- As expected, America's major media won't explain it.
Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel ducked the issue, saying it's
"a time for grief, not grievance." Blaming a "crazed act
of a clearly unstable man," she called it "an assassination of
democracy....shut(ting) down speech to slay those seeking its exercise,"
then added "we still don't know whether (violent rhetoric) was responsible
for last weekend's horror."
- A Wall Street Journal "Murder in Tucson" editorial
deflected blame from hard right extremists, and rejected political reasons
for the attack, saying:
- "....Loughner is a mentally disturbed man who targeted
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and anyone near here....because she was
prominent and they were tragically accessible....Whatever confused political
motives he expressed seem merely to be part of the maelstrom of his mental
- In other words, blame a "deranged" gunman,
not society, its extremist politicians, demagogic media hosts and pundits,
and America's longstanding culture of violence. More on it below.
- New York Times writers Marc Lacey and David Herszenhorn
noted "political repercussions," concern for personal security,
denunciation of threats and acts of violence against public officials,
and overall outrage. Ignored was growing anger from festering economic
conditions and the proliferation of violence across America, never reported
when ordinary people are affected.
- A Times "Blood and Invective in Arizona" editorial
noted accused gunman Jared Loughner's mental illness and "Internet
ravings about government mind control," saying also that "scores
of politicians" receive violent threats without explaining reasons
for public anger or that society top down is responsible.
- Unexplained as well is how radically, in recent decades,
America shifted right, accentuated by extremist talk show hosts like Rush
Limbaugh, Glenn Back, Sean Hannity, and many lesser known ones except to
their faithful. Also politicians, including conservative Democrats, Republicans,
and Tea Party favorites like defeated Senate candidate Sharron Angle, referring
to congressional "domestic enemies and homegrown enemies," needing
"Second Amendment remedies" as a "cure" for "The
Harry Reid Problems."
- Key as well is the nation's political/media-led war against
Muslims, Latino immigrants, people of color, whistleblowers, progressives,
dissent, and anyone considered unAmerican. Most of all is America's violent
culture, a topic a previous article addressed, accessed through the following
- Key parts relating to domestic violence are covered below.
It began by explaining that from inception, America glorified wars and
violence in the name of peace. It's waged them every year in its history
at home and/or abroad against one or more adversaries.
- It has by far the highest homicide rate of all western
nations and a passion for owning guns. Violent films are some of the most
popular, and similar video games crowd out simpler, more innocent street
play of generations earlier.
- Prescription and illicit drugs use is out-of-control
as well as tobacco, alcohol and other type substance abuses.
- Moreover, US society is called a "rape culture,"
- -- one-fourth of adult women are victimized by forcible
rape sometime in their lives, often by someone they know, including family
- -- one-third of them are victims of sexual abuse by a
husband or boyfriend;
- -- 30% of people say they know a woman who's been physically
abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year;
- -- one in four women report being sexually molested in
childhood, usually repeatedly over extended periods by a family member
or other close relative;
- -- American women overall experience extreme levels of
violence; an astonishing 75% of them are victims of some form in their
- --domestic violence is their leading cause of injury
and second leading cause of death;
- -- statistically, homes, with men in them, are their
most dangerous place as millions of women experience battering by husbands,
male partners or fathers;
- -- for most women with children, there's no escape for
lack of means and because male assailants pursue them, causing greater
- -- adding further injury, societal help is often lacking
because women are afforded second class status, privileges and redress
when they're abused, so many suffer in silence fearing coming forward may
cause more harm than help;
- -- their children are also abused; millions suffer serious
neglect, physical mistreatment and/or sexual abuse; many only get relief
through escape to dangerous streets where they end up alone, more vulnerable
and in greater danger away than at home, where there, too, families act
more like strangers or predators, forcing young kids to flee in the first
- Throughout America, irrespective of class, income, race,
religion or ethnicity, these conditions are more commonplace than rare.
Moreover, peace, tranquility and safety are illusions when crowded out
by foreign wars and domestic violence at home, in communities, neighborhoods,
schools, through the media, in core families, and by federal, state and
local governments waging war on ordinary people.
- It begs the question: what kind of country glorifies
mass killing, assaults and abuse; that calls pacifist nonviolence sissy
and unpatriotic, yet claims peace loving, "indispensable state"
credentials, and manipulates false notions of exceptionalism and moral
superiority to force our ways on others globally. It's no third world dictatorship.
