What culture of violence? Why we shouldn’t blame video games and movies

Does consuming violent media lead to a greater propensity toward violence? If anything, the data points in the opposite direction.

Violence seems to be embedded in our DNA. For as long as there have been human beings, there has been violence. Humans are adept at brutality. And for those of us who hope for an end to violence and believe in a God who desires that we beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, the ever-lengthening account of human slaughter and the ever-growing list of victims can be a temptation to despair.

The mass killing of first-graders and their teachers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, last December may represent a watershed moment in the public perception of violence and the search for solutions to the problem of mass shootings. But the problems of violence extend beyond mass killings like the one at Sandy Hook. In my city of Chicago, the murder rate is topping all past records, with most of the killing taking place in a small number of high-crime, high-poverty neighborhoods. One recent victim was a young woman who had performed at Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

As in the past, a great deal of attention is being paid to the idea that we are awash in a “culture of violence,” which extends to every sphere of society, including the television shows we watch, the movies we view, the books we read and the games we play. The condemnation of violent culture is one theme that unites the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre and President Obama, who in a speech in the aftermath of Sandy Hook criticized “a culture that all too often glorifies violence.”