Hate, Violence, and the Religious Right

by: Frederick Clarkson

Sat Jan 08, 2011 at 22:32

(In light of the shootings in Arizona today, I wanted to provide the Open Left community with the best sort of deep background coverage possible.  That's why I invited Frederick Clarkson, co-founder of Talk2Action, to cross-post this diary from his site.  NOTE: Idiot Wind Will be delayed to late Sunday afternoon, because of special circumstances - promoted by Paul Rosenberg)

In light of the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in a shooting spree resulting in the death of 6 (including federal judge John Roll) and the wounding of 12 others, I want to underscore the culture of violence and threats of violence being furthered by the Religious Right by reprising (a slightly edited) post from 2009 in which I discussed how Arizona pastor Rev. Steven Anderson called on God to kill Barack Obama, and encouraged a member of his congregation to protest an Obama speech by carrying an assault rifle outside the venue.

It is also worth noting that during the election campaign Giffords Opponent, Jesse Kelly, Held June Event to "Shoot a Fully Automatic M16? to "Get on Target" and "Remove Gabrielle Giffords"; and Sarah Palin put Giffords in a crosshair target graphic on her web site. There is no apparent connection between these events and Anderson. However, all are part of the far-right political culture that encourages such ideas and actions. Anderson has continued to promote violent ideas since 2009 and the Southern Poverty Law Center recently listed that Anderson's church as a hate group. We could also discuss the history of how the theology of hate and violence and related rhetoric directed at abortion providers relates to the quarter century of arson, bombings and murders and more that have been directed at abortion providers and how this part of, and not separate from the rest of the far right. But for today, let's recall the words and deeds of Rev. Steven Anderson.

In 2009, I published an essay at Religion Dispatches that discussed the Religious Right back story behind Anderson and his congregation. Here are a few excerpts:

Chris Broughton, 28, made national news when he showed up to protest a speech by President Barack Obama in Phoenix, Arizona with an AR-15 automatic rifle slung over his shoulder and a handgun. While Broughton claims that his (apparently legal) actions were not meant to threaten the president, there was more to the story than a single citizen's dubious actions and pronouncements. Local print and television coverage in Phoenix, and bloggers all over the country, have led the way on an interesting and important story of religion and politics that has been almost entirely ignored by the traditional media.

Here is what they missed.

The night before Broughton's fifteen minutes of fame, he attended a fiery Sunday sermon by his pastor, Rev. Steven L. Anderson, at Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. Rev. Anderson, also 28, explained not only "Why I Hate Barack Obama," but also why he and God both want the president dead. "When I go to bed tonight," Broughton's pastor declared, "Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell." He even goes so far as to claim that:

"God appointed [Obama] to destroy this country for the wickedness of the United States of America. God appointed him because that's what our country has turned into. That's who we deserve as a president."

Frederick Clarkson :: Hate, Violence, and the Religious Right
At a teabagger rally in Arizona, Anderson denounced both the Republican and Democratic Parties, declaring without a hint of irony that Obama, the "worst president" in American history, is "selling us into slavery and serfdom." Further research revealed Anderson's involvement in the Constitution Party, the third largest "third party" in the U.S. In a June speech to the state convention of the Arizona Constitution Party he introduced himself (in addition to being pastor of ) as owner of a "firearms business" operating in "several states" and closed with a plea for an American government based on God's laws as set out in the Biblical book of Deuteronomy.

The Constitution Party, which has tended to be the political home for people with views strikingly similar to Anderson's, is frequently dismissed as a fringe party of little electoral consequence, even though its significance lies elsewhere. It is in fact a steaming hotbed of far right factions with theocratic, vigilante, and sometimes revolutionary ideas whose like-minded members get together to make their plans, just like any other organized faction in American public life. The party says it is 100% pro-life and pro-gun.

Many of the party's early leaders were Christian Reconstructionists, or heavily influenced by Reconstructionism, including party founder and three-time presidential candidate Howard Phillips. Reconstructionism is a theocratic systematic theology whose seminal thinker, the late R.J. Rushdoony, spoke at the Constitution Party's founding convention and was a longtime advisor to Phillips. Reconstructionism was one of the significant theological catalysts for the modern Religious Right--a movement, like other social and political movements throughout history, that has transcended party identification.