It's America where human rights, civil liberties, democratic values, common
dignity, and personal safety are more illusion than fact.
- American Society Breeds Violence
- Imperial America aside, popular culture breeds domestic
violence. Television features it, studies showing nearly every home has
at least one TV set, and 54% of children have their own in their bedrooms.
They spend 28 hours a week on average watching, double the time spent in
school, so they learn more about life through the media than from parents,
teachers or friends.
- Before age 18, the average American child watches 200,000
acts of violence, including 16,000 murders, and studies show homicide rates
doubled 10 - 15 years after television was introduced.
- Moreover, potential adverse effects from excessive media
- -- increased violent behavior;
- -- impaired school performance;
- -- increased sexual activity and use of tobacco, alcohol
and illicit drugs; and
- -- decreased family communication among other negative
influences, unrelated directly to violence.
- Studies show that two-thirds of children's programming
have violence, three-fourths committed goes unpunished, and most victims
aren't shown experiencing pain. Moreover, nearly half the TV violence children
see is in cartoons, usually portrayed humorously with victims hardly ever
having long-term consequences.
- In addition, big screen films are similar, exposing children
like adults. So is online material, including pedophile cyber-seduction
on unsuspecting children, leading to sexual assaults.
- Studies also show how violent video games (VVGs) like
Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and Mortal Kombat may increase aggressive thoughts,
beliefs and behavior both in laboratory settings and real life. They're
worse than TV or films because they're interactive and engrossing, getting
players to identify with aggressors by acting like them while playing.
These games teach violence. Many young people play them often and parents
don't object. No wonder years later they exhibit the same violent behavior
- The American Psychological Association's (APA) March
2010 Psychological Bulletin published an analysis of 136 papers, representing
130,296 participants and studies from several countries. It showed a consistent
correlation between violent video game use and aggressive behavior.
- Music also teaches violence. The Parents Music Resource
Center reports teenagers hear an estimated 10,500 hours of rock music between
grades 7 and 12 alone or nearly as much time as they spend in school. Entertainment
Monitor reported three-fourths of popular CDs sold in 1995 included profanity
or lyrics about drugs, violence and sex with some popular rap artist music
glorifying guns, rape and murder.
- Against this backdrop and centuries of belligerency,
no wonder domestic violence and attitudes toward it are out of control.
A lone gunman is symptomatic of ingrained values that proliferate violence
daily in US communities and homes, unnoticed unless someone prominent is
- Moreover, America's history reflects harshness against
dissidents, labor, minorities, street protesters, rioters, ethnic or religious
groups, and others, plus commonplace one-on-one confrontations. The great
majority go unnoticed or cared about when committed by one person of color
- For centuries, monstrous violence against Native Americans
nearly exterminated them. Harshness against Black slaves included whippings,
other beatings, rapes, mutilations, forced family separations and even
amputations as punishment for runaways. Post-slavery, Jim Crow and northern
segregation enforced White supremacy on Blacks. Today include Latino immigrants,
Muslims, and others disadvantaged as prime targets for state-sponsored
repression plus whatever they experience in regular one-on-one incidents.
- FBI and other Data
- In 2009, the FBI reported 13,636 murders, itemized as
- -- 6,452 by handguns (nearly half);
- -- 348 with rifles;
- -- 418 from shotguns;
- -- 1,929 by unknown firearms;
- -- 1,825 with knives or similar instruments;
- -- 1,864 by other weapons; and
- -- 801 with hands, fists or feet, etc.
- The Brady Campaign.org campaign against gun violence
gives much higher figures, including 30,000 annual gun related deaths and
70,000 injuries, including 3,000 children and teens. For Black men aged
15 - 34, firearm homicide is the leading cause of death. For Hispanic men
aged 15 - 24, it's the second leading cause.
- Moreover, America is the only industrialized country
that "has not responsibly addressed the problem of gun violence,"
causing, on average, eight times more fatalities than in other developed
nations. For children under age 15, it's 12 times higher.
- America has few federal gun laws, and even those are
pockmarked with loopholes. Among states, Arizona is the most lax, making
gun purchases almost as simple as buying toothpaste. As a result, anyone
can obtain them, even Jared Loughner. Despite his known extremism, instability,
and perhaps derangement, he easily got a Glock 19, a dangerous semi-automatic
handgun bought legally from Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson on November
30. Using a 30-round magazine with an extra bullet in the gun's chamber,
he fired the entire clip before subdued.
