Sunday, September 22, 2013

Violence in video games, terrorism and main street politics...can and will lead to the death of truth and trust

The House of Representatives passed a spending bill this week that eviscerates funding for Obamacare, along with a $40 billion cut over the next ten years to SNAP, the early childhood nutrition program that gets millions of children a more level (certainly not a fully level) playing field when they start to school.
In the same week, the latest edition of a popular video game, Grand Theft Auto V, scored $1billion in sales. While one set of figures applies to the legislation of the U.S. Congress, the second figure applies to the consumer, presumably consumers in many countries, but primarily in the U.S.
In the same week, two mass shootings spilled more blood on the front pages of U.S. newspapers. killing a dozen in the Old Navy Yard in Washington D.C., and fortunately, leaving a dozen-plus in varying degrees of woundedness in Chicago, although one of the victims was a three-year-old boy, who is in critical condtion.
From the position of an outsider, there is an apparent linguistic, cultural and perhaps mind-set link between the shootings, the video game and the legislation. They are all about power, immediately effective deployment of power...the power to kill....
  • through a violent video game described by one "player" as "the opportunity to enact criminal deaths while knowing that I will never become a criminal" an opportunity that gives me a "rush"...
  • through the scream for help from a troubled man who could not make anyone else listen to his cries for help, although, God knows, he certainly waved red flags in the eyes and ears of policemen in Rhode Island, as recently as only one month ago...and
  • through passing legislation (the forty-third time!) to slay the dragon (a cancerous beast, to Tea Party Republicans) of Obamacare and indirectly to wound, if not decapitate the presidency....
It could have happened that the Congress could have seriously wounded the President in his bid for a resolution from both Senate and House, authorizing a military strike against Syria, just when Putin stepped so melodramatically onto the international stage, with his diplomatic strategy to force Assad to surrender his chemical weapons to  international supervision and eventual destruction. (Incidentally, or perhaps not, the U.S. has been in the process of destroying their 30,000 tonnes of chemical weapons for the last four decades, and has not completed the process yet!)
It was former President Bill Clinton, appearing on CNN's GPS with Fareed Zakaria this morning, when asked about the political futures of both his wife, Hillary, and his daughter, Chelsea. "Politics is a contact sport, and if you don't want to get hit, then you'd better stay on the sidelines...but I would never discourage either of them from doing something they wanted to do...I still believe it is an honourable profession"....
And one has to wonder if both football and politics are not becoming, (or have already become) not merely contact sports, but actual sports that endanger one's literal and metaphoric existence....have we not learned that both football and politics have become "extreme sports" potentially carrying the potential to annihilate the participants, through deliberate campaigns of mis-information that could cripple public support for legislation, that could cripple one's reputation and thereby eliminate one from further competition, that could so injure one's skull as to incapacitate one from future worthwhile pursuits.
The 24-7-365 news cycle, the new social media, the stretching of the limits of the rules on what constitutes the truth in advertising, the capacity to libel, slander and wound (through personal and political bullying) anyone courageous enough to "try out" for the football game/team...and  a similar mind-set that seems to infect, even to infest, the koolaid of the culture seems to have so raised-the-ante on what is acceptable and the degrees to which one has to reach to qualify for public acceptance in the game...to a level that far exceeds a former proverbial axiom...(one needs the skin of a rhinoceros) to the level of a bullet-dodger in a action-packed television thriller.
We are now watching the impact on a culture of permanent threats of terrorism, including a permanent state of political "assassinations" using whatever weapons are available, including vocabulary that would and does fit seamlessly into a violent video game, on in a cave in some uncivilized country where terrorists plan their takeover of the world and the accompanying and concomitant fear of lethal attack, from within one's own party and from both open and secret opponents.
One of the normally accepted maxims of war is that the first casualty is truth....
If we are going to consider that all politics is now war, we can expect that its first casualty will be the truth of any statement and the trust of any self-respecting public in those statements....and we will have only ourselves to thank with the demise of our political systems.

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