The Constitution Party has also been a political home to a wide array of militia proponents, including one of the movement's leading theorists, Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, Rev. Matthew Trewhella, founder of Missionaries to the Preborn who has urged parents to buy each of their children "an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition" for their church militia; Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, (who ran as a Constitution Party candidate for Congress in 1998, but who has since become a Republican); and even Rev. Michael Bray, a convicted felon and longtime leader in the Army of God.

There is much more to the Anderson story, but let's just underscore that the culture of violent rhetoric, violence and threats of violence has been building from a number of sources for a long time.

Crossposted from Talk to Action


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Focus (4.00 / 6)
What you show in this post, Frederick, is how people can be staring right at something and not know what they're looking at.  They see a disturbing surface, and they don't know what's underneath. But there's decades of history out there telling them the kind of thing that's underneath, if not the thing exactly.  And--particularly for journalists, whose job it is supposed to be--the mere fact that the surface is so disturbing is one big fat hint that something even more disturbing is underneath, hidden from view... at least for now.

In the present instance, we have tantalizing fragments of various elements of conspiracy theories--including Ron Paul-style obsession with metal-backed currency--and we have a Democratic congresswoman shot in the head.  How hard is it to put 2 and 2 together?

There's plenty of time to evaluate everything in a balanced manner, after we have some sort of reasonable handle on what everything is, and therefore what balance is, too.  But first we have to actually come to an understanding of the facts.  You can't cross home & score if you don't touch first base.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

I hope this doesn't come across as insensitive or too off-topic (4.00 / 11)
in any way, but it seems to me that it's exactly because there are "decades of history out there" underlying the kind of violent tragedy we saw today that it should be all the more clear in people's minds how urgent it is that "our side" needs to form some sort of cohesive movement outside of political party politics. Fortunately, it seems like after this past year with the White House doing all its pre-surrendering before every "fight" with the Republicans that we may finally have enough folks who understand the need to start creating a movement that's not based around any elected official or political party.

Today was a horrendous tragedy, but I fear for us if we get totally sidetracked and spend a lot of time and resources over the next few months solely locked into a debate about and fighting against gun violence and hate speech. Sure we need to be combating those things and calling the right wingers out on it. But we also need to walk and chew gum at the same time, which means keeping our eye on the bigger picture ball as well. "Austerity" measures and every other damn oppressive thing from the Right's hegemonic steamroller are going to be coming at us full speed ahead, and today's events aren't going to slow them down one iota, Cantor's postponement of a couple of agenda items be damned.

And thanks to Mr. Clarkson for the informative post (and you for inviting him over).  

[ Parent ]
You Make A Lot Of Good Points (0.00 / 0)
and some of them may resurface in a diary in the next few days--but I do think that this is the sort of wild-card event that could truly upset the apple-cart and complicate things as much for the neo-liberals as for the conservatives.  So walking and chewing gum could mean that a strong push on the issues revealed by this tragedy--which definitely includes media facilitation and enabling well beyond the realm of Fox & other conservative media--could be of great assistance in the other battles ahead.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Absolutely agree. (4.00 / 1)
Successfully walking and chewing gum takes strategy as well as skill.  

[ Parent ]
I have almost no expectation that political responsibility (4.00 / 2)
for this tragedy will expand beyond guns and the "extremists on both sides", despite the fact that the left is generally non-violent.  

Irresponsible gun ownership and conservative/tea party culture are culpable in this tragedy, but only somewhat.  When we have a culture in government that is indifferent to human suffering and supports, pushes, and regales "survival of the richest because god helps those that pull themselves up by their own damned boot straps", it isn't hard to imagine a society just like them.   From killing people by denial of health care to shooting them, isn't all that big a leap.

My prediction is that nothing will be learned, nothing will change.  Most will close themselves off even more from the people and country they claim to represent and use this horror as an excuse to be even more punitive to the population that is struggling to cope with the world and government they fucked up and dumped on them.

