Non Sequitur Newt

Cross-posted from PoliBlog:

On This Week today, Newt Gingrich blamed “liberalism” for the VaTech shootings:

You went — you said, "I want to say to the elite of this country, the elite news media, the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite — I accuse you in Littleton of being afraid to talk about the mess you've made and being afraid to take responsibility for the things you have done, and instead foisting on the rest of us pathetic banalities because you don't have the courage to look at the world you have created." Do you stand by that prescription today? GINGRICH: Yes, I think the fact is, if you look at the amount of violence we have in games that young people play at 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 years of age, if you look at the dehumanization, if you look at the fact that we refuse to say that we are, in fact, endowed by our creator, that our rights come from God, that if you kill somebody, you're committing an act of evil. STEPHANOPOULOS: But what does that have to do with liberalism? GINGRICH: Well, who has created a situation ethics, essentially, zone of not being willing to talk about any of these things. Let me carry another example. I strongly supported Imus being dismissed, but I also think the very thing he was dismissed for, which is the use of language which is stunningly degrading of women — the fact, for example, that one of the Halloween costumes this last year was being able to be either a prostitute or a pimp at 10, 11, 12 years of age, buying a costume, and we don't have any discussion about what's happened to our culture because while we're restricting political free speech under McCain-Feingold, we say it's impossible to restrict vulgar and vicious and anti-human speech. And I would argue that that's a major component of what's happened to our culture in the last 40 years.

Newt’s statement is an utter non sequitur. There is no way to reasonably connect Newt’s assertions to this event.

Let the record show that I concur that kids of elementary school age ought not be playing violent video games or dressing as pimps and prostitutes for Halloween. However, what in the world that had to do with Cho’s rampage is beyond me. It is utterly unclear, further, how pimp costumes would lead to murderous rampages.

One can understand how one could try and connect violent video games to such an event, but there is still the fact that the vast majority of persons who have played such games who have never killed anybody. Indeed, the number of persons who have played and not killed is pretty much everyone who has ever played. Given the popularity of such games over the last decade the hypothesis that they lead to violence on the part of players would seem to be easily rejected based on the dearth (thankfully) of murder perpetrated by insane young men seeking to recreate Quake III (or whatever the current appropriate game would be).

I am utterly tired of the notion that any particular circumstance in the society can be blamed on vague set of ideas that can be broadly described by a label (e.g., liberalism, conservatism, etc.). In point of fact, while we frequently like to do the ol’ “us v. them” type of thinking, the odds are pretty good that we do not really have a well-developed definition of the Other in question. Gingrich clearly illustrates this above: he blames liberalism yet the best he can do in defending that position is to blame a vague notion of “situation ethics” and the video games/Halloween costume examples. For example, how do violent video games equal “liberalism”? I don’t really see such things as being, per se, an ideological issue.

h/t: Crooks and Liars, which has the video.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. susie says:

    Columbine – do you think it is possible those two youths got in a little too deep with the video game ethos?

    Cho was fifteen, in middle school, when Columbine unfolded. (He graduated from high school at 19.) What happened at Columbine resonated with Cho, a young man who appears to have been an undifferentiated psychopath.

    How do you feel about pedophiles and advertising that depicts overt sexuality in children and adolescents? The vast majority of people will not be driven to molest children when they view images of sexualized children. The question is does it normalize behavior for those who are predisposed toward taking such action.

    I do take issues with our culture bestowing awards on Oldboy (Grand Prix Cannes 2004) and the song It’s Hard Out Here (Academy Award 2005).

    I have tremendous misgivings about imposing government censorship but I would prefer a culture that self-censors. I think Gingrich uses the term liberalism to define an elite that views the most shocking, the most provocative, as being the most worthy of tolerance and accolades. It’s a “how can we top this culture.” It’s tiresome.

  2. mannning says:

    Cho and Liberalism
    Is Liberalism a Significant Factor in the VT Disaster? I Wonder.

