Murder in the virtual, or actual, degree

One can see the moment when the bullets strike his body, his face writhing in pain.

Arthur retaliates for me asking HIM the question by querying:
Should VR murder be banned? VR being virtual reality

I’ve been conflicted about, not just this most recent iteration of faux violence, but even decades ago, going back to the Vietnam war. It was believed by some, including me, that the weapons of war that look like video games were making killing too easy. Now it’s the common, “clean” way we kill our military targets.

So I wondered if the reverse were true, whether video games that simulated murder, was, in some way, honing an instinct for violence, at least for some people. My gamer friends, to a person, all said no, that the venting of faux aggression on a screen was merely a way to release tension and that there was no crossover to real life. Their certitude never made sense to me.

In 2015, an American Psychological Association task force report stated that “violent video gameplay is linked to increased aggression in players but insufficient evidence exists about whether the link extends to criminal violence or delinquency.”

The liberal in me has a live-and-let-live attitude towards these things. But the moralistic side of me is uncomfortable with this.

The truth is, though, is that I’ve been more disturbed by videos of real people dying on my TV screen. Watching Eric Garner being choked to death by a NYC policeman is so disturbing, it’s difficult to believe that it’s real.

Seeing Walter Scott running away, and, depending on who was editing it, seeing him get shot in the back by a South Carolina policeman, bullets clearly penetrating his body, was horrifying. That the shooter was not convicted was even worse.

Witnessing the dying body of Laquan McDonald as it is struck several times by bullets from Chicago cops was awful. If it were lighter outside, it would remind me of the dance of death of Sonny Corleone in the 1972 movie The Godfather.

Most recently, it was the death of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, who was murdered by a Turkish security person, that was horrifying to watch. One can see the moment when the bullets strike his body, his face writhing in pain.

All of these are available to be seen repeatedly on the Internet. I can’t help but wonder if it informs the public, or merely numbs it from these acts of death.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Murder in the virtual, or actual, degree”

  1. Like a lot of people, I’ve played violent games, watched violent movies and TV shows, yet most of us have never turned to violence or worse. In my answer to the question, I responded based on a much more specific point, that virtual reality is still highly artificial, so much so that any violence would be only vicarious, as it is in ordinary games. I think that matters.

    However, I agree with you about computer game-like weapons, and I think they seem to provide a direct connection between violent games and violent action—but precisely because there is so little difference between the “experience” of the two.

    As for violent images in the news, I’m really split on that. One the one hand, it’s important that people truly understand the consequences of violence (like war). On the other, maybe it makes us numb to real suffering. THAT is something I’d like to see studied!

  2. Way back in 1967 controversial cartoonist Robert Crumb posited a future where robots indistinguishable from humans became common. Since they were merely objects, appliances really, it would be okay to use them any way you wanted, make them servants, use them for sex, and most outrageously collect hundreds of them and create a prison camp and work out your fantasy of bing a Nazi.

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