[ Parent ]
it also takes (0.00 / 0)
initiative and emotion.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Good points (0.00 / 0)
not too sure about those battles ahead. Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers are "all in" on their vision of the world which is shared by conservatives. They can NOT admit to any responsibility for events of this nature, they just can't because it would start unraveling too many items on their agenda .... no I see them denouncing the crime, the person who committed it and strongly criticizing anyone who would dare associate an event like this to the loving, caring conservatives and christians who make this all possible. The sheriff will have a big target on his back now as will all who oppose Zod! Surely, Chuck Todd would not dare to suggest ANY correlation! or anyone in the corporate media. If Charleston Heston can go to Columbine to sell guns when he did then I think this will be a tragic event that slowly falls off the radar in a few days.

[ Parent ]
The Fox News Business Model's Cost In Lives (4.00 / 2)
I've been reporting on the Port of LA (and to a lesser extent, Long Beach) since 2002.  The business model of the Port, its clients, their subcontractors and related transportation businesses costs well over a thousand lives a year in air-pollution-related premature deaths.

It's not that anyone is intentionally killed.  It's just the inevitable consequence of all that pollution, and the intense resistance to paying what it would take to drastically slash pollution levels. Great strides are finally being made, but it's taken enormous political pressure, court cases, and substantial public subsidies to shift the cleanup costs off of the responsible businesses in order for this to happen.

Fox News has a deadly business model, too.  Most of the deaths it causes are impossible to trace. (With so many other outlets playing catch-up on post-9/11 jingoism, how to say how many innocent Iraqi deaths are Fox's vs. the other networks?  Vs Judy Miller? And George W.Bush?)  The same problem in this case as well.  But we do know the causation and the connections are there, even if they can only be traced on an aggregate statistical level.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I woke up this morning (0.00 / 0)
thinking that maybe what we need come Monday morning is for people to call/text/fax/email their local Fox affiliates and tell them to get hate speech off of their programs.  As the premier establishment purveyor of the rhetoric which is complicit in this violence, they need to feel the heat now - nonviolently, of course, because that's who we are, but feel it.

Decarbonize, Deglobalize, Demilitarize

[ Parent ]
A second suspect is identified and being sought. (0.00 / 0)


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

I saw this (4.00 / 1)
and this, if it proves out, could mitigate many of the "jumping to conclusions" remarks I made last night.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
well of course (0.00 / 0)
this is all about validating your theories

[ Parent ]
He's Willing To Stand Corrected. (4.00 / 1)
How is that a bad thing?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
The horror show (4.00 / 8)
I'ved lived in AZ for seven years now, so I've been expecting something like this. Civilization is a powerful thing, but also a fragile one. If you systematically box people in, frustrate them at every turn, and then cultivate and encourage their resentments, this is inevitably what you get. There will always be those who believe that there's profit to be recovered from it, but there never is.

I've recently been reading Nir Rosen's Aftermath. It's a difficult book, and not a particularly artful one, but it's incredibly persistent in its marshalling of the details of people's motivations in extremis, and invaluable for that reason alone. If you want to see how bad it can get when everyone in a society is insecure, living with terrible fears and atrocities day in and day out for months on end, read Rosen's book. Everyone he spoke to had his reasons for doing ghastly things, and none of them could see any way to stop doing them. It's a terrible indictment, not just of American foreign policy, but also of the irresponsibility of men who have power, and can think of no way to use it except to their own narrow advantage.

Whether this side or that one wins today, in the end they all lose. When things come to this, there will, as they say, be blood. There can't be anything else.

An Apt Connection (4.00 / 7)
So-called "conservatives" have been working overtime for at least a couple of decades now trying to pull our country apart, destroying both the security of families and communities, and the broader bonds that hold an entire society of 300 million+ together.  This all culminates in producing what you're describing--a situation in which even the best intentioned find it extremely difficult to do anything productive and unifying.

