Before some people begin pontificating about their support for adding an asterisk to the Second Amendment during this holiday season, they should look under their Christmas tree and examine their holiday plans.
While it was far from his most eloquent moment, National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre made the very important point that the culture of violence sold to Americans by Hollywood and the makers of video games likely has a lot more to do with the deaths of innocent Americans in places such as Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut than the facts that guns exist and that their nearly unfettered ownership rights by lawful citizens are guaranteed by the Constitution.
What I found lacking in LaPierre’s presentation was that he reached too far into the past to try to make his point. He didn’t need to do so.
Citing “Natural Born Killers” almost 20 years ago (before co-star Robert Downey, Jr. hit rock bottom, went to rehab and came back to be one of Hollywood’s biggest talents)? All the evidence he needs of Hollywood shoving violence on America is opening on Christmas Day in a theater near you!
Going into the holiday season, “Django Unchained” was the toast of Hollywood. It’s a violent homage to the spaghetti Westerns of the 1970s, with actor Jamie Foxx playing a freed-slave-turned-bounty-hunter who wants to free his wife from an evil plantation owner.
As reports from advance screenings leaked out, the prodigious violence and racial slurs contained in the film began to raise eyebrows. But director Quentin Tarantino told the Hollywood Reporter that, even post-Newtown: “I believe in what I’m doing wholeheartedly and passionately. It’s my job to ignore that [criticism].”
But what can’t be ignored and plays to LaPierre’s point is Jamie Foxx’s comment on “Saturday Night Live,” when he said: “I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that?”
This shouldn’t be played down because it was made pre-Newtown. And Foxx’s non-apology on the “Today” show should be the downfall of him and the rest of the Hollywood political elite: “I mean, I — I’m a comedian. So, I mean, I’m not a — I don’t even know what to say.”
Jamie Foxx really hasn’t been known for his comedy since the 1990s. His Oscar-winning turn as Ray Charles wasn’t a comedy. Most of his notable movie roles over the past dozen years were dramas. The Internet Movie Database categorizes “Django Unchained” under “action,” “drama” and “western.” Not a comedy.
In the wake of Newtown, when Jamie Foxx became the first face on the new “Demand a Plan” video helping advocate for multiple new gun control proposals, was that the comedic or dramatic Jamie Foxx?
It’s not the last refuge of scoundrels, but it’s common for entertainers to rush to the camera to launch into a political diatribe, only to fall back on being a mere performer when challenged. As National Center media fellow Steven Crowder noted about Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show,” Stewart basks in the adulation of being considered the preeminent political pundit of the millennial generation until he is caught spouting simple-minded blather – at which time he claims to be just another shticky punchline-slinger one bad set short of being back at Dr. Grins in Grand Rapids.
But it’s not just the gun violence in “Django Unchained” competing for Americans’ gift card purchases this Christmas season. I went by two local theaters on Christmas Eve to find Brad Pitt brandishing a shotgun on the poster for “Killing Them Softly,” James Bond (Daniel Craig) pointing a gun in the “Skyfall” poster and Tom Cruise looks like he just used his in the poster for “Jack Reacher.”
Movie after movie relies on guns to be exciting. On television, smaller cable networks survive on marathons of crime dramas from the “Law and Order” family of shows. HBO ruled premium cable in the last decade with gun-centric programming such as “The Sopranos” and the “The Wire” like Showtime does now with “Dexter” and “Homeland.”
You can’t handle the truth… You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
And Hollywood will continue to want guns on that wall (wall meaning screen).
Come early next year, there will be “Gangster Squad” (starring elite Hollywood leftist Sean Penn!) which is doubly dubious for its post-Newtown gunplay-aplenty commercials as well as earlier controversy over a trailer attached to “The Dark Knight Rises” that featured a shooting spree in a movie theater (a scene since removed from the movie completely).
There will also be Hollywood’s love letter to Barack Obama, “Zero Dark Thirty.” About Obama’s assassination of Osama bin Laden (with some minor help from SEAL Team Six), some lawmakers seem to be more concerned about the portrayal of enhanced interrogations as a successful tool in the dispatch of bin Laden over the plethora of guns and gun violence that will be seen on screen.
The mention of Seal Team Six provides a good segue into the second half of the Christmas conundrum for opponents of guns: video games.
Adam Lanza reportedly wore body armor during his assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School. Perhaps a little like Master Chief, the main character in Halo 4 – one of this holiday season’s most-anticipated video games.
Halo 4 is rated M (for mature – which means it’s only to be sold to people over 17 years old) by the Electronic Software Rating Board. In their rating, the ESRB explains the reason for the rating:
Players use pistols, scoped rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and futuristic weaponry to kill enemies in ranged combat; battles are highlighted by cries of pain, realistic gunfire and large explosions. Stealth moves (i.e., “assassinations”) can also be used to attack enemies from behind (e.g., snapping their necks or stabbing/impaling them with bladed weapons). During one cutscene, a human character cries out as her body disintegrates, exposing layers of muscle tissue.
Large blood-splatter effects occur when humans are shot; some sequences depict bloodstained environments.
