Music, Video Games, and Murder

Any U.S. readers will be aware of this, but for those outside the U.S. who aren’t, there were two independent mass shooting incidents in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend. As per usual, both immediately became political. Soon after political blame games, the other usual suspects are trotted out – music and video games.

Almost as cliche as everyone’s useless thoughts and even more useless prayers is the finger pointing whenever such and incident occurs. It seems almost more heated this time due to A) the fact that there were two back-to-back incidents and B) the fact that everyone is already thinking about next year’s election. And so now we’re in the cycle of thoughts and prayers, ban the guns, blame mental illness, rant about kids these days and their video games and music, and on and on.

(Video explains the shootings better than I would and it goes into the video game finger pointing)

I used to be more of a gamer, though not so much anymore. I do, however, listen to both rap music and extreme metal. In all honesty, I check off a lot of the surface-level criteria that the shooters do – I’m a white, millennial (34) male who is on antidepressants, I’m a bit of a loner, I’m an atheist, I listen to violent music, and I’m (somewhat) involuntarily celibate (though I don’t buy into the anti-woman bullshit of the so-called incels), and I write books that, well, let’s just say aren’t family friendly. Yet, the idea of taking a person’s life sickens me. It literally fills me with anxiety.

So, what’s different about me and these assholes who go around shooting people?

One difference that comes to mind right away is that I don’t hold any extreme religious or political views. I’m an atheist, though not militantly so. Politically I’m a classical liberal – socially liberal, civil libertarian, foreign policy realist, (mostly) free marketeer who believes in common sense border security. As a loner I can sometimes be somewhat misanthropic, but I’m a humanist (at least in the abstract) and I don’t hate women or immigrants or LGBT or people of color or anyone else these shooters often gripe about.

Which begs the question, what is different about these people if I check many of the same boxes, yet I remain peaceful? Is it the ideology that leads people to commit murder on these large scales, or are people predisposed to do such things drawn to the ideologies? If it’s the latter, why are they drawn to these absurd ideologies while I’m not, although on paper I look like I should be?

Is it possible it’s not the video games and music after all?

Blaming those things gives people a sense of understanding the problem, which gives them a sense of control over it. If there is a definite “that thing” that they can point to as an explanation, people feel more secure than they would believing it to be random acts of violence. It also lets some people feel morally superior to those who enjoy things like video games and extreme music. Blaming games and music then gives politicians an appearance of “doing something” about the problem. If they can get up on their soap boxes and pound their fists in condemnation at the easy answers, they can offer easy solutions and look good in front of their scared constituents.

None of this, however, answers the question of why people like the shooters (or even people like me) feel alienated and hopeless in the first place. Why do I enjoy rap and metal music? Because they give me a feeling of power. The music’s aggression just sort of hits that right nerve, giving a sort of energy that I don’t get from normal, everyday life activities. But it’s more than just that. It’s the aesthetic, especially when it comes to metal music which, due to most of the lyrics being unintelligible, is all about the aesthetic.

I imagine most people who are into rap and/or metal music are either like me or, in probably the majority of cases, even more well-adjusted. My brother is an avid gamer and he is very well-adjusted, as are the vast majority of gamers. Blaming music and video games is unhelpful at best and a path to free speech infringements and further alienation at worst.