The flip side of this is Jacob Hacker's argument in The Great Risk Shift, that providing various forms of security is key to unleashing a people's creativity and productivity.  And so what are we doing?  Talking about slashing our social safety net in order to "prove" we are serious about our budget deficit while giving away trillions in tax cuts.

It's hard to imagine a more perfect plan for destroying a society if it were being openly planned with everyone enthusiastically onboard.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Fully aided and abetted by the neoliberals (4.00 / 4)
who sold their people, party, and country out to the banks.   The devastation that has taken over our country is not the sole or even major responsibility of conservatives.  If Bill Clinton taught us nothing, he taught us that it takes a Democrat to screw a Democrat.   Conservatives beat things to death, neoliberals leave them to starve to death.  

[ Parent ]
Very good comment (4.00 / 2)
Judging by his writings (seen at TalkingPointsMemo), Loughner is going to be impossible to categorize politically and is clearly mentally ill, but a more enlightened society might have been able to channel those obsessions in another direction or at least not have created an environment where they'd fester.  He lives in a country where every problem outside our borders is presented with a military solution - is it surprising he'd see mass murder as a way to express whatever it is that's going on in his head?

[ Parent ]
He also lives (4.00 / 11)
in a country where it's easier to get a gun than a job.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
It's all of a piece. That's the point. (4.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
Thanks for inviting, thanks for posting (4.00 / 4)
"...the culture of violence and threats of violence being furthered..."

Another blogger/writer I am looking forward to hearing from is Dave Neiwert, who calls this culture eliminationism - "a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination."

One of Neiwert's worthy observations is the inroads this culture has made into mainstream conservatism:

Perhaps the most disturbing facet of this trend is precisely that mainstream conservatives - button-down types who bridle at the first hint of liberal incivility - seem to have developed an extraordinary, boiled-frog kind of tolerance for the increasing ugliness of their own movement. They can produce reams of ponderous rationalizations for behavior and speech that is simply inexcusable.

These same mainstream conservatives used to be one of the key bulwarks against any kind of fascist impulse in America. Part of our political bloodstream for over a century, such impulses could never find the political space to take root because, in large part, ordinary conservatives had little in common with them. In the span of the past decade, this has increasingly ceased to be the case.

Oh sure, we'll hear party-line denunciations from one end of the conservative movement to the other, but the Tucson-area Tea Party has already refused to change its rhetoric in any way.

The eliminationist tendency is accelerated further by the orthodoxy of centrist Democrats about adopting false equivalency to avoid hurting conservatives' feelings. If you can't even describe reality, then you certainly can't begin to change reality.

The MSM has tagged Independents the party of swing-voting 'centrism.' If Democrats no longer represent your liberal values, show America there is still a Left by registering for another left-aligned party.

David Neiwert, Yes, Indeedy! (4.00 / 1)
Time to dust off the old cybercopy of Rush, Newspeak and Fascism.

Maybe if we're lucky Keith & Rachel will both have him on this week.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Violent Media (4.00 / 1)
"There is much more to the Anderson story, but
let's just underscore that the culture of violent
rhetoric, violence and threats of violence has been
building from a number of sources for a long time."

Yes definitely from the Right-Wing,
but also from the NRA and endless TV shows
and movies that glorify guns and violence.

"An average American child will see 200,000 violent
acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18"

"Literally thousands of studies since the 1950s have
asked whether there is a link between exposure to media
violence and violent behavior.  All but 18 have answered,
"Yes."   The evidence from the research is overwhelming.  
According to the AAP, "Extensive research evidence indicates
that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior,
desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being
harmed." [14]  Watching violent shows is also linked with
having less empathy toward others [14a]."


So many people on the left would love to put the blame
on the rising American fetish for guns and gun violence
solely on the right-wing and NRA, but there is a ton
of scientific evidence pointing towards our beloved
violent entertainment industry as equally culpable.

