In the wake of any mass shooting, people invariably want answers. They want to know not just why that shooting happened, but why any such shooting happens.
It’s an understandable reaction. I think most of us feel the same way. What makes someone become so unhinged that they murder as many strangers as humanly possible?
There are usually folks out there that will find something to blame for these incidents, often something fairly popular that this individual doesn’t like. For years, video games got the lion’s share of the blame.
But the governor of Kentucky has something else that he thinks is responsible.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has been forthright about what he believes are the root causes of mass shootings. A few months ago, he blamed gun violence on children’s access to smartphones, video games and psychotropic drugs.
Most recently, he blamed society’s obsession with a specific genre of violent entertainment.
“Seriously, what’s the most important topic that seems to be in every cable television network for example? Television shows are all about what? Zombies,” he said in an interview Tuesday with conservative Kentucky radio host Leland Conway.
Mass shootings point to deep cultural problems, Bevin said, particularly in a society that consumes daily doses of violence through the media. He acknowledged tying zombie shows to gun violence might be perceived as “trite and simplistic.” But, he argued, American culture is “inundated by the worst things that celebrate death,” including the forms of entertainment young people consume.
“These are drips, drips, drips on the stones of the psyches of young generations that are growing up in a society that increasingly said this is normal and okay,” he said. “And eventually, some of those young minds are not going to be able to handle it.”
Of course, violence in the media has long been a target of blame by many lawmakers desperately seeking simplistic answers to complex problems.
However, Bevin isn’t going off half-cocked on this.
First, do we know that any of these people were even fans of zombie television shows? Further, the killer in Las Vegas was hardly a “young mind.”
I get that Bevin is trying to find something, anything, to blame other than guns. If he can shift the debate onto something else, some of the ire currently being directed at guns might go on to another target.
At least, that’s what I hope is happening here.
But this isn’t going to work. Instead, it’ll make the entire GOP look like it’s grasping at straws and is completely out of touch with the mainstream. You know, the same mainstream that turned The Walking Dead into a cultural phenomenon?
Further, it’s likely to alienate younger voters who are being told that their minds aren’t capable of withstanding the imagery from some of their favorite TV shows. After all, the killer in pretty much all of the high profile mass shootings lately, except for Santa Fe, were legal adults.
Look, mass shootings look like simple problems, but they’re not. We don’t even really understand what the hell is going on beyond the more superficial aspects of the event itself.
That’s why the kneejerk reaction of calling for more gun control is so wrong.
On the other hand, claiming other things like the media and video games are responsible is just as wrong. While any of these may play a contributing factor, it’s highly unlikely that this somehow is the overriding one.
Instead, it’s a complex issue, likely one with complex mechanisms leading to these horrific acts.
Let’s stop trying to simplify it.