“Modern scientists recognize the potency of thought…as a man thinks so does he become.”
THERE ARE TIMES when you can see a familiar scene with fresh eyes. I had just returned to the U.S. when I found myself in a definitely familiar scene: a local shopping center. The night before I had been on a transatlantic flight where I kept catching glimpses, despite myself, of four private viewing screens shimmering in front of my nearest fellow passengers on the long flight home. They sat there watching ten hours of uninterrupted violence: fights, machine guns, wild explosions – all four of them. You have to wonder, what does that do to a person’s mind? You have to wonder, exactly, because in the barrage of detail that floods over us in response to “the latest massacre” you will never hear it mentioned.
It’s sometimes difficult for me to contain my anger when people fail to see this obvious connection, but I try turning it into a kind of amazement: how can people of otherwise normal intelligence think that we can absorb images of violence but never act them out? Is it because so many watch TV without going out to kill? Perhaps, but consider this:
- we’ve proven utterly incapable of predicting who will go over the edge, so we know we’re killing some people though we don’t know whom;
- violent imagery adds to the general atmosphere of demoralization; they devalue life and normalize its wanton destruction – that is the main reason we have not been roused to do anything about gun control. And finally,
- these images hurt, whether you act them out or not. They alienate. They demoralize. Psychologists have demonstrated this repeatedly (with no response from policy makers or the general public).