House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) took to Fox News on Sunday in the wake of two mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH, to suggest that blame could lie at least partially with video games.
“The idea that these video games that dehumanize individuals to have a game of shooting individuals — I’ve always felt that it’s a problem for future generations and others,” McCarthy said. “We’ve watched studies show what it does to individuals, and you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”
McCarthy’s comments echo ones made by Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick on Fox & Friends Sunday morning. “How long are we going to ignore — at the federal level particularly — where they can do something about the video game industry,” Patrick said. “In this manifesto that we believe is from the shooter, this manifesto where he talks about living out his super soldier fantasy on Call of Duty.”
First of all Patrick is completely wrong. The manifesto actually encourages would-be-terrorists not to live out their “super soldier fantasy” by attacking well-protected targets, and instead target locations where security is minimal, like shopping malls.
Secondly, the “video games are responsible for mass shootings” talking point has been trotted out since 1999, when President Bill Clinton ordered an investigation into violent media in the wake of the Columbine massacre. It’s become a repeated, easy talking point for politicians looking to find a convenient scapegoat for mass shootings, that doesn’t involve confronting the ease of firearm availability, or the persistent strength of far-right extremism. In wake of the Parkland shooting last February, for instance, the Trump White House held a round table about perceived violence in video games.
This is all despite the fact that there is little-to-no evidence to support the notion that video games cause mass shootings. A 2012 study of the world’s ten largest video game markets showed absolutely no correlation between video games and violence. If the correlation was as McCarthy, Trump and Patrick have all suggested, then countries like South Korea, the Netherlands and the U.K. would all experience regular mass shootings or rampage-style attacks, which they don’t.
What’s more, when videogames do appear as part of an investigation into a mass shooting the connection is often quite nebulous. Adam Lanza, for instance, who carried out the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, was a fan of the game Dance Dance Revolution. Anders Behring Breivik, who carried out the far-terror attack in Norway in 2011, was a fan of the fantasy multiplayer game World of Warcraft.