[images courtesy Pew Research]TL:DR - Dear Mr. President. There is more compelling research highlighting the negative effects of *news media* on violence than for movies, games or other media. Of course "fake news" would say otherwise!.
As a consequence of recent events network and cable TV news, politicians, advocates and activists are busying themselves doing what they do best, demonisation. For now its violent video games, because it serves as leverage towards a related goal, citing them if not as a cause, certainly as significant contributing factor to this latest atrocity (despite nothing yet indicating this
) that requires immediate remedial action
as a result.
Taking this assertion at face value then, that violent video-games, violent movies and violent media in general cause violent behaviour
, that killers kill as a direct consequence of their consumption and exposure to violence, the claim must contend with the fact that violent crime rates have been down-trending for the past 30 years or so since a peak around 1993
, which coincides interestingly with similar moral outrage accompanying the release of Doom (1993) and more crucially the US Senate hearings on video-game violence and bloodshed
also in (late) 1993, the so-called 'Mortal Combat' hearings.
This is not
to say "correlation = causation", rather it's to highlight the
fundamental contradiction between any truth the claim made hold, that violent games cause/lead to violent behaviour, and the evidenced data suggesting the opposite; given the available facts for the claim to be correct, the only conclusion one might then reasonably and perhaps generously make is that violent media consumption has arrested the significance, speed or severity of the decline over time
violence in this context might mediate or moderate the decline, making it slower overall, whereas to contradict or correct, the influence would have to be strong enough to counteract the downward trend, requiring further input to push the trend into the 'positive' in a way that would bolster the argument and make it 'true'. In this setting it would not be too hyperbolic to suggest that
degree of violence being indicative of absolute chaos on the streets, The Purge 24/7
as it were, not what is empirically observed, making the claim, set as it is against a backdrop of significantly reducing rates of violent crime over time, false at face value.
With that said, it is
possible to consider violent video-games, movies and other violent media causative of violent behaviour in one sense; the public's perception of violence
, which is almost to the inverse of the published data
, or it did
reflect the data until late 2001 early 2002, a transformation that appears to coincides with 9/11 and concerns over terrorism.
This naturally means asking questions about the origin of this perception, where exactly does the public get this false impression that violence and violent behaviour is more significant that it actually is. Its rhetorical of course because the public's perception of issues affecting the public and society at large is formed almost exclusively by local and national news, more so than the relatively irregular consumption of movies, games or other media.
The research on this topic, the effects of news reporting
, seems to indicate news is more informative and influential than other forms of media due to its persistence
and the viewers connection
to it - news is seen as 'real' insomuch as it reflects events, people and places the public might recognise or be familiar or intimate with, especially where local news reporting is concerned, whereas movies et al are largely understood as being 'fake' or 'fiction', the viewer knows they are stories told to entertain. Again however, 'coverage' and 'consumption' do not equate to 'cause' in this instance either, at least not superficially.
With that said there are certain instances where it might be considered causative, particularly in the persuasive sense of encouraging individuals down paths not otherwise contemplated, something readily apparent with reportage on suicides, terrorism and other headline grabbing violence, acts often referred to colloquially as consequences of "the copycat effect
. Again this does not specifically indicate a causative relationship, it again simply highlights that rather reductive argument, that "'X' causes 'Y'", and heavy use of emotional motifs and language, is unhelpful in understanding the breadth and depth of exactly what's going on.
