When we think about “conventions,” most of us probably think of San Diego Comic Con and events of its ilk; we think of giant buildings full of anime cosplayers, booths of artists selling handmade fandom merch, and insider access via things like panels, signings, and media premieres. But conventions are really a much wider concept than a sardine can of nerdiness. Businesses and industries run conventions as a form of mass networking, and other organizations use them for similar purposes.
The NRA, for example, has its own annual event that has run for nearly 150 years. And this year, a prominent NRA figure used his overfunded shoebox to once again place the blame on video games and other entertainment for the country’s gun violence problem. Perhaps it’s time, after having to react time and time again to this nonsense, to do something about it.
The event was the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits (very creative, folks), was held in Dallas, Texas, and was the 147 event of its name. On the event’s website, attendees are referred to as “patriots,” and also seems to be advertised as family-friendly to some extent. Among the events was a three-hour (!) seminar called, “Sheepdogs! The Bulletproof Mind for the Armed Citizen, delivered by Dave Grossman, also known as a professor of “killology.” Grossman is famous for his writings on the psychology of killing, some of which is used in law enforcement and FBI training. He has been accused of glorifying and encouraging the use of lethal force by police, and once caused a big stir when saying on video that some police have told him they go home and have great sex after killing someone on the job. Yeah, he’s a whole thing.
During his seminar, Grossman reportedly spoke about how a new generation of violence is growing with our children in America, and elsewhere in the world. He said that “children are committing crimes like no one’s ever seen before in human history.” Obviously he’s referring to the outbreaks of mass-shootings in schools and the like, that have dominated news media, especially recently with the shooting in Parkland, Florida that has spawned protest and activism from students across the country. Rather than talk about the root causes or psychological aspects of these events, Grossman instead took the opportunity to point blame at “the sick movies and sick TV shows and especially sick video games around the planet that are creating sick, sick kids.”
Essentially, this seminar was about how the populace of the United States has a duty to be prepared to be a “good guy with a gun” at all times. America is sick because of video games and movies, and in order to cure that sickness, which has nothing at all to do with greater cultural woes, or mental health treatment, or especially not guns, we have to arm ourselves and fight back. I guess the idea is that eventually we’ll gun away the bad kids, and have just good kids left, and somewhere in there video games will also go away and everything will magically be ok.
Frankly, I’m tired of this back and forth. The NRA itself will point to anything but guns or other realms of personal accountability as problems that could be fixed, and instead would rather point at abstract “things” that are clearly the problem. But every time this happens all we do is whine about it, while the NRA gets to sit on its piles of money and lobby-driven support, constantly shifting the focus away from itself in the pursuit of making more money off of gun sales. There is a power structure in place here that is a constant threat, and those of us affected by it don’t really seem to be doing much about it. Hell, there are plenty of gamers participating in political discourse, but most of the loud ones seem to be batting for Grossman’s team.
The fact is, if we don’t want video games to constantly get blamed for violence every time something happens or some rich, old doofus who thinks state-supported killing is awesome gets behind a podium, we’re going to have to do something about it, and I don’t just mean dumping money into E3 and hoping the ESA fixes it (they won’t). We have to work on both the inside and the outside, and that means both boosting voices and crit that aims to move games to a higher standard, as well as doing things like supporting advocacy groups and doing that whole voting thing. It’s not going to stop with the old people dying out – they bring kids to these things, too. That’s the scary part.