Written by: Jason Pitruzzello
This is the first installment in a three-part series. The final installments will be published on Wednesday and Friday of this week.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of being given pamphlets about candidates for political office. Despite the fact that I toss all such material in the trash, as I keep up with the candidates for various offices myself and do not need their propaganda about themselves or others to stay informed, I do like the fact that such activities go on because it is healthy political expression. On my campus, there’s a small but dedicated group of students who support Lyndon LaRouche for president, and every few weeks, I’ll get one of their packets handed to me. Most of the time, I toss them away like any other.
Not this time. It’s kind of hard to throw something away when you’re a computer hobbyist and the title, in big letters, asks “Is the Devil on your laptop?” Thinking to myself, “Well, if the Devil is on my laptop, I’d better know about it so I can format the hard drive and reinstall Windows. (Assuming the Devil in questions isn’t Windows. You never can tell when it comes to die hard Mac OS fans.) I held on to the small packet and began to read it over lunch. What I thought was going to be a typical LaRouche diatribe about global economic downturns and their relation to technology industries turned out to be something very different.
Now, since this is Adrenaline Vault, and since the packet I was given contained a lot more than stuff about computers and video games, let me lay down some simple parameters for my discussion of LaRouche’s claims about video games and America’s youth. First, so that everyone knows I am not making anything up, the relevant parts of the pamphlet are located here and here. Second, it’s not my intention to debate the merits or faults of LaRouche’s economic policy, his claims about the formation or maintenance of an Anglo-Dutch Empire or the veracity of claims that in 1974, the CIA brainwashed a member of his NCLC to become an assassin.
I also do not wish to discuss U.S. presidential politics in any depth, despite the fact that Lyndon LaRouche is running for the office. Since I doubt he has any chance of securing a nomination, much less getting elected, it would be fruitless to compare his policies in relation to the other candidates. Instead, I’m only concerned about LaRouche’s claims about links between video games, violence among school age youths and the broader impact of video games on American culture.
In the article entitled “Terrorism Comes to the West: The New Cult of the Teenage Suicide Bomber,” Nick Walsh, writing for LaRouche’s PAC, argues that violent video games, along with Facebook and MySpace, are conditioning those who play into becoming suicide killers similar to suicide bombers. Specifically, the article claims that “In the United States and Western Europe, the perverted religion of the terrorist, is the video game… If the people of the United States, led by the 16-to-25-year-old age bracket, do not destroy MySpace, Facebook and these computer games, the United States cannot survive.”
These claims might seem to be a bit ridiculous to those of us who choose gaming as one of our hobbies, but this kind of amped up anti-video game rhetoric has been advanced before. Specifically, those of us who remember the aftermath to the Columbine Massacre will remember claims that Doom inspired the deadly events of that day. But this argument has a far longer lineage than video games and school shootings. As far back as Plato, such arguments were advanced against the kind of literature popular in ancient Greece. If you take the time to read Plato’s Republic, you’ll find that Plato’s utopian society wouldn’t allow almost any literature, including drama and poetry, because the literature of ancient Greece, such as the epic poetry of Homer and the tragedies of Aeschylus, were too violent and portrayed the gods in a poor light by having them behave in an immoral fashion. This would simply not do because, in the Platonic view of epistemology and metaphysics, the citizens of the Republic would copy what they read and saw on stage, acting violent and immoral themselves. So it was for Plato, so it is for those who, like LaRouche, hate video games: playing violent video games psychologically conditions you to be a cold blooded killer with a suicidal bent.