- Violent Video Games & the Dishonest Debate
- Boom Headshot, perpetuating the 'murder-simulator' narrative through bad science
- Dumb things pop-culture critics say: video games cause violence
- Digital Self-Harm Among Adolescents, a new phenomena
- Men harassed online more but like, seriously, it's not about them - Pew 2017
- Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong
- Kicking ass and chewing bubblegum
- Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing
- Virtual Reality Assault and Developer Responsibilities
- Normalising/desensitising violence in games. An (initial) study
- How social context influences violence-aggression relationship
- Violence against males in games doesn't count... another study that 'proves' it
 in this context "violent behaviour" is understood to be an behaviour or conduct society general condemns, i.e. acts or expressions of outward aggression or violence towards others. The two main information sources for crime in the USA are defined by the FBI and BJS. In the Uniform Crime Reports the Federal Bureau of Investigation describes crime as "...murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and human trafficking. Law enforcement agencies report arrest data for 22 additional crime categories". Similarly the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the National Crime Victimization Survey defines crime as; "...rape and other sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault, personal larceny, household burglary, motor vehicle theft, and other theft"
- The UK's Office for National Statistics in its Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) similarly describes and divides violent acts in terms of those reported to the Police and those reported through Citizen survey, ostensibly crime is largely "...against the population of England and Wales resident in households, and crimes against those households ... primarily [(including)] ... the offences of wounding, assault with minor injury, and violence without injury".
 Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low - "Americans' trust and confidence in the mass media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly" has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history".
 Oxford Research Encyclopedias - "Conflicting interpretations of research findings inform and shape public debate around media effects. Although there seems to be a consensus among scholars that exposure to media violence impacts aggression, there is less agreement around its potential impact on violence and criminal behavior.".
- Violence: Comparing Reporting and Reality - "The least common types of homicides received the most news coverage in Los Angeles County from 1990-1994. Specifically, homicides of women, children, and the elderly, and homicides involving multiple victims were reported more often than homicides involving one young or middle-aged adult. Actual crime rates showed that the majority of homicide victims were males between the ages of 15-34 with only one victim involved. Furthermore, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and relationship biases were found in homicide coverage (Sorenson, Manz, & Berk, 1998).".
- Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime "The media does not just decide what stories get that kind of attention, but what stories do not get that kind of attention. The murder of a homeless man is not likely to get as much media attention as the murder of a teenage girl from a middle class family. The media can focus on a story, thereby making it headline news, or ignore a different story, and the public will never know.".
- Understanding Media Coverage of Crime - Three explanations or models; 1. Market model (media gives public what they are interested in and what is in the public interest); 2. Manipulative model (media acts in direct in the interests of owners (Marxist theory)); 3. Production model (extent/nature of crime news function of how news is collected).
- What makes crime 'news'? - "... in fact all crime news stories that are published fit one of more of four classic forms of moral problematics. These categories should be understood as necessary but not sufficient conditions for publication. The argument is that candidate crimes stories for publication in daily newspapers must be shaped alone one or more of these four categories before they will be treated as newsworthy".
 Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide - "More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration, and prominence of coverage.".
- Increase in suicides the months after the death of Robin Williams in the US - "Although we cannot determine with certainty that the excess suicides were attributable to news media reports on Williams’ death, Williams’ death might have provided the necessary stimulus for high-risk segments of the U.S. population (e.g., middle-aged men in despair) to move from suicidal ideation to attempt. Therefore, the media industry can positively or negatively influence imitation suicides."
- The effect of media attention on terrorism - "Analyzing 61,132 attack days in 201 countries produces evidence that increased New York Times coverage encourages further attacks in the same country... If terrorists do not receive media attention, they will attack less.".
- Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Copycat Crime - "At this time, copycat effects are felt to be relatively rare and are most likely to appear in at-risk individuals predisposed to crime and in preexisting criminal populations. The effect of the media is thought to be more qualitative (affecting criminal behavior) than quantitative (affecting the number of criminals).".
- International Center for Journalists: mass shootings, media and the copycat effect - "...most journalists were in favor of perpetrator coverage and did not acknowledge a copycat effect ... But given research findings supporting a copycat effect, journalists should be aware that their perceptions of their work don’t always match the work’s actual impact.".
- CDC: Suicide Contagion and the Reporting of Suicide: Recommendations from a National Workshop - "One risk factor that has emerged from this research is suicide "contagion," ... Evidence suggests ... nonfictional newspaper and television coverage of suicide has been associated with a statistically significant excess of suicides.".