- Data from the Department of Justice and other sources
- -- 960,000 violent acts against a current or former spouse,
boyfriend or girlfriend, and up to three million women physically abused
by their husband, male partner or boyfriend annually;
- -- in 2001, more than half a million American women (588,490)
victimized by nonfatal violence committed by an intimate partner;
- -- intimate violence is mainly a crime against women,
accounting for 85% of these incidences;
- -- women are up to eight times more likely than men to
be victimized by an intimate partner;
- -- in 2001, 20% of violent crimes against women were
by intimate partners;
- -- up to 324,000 women experience intimate partner violence
- -- women of all races are about equally vulnerable to
intimate partner violence;
- -- women are up to 14 times more likely than men to report
suffering severe physical assaults from an intimate partner;
- -- 20% of female high school students report being physically
and/or sexually abused by a dating partner, and 40% of 14 - 17 year old
girls report knowing someone their age struck or beaten by a boyfriend;
- -- in a national survey of 6,000 American families, 50%
of men who frequently assaulted their wives also abused their children;
- -- studies show up to 10 million children witness some
form of domestic violence annually; and
- -- over half a million women report being stalked annually
by an intimate partner, while 80% stalked by former husbands are physically
assaulted and 30% sexually abused.
- The FBI divides violent crime into four categories:
- -- "murder and nonnegligent manslaughter;
- -- forcible rape;
- -- robbery; and
- -- aggravated assault."
- It uses the International Association of Chiefs of Police
Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program's definition of violent crime as
involving force or threat of force. Annual data show these crimes:
- -- topped one million in 1975, and from the mid-1980s
ranged from around 1.5 - 1.9 million annually;
- -- since 1975, annual violent crimes of murder and reported
rape ranged from around 100,000 - 130,000;
- -- every year over the past century, 10% or more of all
crimes committed were violent ones;
- -- in 2009, an estimated 1,318,398 violent crimes occurred
nationwide, according to the most recent FBI figures; and
- -- the domestic incidence of violent crimes overall exceeds
the combined total of all US foreign wars.
- A Final Comment
- Generations of violence engrained it in US culture. It
proliferates daily in homes, communities, and by state-sponsored repression
against society's least advantaged, cared about or wanted. It made America
the world's prison capital - a repressive gulag with over 2.4 million incarcerated,
more than China with a population four times greater.
- The Institute for Creative Development's director Dr.
Charles Johnston, a psychiatrist and futurist, calls violence a drug. In
his Center for Media Literacy article titled, "Addicted to Violence:
Has the American Dream Become a Nightmare," he said:
- "At a psychological level, the drama and titillation
of these violent scenarios and our identification with their heroes and
heroines serve to create a sense of excitement, potency and significance
that is missing from most people's daily lives."
- Other effects are more neurological in nature. "Here,
it is less violence per se - behavior driven by anger or aggression - that
hooks us to violent programming than the generalized rush of adrenalin
we feel in response to violent situations presented to us."
- Media violence is powerfully addictive beyond equivalent
substance abuse. It also involves "social circumstances that support
the addictive response." For example, anger and frustration initially
drive riots or street violence. But as it becomes "more chaotic and
random," it's driven less by doubts of achieving the American dream
"than by knowing at some level that even winning would mean little,
that the dream itself had become empty. This ultimate despair (becomes)
a force for destruction."
- Further, violence's addicting power, both real and media
driven, "increases exponentially during times of transition"
when something familiar no longer inspires and nothing new emerges. "At
these times, people are particularly" prone to violence to gain "excitement,
engagement, and influence, feelings lacking in their own lives. And random
violence....becomes particularly addictive in a new way" by giving
"voice to the feelings of fear and chaos so central to these times...."
- His two-part cure involves basic media literacy to separate
facts from fantasy to counter "people's susceptibility to (be harmfully)
manipulat(ed) by violence's hypnotic effects."
- Secondly, it requires working together to write a new
narrative - a "much-needed next chapter in our cultural history,"
including new policies and defining metaphors, as well as "new ways
of talking about what (most) matters" at all levels - at home, in
schools, in community meetings, at all government levels, in business,
between family and friends, and through the media.
- Ultimately, the ability to reject pseudo-excitement,
pseudo-meaning, and pseudo-fulfillment depends on the extent of positive
real life experiences. They're absent for millions in a society experiencing
growing poverty and despair, exacerbated by its longstanding addiction
to violence, proliferated by America's infatuation with imperial wars,
conquest, and repression. Kicking that habit may be key to rehabilitating
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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