    The Liberalism of the parents and elders is transmitted to the children. The Liberalism of the society surrounding them confirms what the children have been taught to believe. The Liberalism of their teachers confirms again what they should believe. This Liberal cult teaches moral relativism to all who listen, and it is at least subtly transmitted to the growing and impressionable lads. They want to believe in the goodness of man, and in justice for themselves. They want to be a part of the brotherhood of man. They hear all the time from Liberals that the government is corrupt, the police are corrupt, and the global war on terror is a constant symphony of violence. with no justification.

    By means of horror and violent books, TV and movies, the lads are again vicariously absorbing yet another form of laissez faire social morality, which “takes” in a few of them, such that they see, almost subliminally, the solution to some of their problems in guns for justice, backed up by their moral relativity teachings, but twisted in their minds to mean that their solution is as good as any. They have a right to their solution for justice!

    Then comes the dash in the face of cold and cruel rejection they receive at school, on the playground, and in non assimilation into the social scene. What happened to brotherly love and equality of all people? What happened to the ending of discrimination that would ensure his place in the world around him? Why isn’t he as good as everyone else? That is what Cho was taught. But it hasn’t worked out that way for him. He is an outcast, a pariah, someone to make fun of daily. He is a Liberal too, so why hasn’t that helped him? It is hopeless.

    Out of this grows hatred of fellow students for the humiliation and rejection that has been heaped on him, and the terrible lack of companionship and romance with the opposite sex he has incurred. There seems to be no cure for this rejection. Over a number of years, such total social and romantic rejection builds up a hatred of immense proportions.

    Even the school partakes in his humiliation and rejection, his loss of face, by interviewing him, sending him to a psychiatrist, and involving the police several times. He is, after all, an adult now, and face is an important aspect of life. The difference between the fairy-tale society governed by Liberalism he had been absorbing and hoping for all his life, and the harsh reality of life as he had to live it, left him with nothing but frustration, anger, and humiliation.

    Then comes a point where some event causes the crystallization of an idea–revenge. He will show them! He will get back on all of people that have been hateful to him in one big event, including the school itself. His life is not worth living if it goes on the way it has, so neither should those others that taunt him and refuse to be nice and kind to him, as he had been taught by his Liberal elders that they should be. They deserve to die. He will kill them and then kill himself.

    What he needs to do this is guns and ammo, which turns out to be easy to buy. He knows how to use a gun from his time playing video games and watching crime movies, and there may have been a particular story that fit closely with his idea of revenge–Columbine, perhaps?

    He is ready and committed…

    Maybe it is a factor after all!

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    What he needs to do this is guns and ammo, which turns out to be easy to buy. He knows how to use a gun from his time playing video games and watching crime movies, and there may have been a particular story that fit closely with his idea of revenge–Columbine, perhaps?

    I’m going to call Bravo Sierra on the notion that one can learn how to fire a weapon from playing a video game. I love playing video games, and often play first-person-shooters. Yet I couldn’t eject a clip from anything like a glock. I couldn’t tell you where the saftey is. I bet I’d also be a horrendous marksman as well. My stepfather who was a sniper in Vietnam, and can still shoot with amazing accuracy on the other hand never plays video games.

    And the idea that violent video games promotes violence simply isn’t credible IMO. Violent crime rates have fallen in the last 10 to 12 years as video games have become more violent and more realistic. I’m just not buying it without lots more rigorous research.

  4. DL says:

    Liberalism basically is a social cultural phenomenon that rejects the notion of God and good and evil, and manifests itself as cultural decay. The perpetual negativity and hatred against traditional things (religion the traditional family) from the media (the good guys now all wear black and operate outside the law)take their toll. Freedom of speech, intended for political purpose, has morphed into unbridled license to do pretty well as one pleases. Liberalism manifests itself in the victim mentality, which in turn means hatred and “get even.” Liberalism can be summed up best by the statement of a former student (now in jail for the umpteenth time) that “you can do anything you want if you don’t get caught.” That is the message of liberalism and it brings chaos to our society.

  5. Anderson says:

    Liberalism basically is a social cultural phenomenon that rejects the notion of God and good and evil, and manifests itself as cultural decay.

    Really, where do you cut & paste this stuff from?

    Bravo Sierra, indeed. (Thanks, Steve, hadn’t heard that one before.)

  6. Pug says:

    I don’t really see such things as being, per se, an ideological issue.

