In Colorado shooting, a lesson lost

A tragedy leads to little self reflection about a culture that desensitizes us to violence

August 01, 2012|By Douglas MacKinnon

With each passing day, we live in a more and more disposable society. Be it food, jobs, relationships, or even sadly, horrific tragedies which deflate our national spirit.

If we want to be honest in this disposable society we now all inhabit, then we will admit that the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., and the unimaginable and unbearable grief it produced for the victims and families is already fading from our collective conscious. Both because that is how our short-attention-span minds have been programmed to operate and because for much of the media, it's yesterday's news.

While I may be in a shrinking minority, I believe when tens of human beings — mothers, fathers, and children — are slaughtered or shot by a deranged individual, it deserves much more than a few days coverage or even a few honest attempts to ascertain what pushed such an obviously sick mind over the edge. For while this incident is over for all but a few hundred family members and friends, there are a growing number of sick minds out there walking the razor thin-line between insanity and violence.

As someone who knows a bit about the media and is also a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I was shocked by how little attention was paid to the ultra-violent video games that now sell in the tens of millions in our country. After the tragedy in Aurora, I spoke with some teenage boys of friends of mine. Each and every one admitted to playing violent video games. Some on a daily basis for hours at a time. When I asked them how many "bad guys" they kill in these games (often times in the most gruesome and graphically visual ways imaginable), one of the boys said, "Oh, over the course of a year, I kill thousands of bad guys."

Just a year ago now, the Supreme Court, by a 7-2 decision, struck down California's ban on violent video games for minors citing 1st Amendment protection. Good news for the $25 billion a year industry, but maybe bad news for the rest of us.

There are more than 100 million "gamers" in our county. It stands to reason that if as a demographic, they are virtually slaughtering hundreds of millions of "bad guys," then some may become desensitized to killing actual human beings and some may be pushed over the edge. In fact, the maniac in Norway who murdered tens of children admitted he used violent video games to practice his targeting.

Regardless of whether it really plays a role in triggering real-life violence, the video game industry needs to be more sensitive to this tragedy and its victims, a fact that became all too clear when I went to see The Dark Knight Rises — the movie the victims in Aurora were watching before the carnage was unleashed.

It was a surreal experience for several reasons. The first being that my fellow movie-goers continually shifted their eyes to the exit doors to make sure no one was entering. Second, the realization that what I was watching on the screen was the very last image some of the victims saw in life.

Third, and most disturbing, was an elaborate preview and promotion for Halo 4, the latest installment of one of the most popular first-person shooter games. Are you kidding me? After what happened in Aurora, they still chose The Dark Knight Rises to promote one of the most violent video game series of all time? It was beyond offensive and disrespectful.

We do live in an increasingly disposable society often governed by the virtual over the real. Knowing that, it's even more incumbent upon us to admit when the virtual may be harming human reality.

Sadly, Aurora is already a faint memory for many and a lesson lost.

Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the recently published books "Rolling Pennies In The Dark" and "Vengeance Is Mine." His email is

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