Good Points, But... (4.00 / 1)
don't forget that Japanese pop culture is also pretty damn violent.  But it doesn't seem to affect them very much.  So while I don't doubt those studies for a minute--and I'm really not into violent "entertainment" myself--I'm pretty sure that Japan has some sort of cultural anti-violence vitamin in its diet that America simply lacks.  My best guess is that it has to do with our peculiar myths of individualism, and the package of practices and institutions that come with them.  And, of course, the Tea Party is just brimming over with that sort of thing.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Japan (4.00 / 1)
Yes, Japan's media is also very violent, but at least
in Japan people watch (on average) only half as much
TV as in the U.S.

According to the OECD's "Communications Outlook 2007""
Japanese households watch half as much TV as American


And according to this article Japanese children watch
half as much TV as American children.


Since the effects of violent media are dose-dependent
that would make a difference. Also the argument isn't
that watching a violent movie will make someone jump
up and commit a violent crime, instead it is that
viewing/playing violent media increases the viewer's
aggression (aggression meaning willingness to hurt others).
If someone is very peaceful but then starts watching violent
movies then they'll become less peaceful. If someone is
already very aggressive then watching violent movies will
only increase their level of aggression.

Also my impression is that asian violent movies have
a greater emphasis on the martial arts and less on guns.
And of course there are the cultural differences which
you point out.

As Jane Mayer demonstrated, "24" did have a profound
effect in convincing a lot of people that tying someone
down and torturing them can be heroic. It used to be
unheard of for the hero (or sexy anti-hero) in movies
or video games to shoot unarmed people, but now that has
become not that uncommon in today's violent movies and
video games.

[ Parent ]
Well, I Don't Want To Get Too Far Out On A Limb Here (4.00 / 1)
but some years ago, I recall reading about the early impacts of violent videogames, which, being interactive, appeared to be even more prone to influence violent behavior.  And this was an area in which Japanese levels of exposure were greater than the US at the time, yet with very little impact.

What you say about 24 is unquestionably true, but it fits within what I said about our individualist ethos, particularly as it has mutated in the post-Vietnam era.  See James William Gibson's Warrior Dreams: Violence and Manhood in Post-Vietnam America  Settler cultures appear to have a particular vulnerability here.  In contrast, Canada has been particularly lucky that this side of settler culture has not been repeatedly reactivated the way it has here in the US. Instead, the flip side--the cooperative side that's always essential for survival--has been much more broadly potentiated than here in the US.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Effects (0.00 / 0)
One of the arguments used by the violent video game
industry is that since the homicide rate has gone down
spectacularly (by half) since 1990 that that proves that
violent video games do no harm. That's actually a pretty
good argument, but it leave out the fact that since
1990 the incarceration has also increased spectacularly
(about 300 per 100,000 in 1990 to about 500 in 2006).


But another big confounding factor is violent TV and
movies. Since people spend much, much more time watching
violence on TV than playing violent video games, it would
make sense that it is violent shows that have the greater

In around 1965 (when children who grew up watching TV
started to come of age), the homicide rate started to
increase, until 1980 when the homicide rate had doubled.
The homicide rate stayed high until 1990, when it finally,
spectacularly came down to it's 1960's level. Between 1970
and 2006 the incarceration rate has increased 500 %
(according to Wikipedia).


This doesn't really prove anything, but it does disprove
the idea that the reduction in crime in 1990 proves that
violent media is harmless.

Another thing, violent crime is not the only symptom of
increased aggression, so is vitriol, spreading vicious
rumors, incivility, harsh political views, etc....

I am NOT arguing for censorship, just for people to be
aware that what they watch does have an effect on them
and to choose accordingly...

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry but "violent media" is a red herring. (4.00 / 4)
Is there any book more violent than the Bible? Any author more violent than Shakespeare, except maybe Homer?

The "media" is violent because art is about human concerns, and death is one of the biggest human concerns there is. When it's good art we call it "love and death," when it's bad it's "sex and violence." But good and bad can be highly subjective and no movie ever killed anyone.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Just A Sec (4.00 / 2)
Shakespeare's violence all occurs off-stage (though not the deaths, as per Romeo and Juliet).  It's powerful, sure.  But not the same thing at all.

