Do video games cause mass shootings?

Will Greenwald for PC Magazine:

El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, both saw horrific mass shootings over the weekend, prompting another round of “what’s causing this?” …A number of politicians are returning to a popular scapegoat: video games. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and President Donald Trump all cited violent video games as a factor in these shootings and other acts of violence in the US.

These complaints are a decades-old distraction and continue to be unsubstantiated. There is no significant evidence that video games are a contributing factor to mass shootings.

Video games are not unique to the United States, and are incredibly popular worldwide. According to NewZoo, the United States is the No. 2 video game market in the world, with 178.7 million players, or 57.4 percent of the population. Japan is No. 3 with 67.6 million players, or 53.2 percent, followed by South Korea, the UK, and Germany. China is No. 1… Video games are not unique to the US. What is unique here, however, is violence. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the US homicide rate was 5.3 for every 100,000 people in 2017. The UK was at 1.2, Germany was 1, South Korea was 0.6., and Japan sat at 0.2.

Forget about correlation not equalling causation. There isn’t even any correlation here. There is no through line from violent video games to actual violence, based on the data… It’s pretty clear, based on the available data, that violent video games aren’t to blame for Dayton or El Paso, or Virginia Beach, Thousand Oaks, Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, or Parkland. We can consider each of these shooters to be mentally ill and ignore their intentions.

MacDailyNews Take: So what does cause mass shootings in the U.S.? Over the past few days, since Tim Cook came out urging bipartisan action following the recent mass shootings in the U.S., multiple readers sent along a link to this article. It looks at a “common thread” among these mass shooters that we don’t hear being discussed much on U.S. news and opinion outlets.

Melissa Mackenzie for The American Spectator:

After every heinous murderous act, the media spins it and blames. It’s easier than admitting that the culture that they shape is spewing these monsters out at an alarming rate and something more than politics is to blame. In fact, these death-eating humans seem to be a product of a culture that is at the same time wealthier, more technologically advanced, and scientifically sophisticated while being morally lost and spiritually empty.

How can a country with so much prosperity produce humans that value their blessings so little? How can young men entering a world of promise feel so cheated and see no future? Yet they do. And they’re not alone. Spend time talking to millennials and Gen Z and their perception of their own experience is astonishingly bleak. The increased number of suicides is proof of their hopelessness. Why are they so sad and frustrated?

Maybe it’s that they have everything materially, but their lives lack meaning. Despair dead-ends into nihilism. Maybe murder is a response to nothing. At least rage is something. And rage is powerful. It must seem better than the alternative.

How do we solve that problem? How do we help young men, especially, feel like their lives have meaning? That the supposed deep thinkers are blaming their political enemies demonstrates how pathetic our intellectual class really is. These mass murderers are multiplying, and the common thread isn’t politics. It’s powerlessness in a sea of prosperity.

It seems we’ve brought up a generation of people who have everything and feel empty at the same time. The solutions are not easy. Maybe that’s why people blame politics. It’s easier.

MacDailyNews Take: Which leads us to an article that predated this latest spate of mass murders, but which we bookmarked since it rang true. You may find it interesting, but unsettling due to what the article describes as the root cause’s widespread prevalence and acceptance:

Jay Ambrose, Tribune News Service, March 01, 2018:

The worst social problem in America today could well be fatherless homes. While there are myriad exceptions, and while fathers in the home can be negligent or actively harmful, the statistics are overwhelming about how children can get cheated out of decent lives by their absence. There is also a connection to an absolute horror. That would be mass shootings, such as the one in Parkland, Fla.

The adoptive father of the 19-year-old killer of 17 people, Nikolas Cruz, died when he was 6, not the usual way in which a son is left without a male role model. Far more often, it is fathers fleeing their responsibilities, the mother never getting married or divorces. But, in the case of Cruz, we still had a struggling mother who needed help and a son as out of control as Dylann Roof or Adam Lanza.

Roof is the white supremacist who slaughtered nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church. His parents were divorced before he was born. Adam Lanza is the mass shooter who killed his mother and then 20 first graders and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. During the previous two years, he had not even talked to his father.

