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Taking Aim at Young Targets

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Many kids are already convinced that they’re only cosmic accidents that evolved from sludge, so who’s to say what’s right or wrong?  As C.S. Lewis’s tempter devil Screwtape suggests, they can make it up as they go.

But to hurry things along toward complete surrender to moral relativism, how about introducing a video game about school shootings?  Or televising a graphic series that may trigger copycat suicides?  Looking at such fare, one might get the idea that there’s a culture war on children.

Well, there is. 

The “Active Shooter” video game is a diabolical instrument created by Anton Makarevskiy, a 21-year-old Russian.  He markets it through his company, Acid Software.  Responding to calls from parents of children and teens slain in actual school mass shootings, he pretty much told them all to take a hike in a Tweet last Tuesday.  

His defenders claim Mr. Makarevskiy is entitled to freedom of expression. Which he is. Scoundrels wrapping themselves in the First Amendment are nothing new.  Ask Skokie’s marching Nazis or Charlottesville’s white supremacists.    

Players in “Active Shooter” can be a mass murderer terrorizing a school or a SWAT team member responding.  As the game progresses, civilian and police death totals are tabulated on the screen.  

Video game marketplace Steam and the crowdfunding site Indiegogo pulled down “Active Shooter” from their sites in May after online petitions were posted by parents of children killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.  

In Parkland, the death toll was 14 students and 3 adults, plus 17 wounded.  In the Sandy Hook shooting, a 20-year-old shot his mother to death before going to the school and murdering 20 children between 6 and 7 years old and six adults.   

Confronted with complaints, Mr. Makarevskiy went to another time-honored scoundrel tactic: pointing the finger at “worse” offenders.

In a May 23 posting on Steam, he said, “While I can see people's anger and why this might be a bad idea for the game, I still feel like this topic should be left alone.   As I mentioned on steam discussion forums, there are games like Hatred, Postal, Carmageddon and etc., which are even worst [sic] compared to "Active Shooter" and literally focuses [sic] on mass shootings/killings of people.”

So, “Active Shooter” must be comparatively wholesome.  But Acid’s owner has a point.  There are hundreds of creepy games, many of which serve a toxic mix of sex and violence to impressionable young minds.  Steam, which had announced that it was taking down its pornographic and sexually violent content, caved to pressure from gamers and reversed itself this week. They’ve doubled the number of sexually exploitive games, according to Pat Trueman of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, who estimates that 35 million children use the site. 

We don’t know exactly the impact of violent video games.  The media trot out psychologists who assure us that there’s no causal relationship to real-life violence.  In fact, a recent study claims that 80 percent of mass shooters had no interest in video games. 

Before we take leave of common sense, we need to ask:  If viewing has no effect on behavior, why do merchants invest billions of dollars on ads to influence people’s buying choices?  

And while we’re at it, do Hollywood liberals who insist on gun control while they churn out gun-heavy, ultra-violent films, year after year, honestly think their “art” has no effect?  If so, why do they bother taping public service spots for environmentalism and other pet causes?    

Our military uses violent videos to train people to kill, so it seems reasonable to assume that videos may make some kids numb to real violence, besides being addictive. I’m not suggesting that “Call of Duty” and other mega-selling video games affect everyone negatively (I know some young aficionados who are gentlemen) but I do worry about kids on the edge who have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality.  

Which brings us to the other aforementioned offering aimed at high schoolers, “13 Reasons Why.” Just renewed by Netflix for a third season, the series examines 13 reasons why fictional suicide victim Hannah took her own life. 

The American Family Association, which launched a petition drive against the program, explains that Season Two was “full of gratuitous sex scenes including multiple rapes and sexual assaults – one extremely graphic; the acceptance and celebration of homosexuality; pornography;  [and] gun violence including a thwarted school shooting.”

We’re a long way from “Happy Days” or Fred Rogers’s neighborhood.

Season One “was powerful and intense,” said Parents Television Council President Tim Winter.  “Millions of children watched; the Google search term for how to commit suicide spiked 26 percent; and there were news reports of children literally taking their own lives after the series was released."

For Screwtape and his demons, this, along with “Active Shooter” and Steam’s renewal of filthy fare, is a fine day’s work.

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