The other got-to-get game of the season (and both were available pre-Newtown) is Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Also rated M by the ESRB, its rating notes:
Players use pistols, sniper rifles, machine guns, explosives and melee attacks to kill enemy soldiers; the frenetic conflicts are highlighted by realistic gunfire, screams of pain and large splashes of blood from injured characters. Blood stains are also depicted around corpses and in the surrounding environment. Some weapons result in decapitated bodies or dismembered limbs, and various attacks are accompanied by slow-motion effects. Other intense acts of violence include a soldier burned alive in a vehicle; a bound man shot in the kneecaps during an interrogation; a hostage’s throat slit by a villain; an incapacitated soldier shot in the head at close range by the player.
It’s a far cry from Pac Man. Heck, it’s a far Mortal Combat – the cutting edge violence around the time video games got too complicated for me.
Even though I do not play these first-person shooter games, I can speak from some experience about the bad habits some modern and very realistic games can promote. I bought a Playstation 2 a number of years ago. I bought the Grand Theft Auto games (these were cited by LaPierre). While the violence of those games seems to pale in comparison to today’s offerings, I did notice that my prolonged chases through the streets of Vice City could sometimes make me lose good judgment for a second when I was behind the wheel in the real world. In the game, any accident is solved with the click of a few buttons.
LaPierre also brought up a decade-old game called Kindergarten Killer whose goal was actually to kill kids in a school. Quite primitive, and very relevant in the overall argument justifying that these games can undeniably put really bad ideas in peoples’ minds, it’s more effective to point out that the games people play in the here-and-now – what are under Christmas trees in 2012 post-Newtown America – are exactly the kind of games that Adam Lanza likely played in the days before he went on his rampage.
As a contractor who does work for my office said in a pre-Newtown conversation with me on this very subject, the next generation of American kids are already training to become special operations warriors through these games.
In fact, they are learning real combat tactics. Not too long ago, seven Navy SEALS were punished for “having revealed tactics, techniques and procedures” that were apparently incorporated in the design of Black Ops II.
Yet MSNBC found a psychologist – Dr. Stanton Samenow – to say there could be no possible link between violent video games and movies and people who dress like the Joker and shoot up movie theaters (as happened earlier this year in Aurora, Colorado). He told the panel, pre-LaPierre press conference, on “The Cycle” such a premise is a “complete and total stretch.”
And, for at least one shining moment, the left is embracing U.S. Supreme Court associate justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote in a 2011 case on video game violence:
Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.
We live in an America where kids who are six-years-old and seven-years-old are suspended for making guns out of their fingers. President Obama is surrounded by well-armed Secret Service agents who disallow forks and knives at a dinner in which the President works the crowd (they insisted the meals be served pre-cut).
Yet we are told there’s nothing to fear about people playing video games or watching entertainment offerings for hours on end that depict human life being worth very little – a world in which redemption is a “reset” click away?
Dr. Samenow told the New York Daily News: “The argument can be made that in terms of taste and public opinion, there is too much gratuitous violence in video games. But millions of people play violent video games and the overwhelming number wouldn’t dream of enacting what they see on the screen.” Can’t the same argument be made about gun owners? How many guns are there in homes across America that aren’t used in senseless shootings?
If, as some claim, these violent games help people blow off steam and keep them from reverting to violence against real people in the real world, would they endorse games that feature rape or racism? There was a game that featured both of those things called Custer’s Revenge back in the 1980s, but a UGO web site reference to it called the game “insulting.” And the game Bully was criticized because it was thought it might encourage schoolyard bullying.
It seems a matter of perspective. That perspective being what will make money for Hollywood and the game developers.
Another thing that LaPierre apparently neglected to bring up is there are video games that have the NRA’s blessing. There are three of them. The left-wing Internet media found them, and gave them the what for.
The trouble with the games seemed to be that they were too realistic. Not realistic in the way they show exposed muscle tissue or blood stains around corpses, but what actually goes into shooting: reloading, aiming carefully, firing, reloading and aiming carefully again – and at a target or an animal rather than fellow humans, zombies or aliens. In the scathing review it received from the web site IGN:
Real varmint hunting is apparently far more involved. Just reloading a gun is a complicated affair. And to think, we always believed you just had to make sure no varmints were shooting back at you before you started tossing extra rounds into your barrel.
Sorry that the NRA couldn’t throw in a rocket launcher or alien horde for avid gamers such as Adam Lanza.
Guns are tools. They can be used for hunting. They can be used for sport. They can be used for offensive and defensive reasons, and the NRA concentrates on the latter as well as good sportsmanship and safe handling. This is what LaPierre and the NRA must repeat again and again and again. And to take away this right to a legitimate tool was considered so heinous of a threat to freedom that our Founding Fathers (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams – not “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter”) made it the second liberty protected by the Bill of Rights.
The NRA, in reality, is the gun nerd lobby. Hollywood and the video game developers are the warmongers and promoters of violence. They are the ones who lobby against anyone who might take the violence out of gun culture. They’ll embrace the First Amendment while bashing the Second Amendment.
Oddly, it seems the only member of the Hollywood elite who has spoken plainly about the issue is actor Samuel L. Jackson (who plays a supporting role in “Django Unchained”). Not necessarily known for wisdom, in a surprising moment of clarity, Jackson said:
I don’t think it’s about more gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.
Perhaps conservative actor (and future Brad Pitt father-in-law) Jon Voight could have a few heart-to-hearts with Jackson. Charlton Heston was a former actor and former NRA president. Perhaps Jackson could take his place.