There's actually a very solid research basis for what Katie's saying, even though you have a point about how it can easily be misused.  The media and the gun manufacturers are both oligopolies whose business models run on externalizing costs in the form of human lives.  It's much more intensely focused with the gun industry, but it's also true of violent "entertainment".

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
As long as we have to wait.... (4.00 / 2)
Research of the kind you describe is good at identifying correlations, but isn't so good at identifying contexts. Many factors are involved in the correlation between constant exposure to simulated violence and violence itself, few of which are referred to in experimental designs, except in a general wave-your-hands-in-that-direction-before-getting-on-with-the-business-at-hand sort of way.

Tribalism, parental neglect in a society which leaves parenting in the hands of an isolated and beleaguered nuclear unit, overstimulus in general, social animosities which are never realistically addressed, ideological agendas great and small, cultural history -- one could go on and on -- are all factors in the creation and consumption of debased wish-fulfillment masquerading as art, and in its negative effects. You know this, of course, because you're one of the most persuasive of those who try to tie all the threads together and give us a general overview of the forces at work on us both as individuals and as a society. Needless to say, though, more synthesis of this sort needs to be done.

There are lots of easy answers out there, but given what we know, as opposed to what we can focus on at any given moment, we should never take them at face value.

[ Parent ]
Brad Bushman (4.00 / 1)
Dr. Brad Bushman

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?

[ Parent ]
Yes. And? (0.00 / 0)
A piece of the puzzle, certainly. But what piece?

[ Parent ]
Study rigor (4.00 / 2)
You argued for the general weakness of unstated studies connecting media such as video games and violence. Weakness in terms of contexts or factors not meaningfully accounted for in research design.

I know Brad. I think in general his work is: (1) strong because he includes experimental and survey and meta-analytic methods (methodological triangulation); (2) quite rigorous and published in the leading journals in his field; (3) prolific (there is a TON of research); (4) points rather strongly to a causal not merely correlative relationship; (5) and this relationship is explained in terms of models of brain function, i.e. is part of a coherent account of human behavior not merely observational.

Given what Rosenberg said and how you responded I thought you might like the link. He's perhaps the leading researcher today attempting to achieve exactly what you say is generally lacking.

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?

[ Parent ]
Thank you (4.00 / 3)
Yes, I gathered that you knew him -- or at least knew of him and his work in more detail than most readers here would. For the record, I don't doubt the usefulness of research generally, let alone his in particular, nor do I think that researchers are unaware of the pitfalls which concern me, or do less than their best to account for them. In short, I wasn't trying to dismiss or caricature them or their research.

And no, I certainly haven't read Dr. Bushman's papers. All I was trying to say is that the control factors which make any research possible also limit the inferences which can be drawn from its results. I'm sure that Dr. Bushman knows this, but I'm equally sure that the people most likely to apply his research to policy would not, nor would most of them care.

As a layman trying to make his way in the world, I have to put together a course of action in an environment which has no control factors at all, at least none which I can apply unilaterally. I'm grateful for serious people, like Dr. Bushman, who are trying to help me avoid obvious error, but in the end my choices must take a lot of other factors into account, however imperfectly.

It's a different gig, and necessarily a tentative one. Still, a proper humility about one's opinions doesn't mean that they shouldn't be expressed, yes?

[ Parent ]
yes, perfectly so (4.00 / 1)
Still, a proper humility about one's opinions doesn't mean that they shouldn't be expressed, yes?

I feel exactly the same way: I am compelled to express my opinions, even those, especially those, that are undermined once they have seen the light of day. People who are afraid of being wrong and of their errors being known are people who are afraid of learning.

For the record: I was not indicting your opinions. I was passing along access to germane information on the issue in question and having observed your participation here thought you might like the option to delve more deeply into the issue.

For the record 2: Without presuming to speak for Brad directly I can say he is aware that it is impossible to control for all contextual factors (hence, he does not limit himself to experiments or any single method). My question to you is this: Is 100% success in this regard required to draw more or less valid inferences from data and experience? You obviously do not think so in describing your goals so I don't think we should apply it to researchers. At least they are generally transparent about what they are trying to control for and can explain why they think, or the degree to which they think, they have been successful. I do know from conversations that one frustration is when folks use the inevitability of fog, especially in artificially modeling complex social situations for research purposes, to, in essence wash their hands of what the research does say. You don't, but many do.

