Cleveland had a damper put on it’s Easter Sunday. A man who appeared to be having relationship problems went off his rocker and decided to murder an elderly man on the side of the road. The entire incident was broadcast to the world on Facebook Live.
The world sat and watched the horror that Cleveland was in. Police advised residents to stay inside and lock their doors. As the suspect was on the loose, everyone wondered how many more lives the suspect would take before he was caught. The reactions to the video itself, however, were mixed. That is a sign of the times.
Pre Scarface & Grand Theft Auto
Watching a snuff tape isn’t something most people are eager to see. Still, while people didn’t necessarily want to see the video, thousands did. Some were horrified, and others, like myself, didn’t think much of it. Am I that desensitized to violence? Did years of watching actions movies and playing violent video games really change my perception of the world?
Back in the day (before my time) kids played cops and robbers, or cowboys and indians. Little boys had water guns, little girls had dolls. Boys thought girls had cooties. Girls thought boys were gross. They were innocent. Their little brains weren’t developed enough to deal with the cruel realities of the world, so they were sheltered from it.
Celebrities were less tabloid figures and more so role models. If a Hollywood actor was having an interesting sex life, no one talked about it. Musicians were seen as artists, not sex symbols. When Elvis started moving his hips while singing, it was seen as over-sexualized. The days soon came when music was being protested by parents and politicians alike, culminating in a hilarious debate between members of Congress, Tipper Gore, and Frank Zappa.
The argument was over the first amendment. Should artists have the right to sing about anything they want and use whatever language they want? Should movies that depict murder, torture, rape, and violence be allowed to be seen? The argument in favor of free speech won.
Post Scarface & Grand Theft Auto
The argument in favor of free speech is one that many on the libertarian side agree with. The first amendment is sacred. People have the right to say whatever they want.
Technology only made the effects of this grow. Movies became more realistic. Gun shot holes in action movies looked real. The Saw movie series was gruesome for the point of being gruesome, and it looked real. Video games went from Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog to Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Now they’re even more violent with the most popular titles being Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.
Children at any age can pretend to drive a car into a crowd of people. They can kill people, have sex with a prostitute, and then steal a new car. In a sense – children can play video games that are similar to the actions seen in Cleveland this past Sunday. The reaction to the Cleveland killer for many was as if they were watching a poorly made action movie. Nothing more. Nothing less. It made no difference that this time it was REAL.
Americans have become so desensitized to violence that when a real act of violence happens, and is broadcast live over the internet, we react with a shrug. I did. I’m not pointing any fingers. I watched a man get murdered and I didn’t really care. Does that make me a bad person? Are all of the people who reacted the same way as I did bad people? What has happened to America?
Contrary to the direction many think I’m going – I don’t believe America needs censorship. I believe, as Frank Zappa did, that artists have a right to make whatever games, movies, and music they wish. Yes, we’ve been desensitized, but I don’t think we need to be more sensitive.
The solution doesn’t come in the form of sheltering kids from the realities of life, but teaching children to value life. America was founded on the belief that all people had the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have gone so far in our pursuit of liberty, that we have become less caring about our first right, given to us by God – Life. It isn’t about being sensitive or having censorship. It’s about values.