On Killing

My friend lent me two books. The first one, Fear, was interesting, but not really aimed at me. This one is preaching to the choir in my case.

I heard of Col.Grossman's book close to when it came out, because of all the school shootings which it explained and presumably predicted. The book is a bit repetitious in laying the case for the human reluctance to kill people. In the final few chapters he describes how the modern military has overcome that reluctance, then in the last chapter goes into his admitted agenda of persuading us to stop doing it to children. It's a good agenda, but probably a lost cause.

There can be no doubt that the violent games and the violence on TV and in movies are training our young people toward violence. Advertizers pay big bucks to modify people's behavior on the basis of what they see and hear on TV (and now in movie theaters too). The games are more significant, as trumpeted in Feb.1020 WIRED magazine. Their focus was of course on Madden Football, which they pointed out is a necessary part of modern player training.

Grossman recognizes that the government cannot forbid it, but he is hoping that social disapproval will have that same effect, as it did for example on the use of chemical warfare after WWI and the use of nuclear weapons after WWII. The problem with his wish is that games are fun to play: the publishers earn hundreds of millions of dollars making sure that they are so. Consequently, it's no longer just a few government officials making the choice to use or eschew the technology, but every adolescent male in the country.

I strongly recommend the book (read any two chapters in the first 200 pages, then the whole last section, and you will have read the entire book), and I heartily wish his success. But I wouldn't bet any money on it.

Tom Pittman
2010 March 8