A tragic shooting took place recently in a typically quiet area of Louisiana. It was late afternoon in a tiny town fatefully named Slaughter, where amidst peaceful, forested, rolling hills 87-year-old Marie Smothers’ life came to a violent end.
The elderly woman was shot in the back of the head while leisurely watching TV. Shockingly, the police revealed to the public that the assailant was an 8-year-old boy.
According to local law enforcement, the killing was intentional. East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office officials believe the young lad’s pulling of the trigger was a deliberate act that horrifically occurred just moments after he had been engaged in playing a notoriously violent video game.
“. . . the investigation has led investigators to believe that the 8-year-old intentionally shot Mrs. Smothers in the back of the head as she sat in her living room watching television,” the sheriff’s office indicated in a statement.
The statement went on to reveal the title of the video game that the 8-year-old had been playing.
“Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game, ‘Grand Theft Auto IV,’ a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred,” the statement read.
The police described Mrs. Smothers as the boy's “current caregiver.” No other information was available on the relationship between Mrs. Smothers and the boy, whose identity was not released because he is a juvenile. Despite the belief by law enforcement officials that an intentional crime was committed, according to Louisiana law, the child will not be charged because he is below the age of 10.
Louisiana law expressly states, “Those who have not reached the age of 10 years are exempt from criminal responsibility. However, nothing in this article shall affect the jurisdiction of juvenile courts as established by the constitution and statutes of this state.”
The boy’s video game of choice is significant. “Grand Theft Auto IV” marks a change in the realism aspect of an already violent video game franchise, due to new technological advances.
Even before the release of “Grand Theft Auto IV,” the game had been criticized by public figures including George Galloway and Hillary Clinton. The group Mothers Against Drunk Driving strongly objected to an in-game option that allows players to drive while intoxicated.
From its inception, earlier versions of “Grand Theft Auto” have contained over-the-top violence. However, the lack of realism, due to early video graphics, softened the impact of the brutality to a degree.
The graphics became far more realistic in “Grand Theft Auto IV,” and so did something that gamers refer to as “physics,” realistic movement of items, characters and body parts in the game.
“Grand Theft Auto IV” added a new technological advance, the Euphoria engine, which combines artificial intelligence, bio-mechanics, and physics in order to afford stunning realism to the behavior and movement of the game’s characters. This realism saturates scenes in which innocent people plead with their assailants so as not to be killed; this occurs right before the game player murders them. There are also scenes in which players may opt to throw explosive bottle devices, i.e., Molotov cocktails, at human targets, the violent act eliciting screaming accompanied by explicit images of pain and suffering on the part of victims. Additionally, virtual vehicles enable players to repeatedly mow down victims, leaving evidence of blood on the virtual cars and trucks.
Numerous research studies have linked the exposure of young people to violent media and an increase in aggressive behavior. In fact, the studies have been so compelling that the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, and American Psychiatric Association have seen fit to definitively state that exposure to violent media may potentially pose a danger to children and teens.
Violent forms of video games provide players with a sort of immersive instruction in the inhuman act of killing, minus the general attendant human reactions of hesitation, compassion, and remorse.
In the sickest of ways, the games are highly effective in their instructive capability. Some of the perpetrators of school massacres have been found to have engaged in violent video game fare, including Sandy Hook murderer Adam Lanza, Heath High School shooter Michael Carneal, and Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
With regard to the Louisiana shooting, our culture has run out of words to convey the range of emotion that floods the hearts and troubles the souls of our people. The tragic event does, however, provide a glimpse into the challenges that parents face in the 21st Century digital media world.
Together we must examine the whole of our media entertainment and technology and, as with other societal threats that we face, find ways in which we can safeguard those we are charged to protect.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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