Interestingly, and speaking to your point, Brad and I never once discussed policy or legal implications of the work he and others have undertaken. That is a much, much, much harder thing to do than monitor brain activity or analyze survey data.

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?

[ Parent ]
One last yes, but.... (And thanks for your patience) (0.00 / 0)
My concerns are, again, a layman's concerns. Such as:

How many violent video games, or Hollywood movies, did Achilles watch? The Afghan Mujahaddin? (Yes, I know how flippant that sounds, but bear with me.)

We do know -- to paraphrase Marine Corps Drill Instructors -- that the difference between an effective military unit and a rabble is training: hours and hours of rehearsal, psychological as well as physical, so that what needs to be done can be done under extreme duress. Does exposure to the pretend violence portrayed by the media have a similar effect? Is it just such a rehearsal, except that it's unintended, even unnoticed, by the society which (inadvertently) sponsors it? What factors turn a disaffected and abused person into a Jeffery Dahmer, a Jared Loughner, or, alternatively, an Audey Murphy, or James Baldwin?

There are a lot more questions where these came from, of course, and all sorts of people trying to come up with answers. For the time being, I'd just note that believing that violence is a solution to otherwise intractable problems, and acting accordingly, is as old as the species, and long predates chronic exposure to the violent imagery of modern media. What are we to make of that?

[ Parent ]
Great stuff (4.00 / 1)
Two points and a wave of speculation.

1. The mechanisms by which violent video games and movies heighten aggressive impulses and reduce inhibitions to action among some "normal" people are described and analyzed in the Bushman studies (he does not study sociopaths). I will say prior to working with Brad my view had always been that media do not cause, social conditions cause. Call it the NWA perspective. He caused me to expand and evolve my thinking.

2. To the degree I appreciate the studies in question (I was a graduate student instructor in his classes so it's not as if I was a co-PI) the central finding is not that these various media are the sole cause of aggressive impulses or the only relevant factors of interest or that humans were entirely pacific prior to video games. Hardly. It is that repeated exposure deepens or accentuates or activates (searching for the right verb here) aggressive impulses and acts.

Begin speculation:

Re: Achilles, etc., perhaps in earlier periods other influences operated (the environment, including the technological environment does change) and that newer influences operate over and above, on top of, or in place of the influences operative at other times. There is also the fact we have a much greater ability now than then to begin to disentangle relative causes. Ancients might have attributed violent impulses to the vapors or demons or what have you and whatever various factors triggered them to move to acting out violence were then unknowable. Consider: it is entirely possible that in the sweep of human evolution people as individuals are in general less violent but that at a lower base state the new media can operate under some conditions with unique effects.

It is also the case that the studies could be read as this: under conditions obtaining [insert your social analyses here] for most in the West, video games can accentuate and activate violent impulses. That's a couple of paragraphs of speculation on my part, of course, but I think you get my point that to conclude violent video games cause some violent acts one need not discount other factors as influential or even necessary predicates.

It's a complex multi-causal world. To be sure, some of Bushman's analyses, most in fact, use standard scientific techniques (random assignment or what have you) to control for other factors to the degree possible. And he is arguing that there is a measurable and unique influence that can be attributed to these various media over and above any and all potential other factors of interest. That this is his argument is clear.

My advice is to pick one or two of the 2010 articles and assess for yourself.

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?

[ Parent ]
Excellent advice (0.00 / 0)
Sigh.... So much research, so little time. Yes, what you say makes perfect sense. I suppose I really ought to go read some of those articles after all, if only to satisfy my own curiosity.

Thanks again....

[ Parent ]
Some folks don't like to look into mirrors (4.00 / 1)
and so artists and shamans are sent to the edge of town, or assessed only in terms of tabloids and Celebritism.

We've met the enemy and all that jazz.

