Fox News, Scapegoating, Soapboxes, and High Horses: How to Handle a Crisis


Internet Uproar, Activate!

Brian Kilmeade: Is this about gun control or is this about a guy who has a history of drinking a lot, playing video games a lot and a few shooting incidents?”

Elizabeth Hasselbeck: One thing that happens often in a situation as tragic as this is we start to spread blame where it possibly doesn’t belong, right? I think we all know where the blame truly belongs, and that would be right in Alexis’ hands.

Kilmeade: But you talk about this guy’s background, as we look into it, he’s got a friend, who said, ‘Yeah, he had an obsession with video games, shooting video games. In fact, he would come over and he would be playing so long — these video games, these shooting games — we’d have to give him dinner, we’d have to feed him while he continued to stay on them.’

Hasselbeck: Are more people susceptible to playing video games? Is there a link between a certain age group or [demographic] in 20- to 34-year-old men, perhaps, that are playing these video games and their violent actions? What about frequency testing? How often has this game been played? I’m not one to get in there and say, monitor everything, but if this, indeed, is a strong link, right, to mass killings then why aren’t we looking at frequency of purchases per person? And also, how often they’re playing and maybe they time out after a certain hour.

Steve Doocy: You go to your room! (humorously said)

I’m sure you heard of the Washington shooter who killed twelve people. Yes, it was horrible and bad. Aaron Alexis was his name, and like many before him he suffered from a bout of symptoms indicative of mental illness. Not that you hear voices every day, right? He may display symptoms, but he showed little-to-no problems on the job as a technical consultant, where he refreshed the Navy Marine Corps’ Intranet network. He was honorably discharged for erratic behavior, and sent him back out into the world; again, though, he worked on aircraft mechanical systems. We’re talking a Navy reservist here.

Even then, we know the whole police records: shooting out a man’s tires in 2004, arrested in 2008 and 2010. Clearly, this man needed help in some capacity. His family and friends affirms that he wasn’t the sort of person to do those things, and who are we but to take them at their word? At the very least, we know job satisfaction and a strange obsession with guns played into it. Apparently he developed a drinking problem as well. That “hobby”, if we want to call it that, gradually turned towards video games. Or so we know from the fact that the Fox News video game story blew up the Internet.

So let’s get this out of the way: every news organization is, in fact, not an impartial purveyor of current events. Each one represents a certain agenda, whether it fall on the left or the right side of the political spectrum (some less than others, but you get the idea). In the same vein, television does not allow for the kind of intelligent commentray you would expect of such an issue, especially on a morning talk show like Fox & Friends. Do you note the title’s lighthearted tone? Then you should know exactly what kind of news you get.

But apparently we cannot take the time to actually watch the news clip. Again, to put it more forcefully: Fox News appeals to conservatives. Conservatives, generally, want to avoid restrictive laws on gun ownership. Obviously, school shootings and the like become a rallying cry for more gun control laws from the other side of the political aisle (also, the firearm industry has a huge lobby by comparison to the video game industry). To counter this, then, they need to look at possible other solutions to the problem: where do the mass murders come from? In the clip (if you watch it, unlike everyone else on the Internet), you’ll see that the discussion appears much more nuanced than “Elizabeth Hasselbeck wants to restrict you video game usage! ARGH THE SKY IS FALLING!”:

Notice the constant “If there is a link” language. We call that, in writing “qualifiers” – statements that reduce the impact of the wording from an absolutist stance (say, “all video games cause violence”) to one dependent on a particular situation and/or circumstance (“if a hard link can be drawn between violent shooting video games and mass real-life shootings, shouldn’t we monitor this?”). Actually, as a conservative person myself, if the content of this blog indicates anything, that sounds peculiarly similar to gun control legislation. In any case, the show still places the blame on Alexis alone, and just posits an alternate solution. Whether or not that’s a good solution comes down to the person watching it.

I could point out that the Columbine shooters may or may not have used DooM as a training tool, or that violent video games don’t actually lead to more violent behavior, but plenty of other sites talk about that stuff in response to a supposed scapegoating. I could also point out that making something illegal does not magically stop violence, or stop the usage of pretty much anything because, hey, it’s an apparent fact of life (at least from my perspective) that human beings live within a sinful nature. That concept always equalizes the playing field.

Often in these situations, I hear something, get angry at said person/thing, and then find my initial reaction makes me feel silly. I made a cursory, absolutist judgment based on false information. Then we all turn into lightly chivalrous Pharisees who want to tell everyone else what caused something, or we get angry and condemn some person who said something to which we disagree…even though we don’t know what they said. Even if we do (and frequently enough, we don’t), we’d rather get up on our high horse and say “you know nothing, you dumb blonde” and go on our way, having solved all the world’s issues through the power of words and the statistics that match our particular agenda. Yay, you win Internet!

I wish we could all sit in a big round table, offer opinions, and merely speak to one another as fellow human beings on this. Tensions immediately run high, something takes hold of the narrative (for both sides), and nothing gets done. It pains me over and over again to see this: taking a position without knowing all of the details, the facts, the life of the other people involved, etc. We’re a nation of 330 million people who contain lots and lots of information exclusive to us, yet we all yield to some greater media-driven narrative when the time comes to really doing something about it. The scapegoatings, and the soapboxes, and the high horses make every conversation an exercise in condescension from one angle or another.

In other words, we see self-righteousness on all sides without the possibility of seeing the sin everywhere. If you want answers, actually search for those answers. Refuse to participate in the blame game; don’t present knowledge as a one-sided conversation, an open letter. Actually make the effort. Because, otherwise, you’re just talking to yourself. We all find ourselves with the inclinations of pride. It’s good until it is bad, and when it’s bad, it’s the most dangerous of all by disguising our own faults by seeing those of others. So see your own, then communicate without bias or prejudice; you’ll find the situation improves much faster. Would you rather instruct or serve?

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries  wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Matthew 23


About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.