    Well, maybe you don’t but Newt Gingrich does, and it gains him advantage with people like DL above who want to blame liberals for anything and everything. Gingrich did the same with the Susan Smith tragedy.

    Maybe it is time for conservatives and Red Staters to own their massacres. There certainly isn’t any shortage of them in Red States: Virginia Tech, Columbine, Killeen, Texas, Oklahoma City. Ain’t many liberals in these places.

    Just accept that you have as many screwed up people as anywhere else, DL. Any category you want to name: divorce, meth labs, teen pregnancy, high school dropouts. Conservative states lead the way in all these things. So maybe you shouldn’t be quite so self-righteous.

  7. Pug says:

    Really, where do you cut & paste this stuff from?

    Think he found it in a Rev. Ted Haggerty book.

  8. carpeicthus says:

    I only wish Hitler had played fewer video games.

  9. Triumph says:

    For example, how do violent video games equal “liberalism”?

    Newt is a nincompoop–as are some of the silly comments on this thread like DL and Manning who claim that Liberalism is a “rejection of the notion of god.”

    Lets keep in mind the facts. First, Cho and his family were active members of a Conservative Christian church in Centreville and his rantings to NBC was chock-full of Christian references. While his church was not directly affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of Korea–headed by REv. Moon, publisher of the right-wing Washington Times–most Korean-American presbyterian sects share the same right-wing religious beliefs that are often propagated by protestant ministers like Falwell and Robertson.

    Secondly, video games, rap music, shock jocks like Imus, etc… are normally the products of large corporations, whose main organizational purpose it to make money. They are inherently capitalist enterprises. When idiots like Gingrich inveigh against particular products, they never clearly articulate how they resolve that with their ostensibly “free market” leanings.

  10. Michael says:

    He knows how to use a gun from his time playing video games and watching crime movies

    I think manning has been watching too much TV.

    I don’t see how clicking a mouse button while pointing in the vague direction of a target (older games wouldn’t even let you aim up and down) could in any way teach someone to use a real gun. Do martial arts games turn kids into kung-fu experts? Or space shooters turn kids into astronauts and pilots? I used to play Zelda all the time, but I still can’t properly use a sword or bow and arrow.

  11. cian says:

    I seriously doubt there are many liberals running the multi-million dollar companies churning out the nasty games Newt is so distressed over, but not so distressed that he wont go knocking on their doors with begging bowl in hand if it helps get him elected. Nor do I imagine liberals, like conservatives, are big on dressing their kids up as prostitutes and pimps.

    Liberals are, however, a growing breed with more and more Americans turning away from the empty headed arguments of a republican party drifting further and further away from the daily realities with which most of us must engage.

    If you are a republican you need to convince your party to talk like adults and address the country as a whole. If you’re a democrat you need to keep hoping the major networks continue to invite the Newts of the party to give their opinions.

  12. Michael says:

    Liberalism basically is a social cultural phenomenon that rejects the notion of God and good and evil, and manifests itself as cultural decay.

    Um, no. Many, probably most, “liberals” believe in a notion of God. Liberals also all have strong feelings about good and evil, but most believe that the litmus is not found in one book.

    The perpetual negativity and hatred against traditional things (religion the traditional family) from the media (the good guys now all wear black and operate outside the law)take their toll.

    The anti-establishment hero is a staple in literature, as far back as you can look. I’d say as long as there has been an establishment, this theme has been popular with those who aren’t a part of it.

    Freedom of speech, intended for political purpose, has morphed into unbridled license to do pretty well as one pleases. Liberalism manifests itself in the victim mentality, which in turn means hatred and “get even.”

    Conservatism has its fair share of “victims”. Heck, even while the entire federal government was run by conservatives, they still claimed that they were being victimized by it! And let’s just look back at Newt here, or Rush, or Imus for an example of this manifest hatred. And weren’t we just complaining that liberals were suppressing freedom of political speech?

    Liberalism can be summed up best by the statement of a former student (now in jail for the umpteenth time) that “you can do anything you want if you don’t get caught.” That is the message of liberalism and it brings chaos to our society.