The list goes on and on, as Brad Wilcox will testify. He is a professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, studied school shootings in 2013 and found all the perpetrators had either had a mother who never got married or had seen a divorce in the family. CNN once looked at the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, noting that, of the seven killers under 30, only one had his biological father around his whole childhood.

Consider a joint federal study showing that 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes; as often as not, mass shooters are simultaneously suicidal. Robert Sampson, a Harvard sociologist, has observed that urban violence is concentrated in neighborhoods with mostly single-parent homes. A Michigan State University study found 75 percent of examined adolescent murderers were from fatherless homes. The Centers for Disease Control says 85 percent of children with behavioral disorders have only a mother in the home. Wilcox also says children with both married parents around are less likely to drop out of school, to become drug addicts or to grow up impoverished.

Vast numbers of children from single-parent homes — that’s now 42 percent of all children — can and do clearly shine bright, thank heavens. The idea here is not to prejudge anyone. But this nation is kidding itself if it does not recognize that a strong nuclear family is the fundamental foundation of society, that America in recent decades has been witnessing dissolution of the family and that this goes to the heart of so much that has gone wrong.

Some like to put the blame on poverty, but single-parent homes are often an instigator of poverty and comparisons of poor children in two-parent homes and one-parent homes show poverty alone is not the issue. Some also consider it demeaning to say a woman cannot always do it all by herself, leaving out the truth that it can be unbelievably cruel to a woman to expect her to. Government programs are nowhere near the solution some believe they are.

Yes, as I have already mentioned, there can be bad fathers, but the good ones, the involved ones, have so much to offer. And just as mothers bring something special to the raising of children, so do fathers. To turn our backs on marriage, to suppose that cohabitation is just as good, is to turn our backs on children — and on the victims of mass shootings.

There are many other factors in mass shootings, of course, and they need addressing. Cultural change is arduous and slow with no easy political answer. But much will stay the same if nothing is done about fatherless homes.

MacDailyNews Take: Another article published just yesterday seems to agree:

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, August 5, 2019:

Before noon on Sunday we received an email from the Progressive Democrats of America declaring that “we blame President Trump for feeding into the anti-immigrant frenzy and white supremacist violence. Yes, you Mr. President had your finger on that AK-47.”

This is political cynicism. Mass shootings also occurred under Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton. They occur around the world, if much less frequently, such as in Christchurch, New Zealand (2019), Australia (2019), and Norway (2011). The twisted motivations are varied and often too convoluted to sort into any clear ideology.

Take the El Paso shooter, who is suspected of writing a manifesto posted on the 8chan website before the rampage. He expressed sympathy for the racial motivations of the Christchurch killer and denounced Hispanic immigration, but he also raged against “unchecked corporations” who support immigration and pollute the land.

This is the rant of someone angry about a society he doesn’t feel a part of and doesn’t comprehend. It is all-too-typical of most of these young male killers who tend to be loners and marinate in notions they absorb in the hours they spend online. They are usually disconnected to family, neighborhood, church, colleagues at work, or anything apart from their online universe…

This is the one common element in nearly all mass shootings: 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz in Parkland, Fla.; Chris Harper-Mercer in Oregon’s Umpqua Community College; Adam Lanza at Newtown, Conn.; Devin Patrick Kelley in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and the rest. All were deeply troubled and alienated from society in our increasingly atomistic culture.

This is one price we are paying for the decline in what the late sociologist Peter Berger called the “mediating institutions” that help individuals form cultural and social attachments. These are churches, business and social clubs like the Rotary, charitable groups, even bowling leagues, and especially the family. Government programs can never replace these as protectors of troubled young people.

Recognizing this reality is not a counsel of despair to do nothing about mass shootings. But revitalizing these private institutions of social capital is crucial to reversing the cultural decline at the root of so many of America’s ills.

MacDailyNews Take: Divorce, broken families, fatherless boys, lack of religion and charity, cultural and social alienation, internet addiction… Are these – not video games – some of the ingredients that can, in the wrong combination, produce apathetic, obviously mentally ill mass murderers?

Again, to stress the fact: This is not about the failure of single mothers, this is a question about the lack of a male role model during boys’ formative years. It seems like a common thread. All common threads in these cases should be explored for those who are interested in looking for real solutions.

MacDailyNews Note: Thoughtful commentary on this issue is welcomed below.

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