway sniper duo dating as far back as 2002. It  isn’t that Dorner had military, explosives, sniper, tactics training, isn’t that because he was a former police officer he understood their playbook, or that Dikes had an underground bunker stocked with survivalist materials, that they played too many violent video games before they did this or as children. It is that both were mentally ill, not just mentally ill but paranoid and psychotically mentally ill. Plus even when dealing with kids, teens, adolescents roughly 11-21; it’s never just the video game that was the deciding factor in what they did, it was never just their preference for violent movies, exceptionally violent television, music that sent them on a crash course to end up dead by cops, themselves or serving life behind bars. Neither is it being a so called loner, being the product of a single parent, a divorced home, neglectful, abusive parenting coupled with violent music, TV, games or all 3, even when it became their babysitter as parents worked 2 jobs to provide for them; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold grew up in a 2 parent home just as one of the Jonesboro shooters, as did Seung Cho. Only some came from what could be described as an, in any way abusive, inattentive environment; the conversation buzz reverberating through the public after these horrific events wasn’t bad family life, wasn’t what music they listen to, their video game collection, the blood and guts movies they watched. In fact with Adam Lanza it was unfettered access to assault rifles in his own home with Seung Cho it was his repeated run ins with school mental health, the court ordered psych evaluation and yet he was allowed to return to school, leading him eventually do what he did, oh and his idolization of the Columbine killers, with James Holmes it was his online firearms and ammo purchases along with his seeing a psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia who attempted to warn school officials of her fears, efforts coming to not when he dropped out of school. The common denominator with mass shooters, at whatever age, isn’t media consumption, media preference, not even access, ability to get a gun; it is always mental health issues. The next thing we are going to hear out of these ideology nutcases is that violence in media formats should be greatly reduced because it causes mental illness, triggers psychosis in adults an opinion utterly unsubstantiated by science; truthfully research is uncovering increasing evidence suggesting mental illness is organic. Schizophrenia has now been linked to a literal brain malformation; Dr. Phil’s wok with the Lawlis Peavey center has highlighted just how much impulsive, bratty or dare devil behavior does indeed have a hormonal or neurological abnormality at its core, abnormalities that can be corrected, essentially cured and at the very least managed by a doctor who knows what they are doing.

Further some things are rated R for real; more and more selections, choices presented to media audiences are cases of art imitating life not life imitating art in that whole chicken or the egg like debate, concepts that move beyond a pastors movie on one woman’s struggle with sexual abuse, spirituality and redemption. Part of the appeal of rappers like Eminem and 50 Cent is these were their lives before hitting it big, this is what they went through; the formers audience expands to people outside those who grow up in similar homes as they recognize his willingness to use a microphone to call society out on its hypocrisies, his willingness to say what most of us are thinking and more. Apparently no one has told Joe Scarborough, Campbell Brown the coarsening of our culture, the bloodying of  our culture didn’t start with the advent of TV, the internet, cable or videogames past the sophistication of space invaders; it started with pervasive sexual abuse largely never talked about, it started with famous decades of serial killers, names we all remember, it started when more and more children grew up in psychopathic homes along with the drug addict, alcoholic, domestic violence cesspools and the conservative, no victims, you can overcome crowd has said that so long, these things have happened so much we, younger people see them as rites of passage not the trials and terrors they are. Contrastingly, one of the reasons people gravitate toward “violent,” a term that is both subjective and open to interpretation, video games is the budding virtual reality aspect, improved graphics and game controls that mimic real time action make the user feel like they are really there; in Call of Duty and Modern Warfare they get to experience what it’s like to be on a battlefield without actually being there. Video games like movies allow people to do or see others doing the things we all sometimes wish we could to certain people in our lives; we get to see people living lives we fantasize about, hints the attraction to Grand Theft Auto 3 and The Fast and the Furious. Yet it is purely fantasy; the only people who are influenced to extreme negative, violent actions as a result of a viewing something or playing a game are persons who have a severe psychological vulnerability in the first place, who are varying degrees of psychotic. The only reason Zeitgeist had such an effect on Jared Loughner is because he was already mentally unstable; the only way playing Dune and listening to  MarilynManson impacted the Columbine shooters to such a degree is they were mentally ill before and while listening to it. It is telling that a room full of grade school students can understand this and anyone over 35 can’t which is the crux of the problem. Fact is millions more people watch so called violent TV and movies than go out and kill people be that in a gang, a jealous rage directed at a girlfriend, wife, ex-wife, revenge on a cheating husband, boyfriend, in a dispute over property, loud music or the justifiably dreaded mass shooting; millions more people play violent video games, listen to violent music than own or even desire to own a gun Campbell Brown.