    Ha ha, the mantra of every college aged kid is now the Liberal slogan? Come on DL, you don’t actually believe any of this crap you just wrote, do you? So liberals are always telling us what we can’t do, all because of their believe that we can do whatever we want? You can’t even reconcile your two fundamental beliefs about Liberalism.

  13. Anderson says:

    Liberalism can be summed up best by the statement of a former student (now in jail for the umpteenth time) that “you can do anything you want if you don’t get caught.”

    Ken “Enron” Lay – liberal!

    Bernie Ebbers – liberal!

    Alberto Gonzales – liberal!

    My god, they’re EVERYWHERE!!!

  14. mannning says:

    I did not say that Liberals=Godless, but now that you mention it, Secular Humanists, Communists and Socialists are indeed Godless, and they make up a large sector of the Far Left Liberals, IMO.

    One or two commenters show that they have never seen the shooter video games common in video arcades, that are very good practice in accurately aiming and firing a replica automatic. Having used one, I know whereof I speak.

    The other point was obviously dismissed as inconsequential, when it was key. Many shoot-em-ups show with loving care how to load, set the safety, cock and fire an auto, most especially the sexy weapons of the day, such as a Glock. Here too, I saw a movie about the Lugar auto years before I was able to buy one in the UK (it came from a downed ME-109 pilot). From memory, it was easy for me to load, charge and fire the weapon. It is all about familiarity with handling the weapon, and the verious media provide lessons one, two and three. Then Bang! I said nothing about the game itself being a motivating factor, merely a familiarization factor in the use of guns, which aided the idea of a madman’s massacre.

  15. Michael says:

    the shooter video games common in video arcades, that are very good practice in accurately aiming and firing a replica automatic. Having used one, I know whereof I speak.

    Manning, you are the poster-child for gun control. If you think that video games are good practice because they match your level of expertise in handling a weapon, I think everyone else here can agree that you shouldn’t be allowed to carry in public.

  16. mannning says:

    Addendum. If you live in the DC area, you can most likely go to the Springfield Mall and see first hand what a professional video shooter is like. If my memory serves, the game hall is on the second deck.
    Not sure the same games are still there after seven years, but that is one place that had them. My Grandson loved to go there when he visited us.

    Of course, this familiarity with weapons can be realized in other ways, so it isn’t the main point of my post anyway.

    Trying to defeat me in detail, are you, Steve? Bravo Sierra indeed!

  17. mannning says:

    Don’t knock it till you try it yourself, Michael. My expertise comes from owning and shooting perhaps 5,000 or so rounds from 9 mm and .45 weapons, and qualifying a long time ago. Are you qualified?

    The game I played was a reasonable analog to the real thing, except for the kick, and perhaps the weight of the gun…it was a bit light as you would expect. But read the addendum above.

  18. Anderson says:

    Well, I’m a little afraid of Manning now, so perhaps he has a point …. 😉

  19. Scene from back to the Future III, when Marty McFly and “Doc” have time traveled back to 1885:

    Marty is at a town fair where a Colt salesman persuades him to try out a new Peacemaker revolver. Marty nails every target in record time.

    Salesman: Where did you learn to shoot like that?

    Marty: Seven-Eleven.

  20. boaz says:

    No, video games and liberalism are not inextricably entwined.
    BUT.. the video game industry feeds off the entire loss of respect for human life which IS a direct result of liberalism and liberalisms assault on the morals of the culture in which we live.
    No video games have nothing to do with abortion either, but the same connection exists, no respect for the sanctity of life.
    It’s just amazing to me there hasn’t been a OB/GYN video game put out by Planned Parenthood yet.

  21. boaz says:

    They are inherently capitalist enterprises. When idiots like Gingrich inveigh against particular products, they never clearly articulate how they resolve that with their ostensibly “free market” leanings.

    Posted by: Triumph
    plus the rest of the Anti-Christian garbage.

    Of course now I understand it all!

    It’s not the fault of the individual, it’s the fault of the entire Fundamentalist Christian community!

    you are a complete doofusite Triumph. How on earth anyone could connect the Korean Presbyterian Church to christianity in the first place boogles my mind. Take a look at the principles not the name of the cult the Moonies are pushing.
    p.s. Triumph, you shouldn’t take the pills with booze, it’s not good for your frontal lobe functions.