Variations on a theme. Heard some pundit spewing about "a culture of violence" on the right wing wacko web, but all I could think about was how 95% of US foreign policy, including the Global War on Whomever We Want (GW^4), is basically about validating the concept that might makes right and getting ahead starts with getting armed. You want a poor role model, screw Hollywood and look at DC ( or practically any other human central government ever enacted).

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
The gun manufacturers' lobby is (4.00 / 2)
VERY MUCH on the hook for this. Murder is their business model.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Good luck keepin' 'em there (0.00 / 0)
Like DFHs on the left, gun-owners got nowhere else to go.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
'hate and violence - (4.00 / 1)
is as American as apple pie' I once read on a internet blog and as a -(sometimes) - proud American I used to defend my fellow 'homelanders' with anthropological references to the Wild Wild West - Today I'm not proud - but after reading the killers rants I'm at least relieved that it was (again) a sociopath.
But about that 'hate for government' a broad majority of Americans seems to share - I probably never will understand - because these 'governments' are always put in place by 'the people' - So perhaps 'the people' -(please conservatives first) - should start 'hating' themselves a bit more - or at least the part of their cultural heritage which sees a fight in everything!

Instant lies (4.00 / 7)
I was reading an AP article last night that was chock full of lies that I expect to permeate the consciousness on this incident.

1) Both sides are to blame for a toxic political environment.  This is not even remotely true.  The author talked about 42 politicians being threatened and presumably had a list.  Any none lazy reporter or anyone not addicted to "balance" would have counted down the list and added that this included x Democrats and y Republicans.  Nope.

2) Giffords was presented as a "moderate Democrat."  She is, in fact a very conservative Democrat.  Perhaps she is a moderate and a Democrat by the Versailles standards.  

3) The politics of the district on the Republican side has gotten so extreme and so hate-filled that the former Republican representative, Jim Kolbe, won't be part of it.  This is pretty noteworthy, if you ask me.

4)Both Giffords and the judge had been threatened.  In Giffords' case there were incidents in March (door shattered), June (target shooting at her with M-16s), August (a gunman who dropped a pistol rather than shooting at a rally) and finally January.

5) Much is made of Sarah Palin and not nearly enough of Jesse Kelly.  That M-16 rifle range stunt moved things from the conceptual fringe normal to the practical and overtly murderous.  Kelly is an accessory to six murders in my opinion.

6) The political response from the Democrats was a wishy washy nonsense from the Third Way.  Huh?

7) Republicans were allowed to talk pious stuff about how horrible this was and never put on the spot about Kelly or even Palin or about Jan Brewer and Russell Pearce or the Westboro Church or Rush Limbaugh or anything.  Man up guys.

Assassinations in this country are primarily the acts of white conservatives.  Many are loner nuts but ....  The assassination of McKinley, the act of an anarchist, was vigorously laid down on the left or at least the far left.  This one should certainly be laid down on the right.  Maybe the families can sue the Koch brothers and get even one of their billions.  Blood is on their hands and they probably like it.  

Just look at it.  The winger media blames politicians.  Certainly a far more direct link could have been found on say Bernie Maddoff but nobody tried to kill him.  Nobody did anything violent about BP, either, and Pete Peterson continues to threaten the lives and security of tens of millions in the U>S. and sits happily and evilly on his $3 billion.  These malefactors of great wealth are far more harmful than the Blue Dog Giffords or the judge.

Time is a wasting.  If this didn't reek of fascism what does.  

But Julian Assange Is A Terrorist! (4.00 / 1)
Everyone says so!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Unlike many of her fellow Blue Dogs (0.00 / 0)
Giffords did not shrink from affirming her support and vote for Health Care Reform.  This may, in part, account for the violent threats and ultimately the assassination attempt that were made on her.  It may also help to explain her victory in the last election.  The difference between her and the other Blue Dogs may be that on this one issue, at least, she did not let herself be intimidated.

This needs to be remembered along with her less praiseworthy moments like her support of open carry laws and her vote against Nancy Pelosi for minority leader.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]

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