Matthew Hurtt says
Ultimately, I believe that we are all responsible for our own actions. This is a striking contrast between those on the left and those on the right. For instance, if a woman gets pregnant by having consensual sex with a man it is ultimately the responsibility of the two involved. This is one factor which has helped me form my generally pro-life stance.
Likewise, if someone runs out and kills another person, it is not the fault of violent video games or television programs.
Some would rather continuously find a scapegoat on which they can lay blame when certain tragedies occur, instead of forcing people to take responsibility for their own actions.
And what can you even say in response except, “OooooooooOOOOoooooo, Matthew (and I think we have to use ‘Matthew’ because it goes so well with the ‘Ooooo’s we’ll be making. Let’s all just say it quietly to ourselves while we’re waiting for the end of this aside and, then, the end of this sentence. ‘OoooooooOOOOOOooooooo, Matthew….. OOOooooooOOOOOOOOOooooooooo Mattheeeeeewwwwww…’ Where was I? Oh, yes. Continuing on, for those of you still waiting for the sentence to continue.) OooooooOOOOOOoooo, Matthew, force me to take responsibility for my own actions. I’ve been so bad, blaming everybody but myself. Or the real perpetrator. Or someone. I have been wrong, Matthew, wrong, wrong wrong. Please, make some more half-hearted attempts to sound insightful, but not too insightful, since we all know how unpopular brainy conservatives are among other conservatives these days.”
Here’s the thing. Everybody believes that we are all responsible for own own actions. Just some of us get that there are heavy societal influences on our actions. Would Mr. Hurtt write so long and eloquently about how only the people who vandalized one of our mosques can be held held responsible for the incident if he wasn’t afraid that the words of the people who would like the perpetrators to be held responsible AND for the people who should have foreseen the wire they were walking with the promotion and execution of those reports to do a better job in the future would have an influence on you, dear reader? An influence that might cause you to behave in a certain way–like believing me over Hurtt.
So, just as a fundamental fact, the existence of Hurtt’s post proves that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying. He knows that words and pictures and the ways those words and pictures are presented can influence people to act. THAT’S WHY HE BLOGS.
But beyond that, of course what people see on TV (or in the movies or in video games or in music) spurs people to act. My dad played cowboys and Indians as a kid. Those were the movies and TV shows he watched. They shaped how he played. We used to play “Dukes of Hazzard.” Shoot, every once in a while my dad would pull up to the front of the school when the weather was nice with the car windows down and let us climb in through the windows like total little badasses, at least, until other parents asked him to stop because it was setting a bad example for the other kids.
I assume that Matthew Hurtt was not raised in a box (though, at the time of this post, he had yet to respond to my questions about whether he was raised in said box). So, he knows that culture influence the individual, shapes his imagination.
I think people have fundamental impulses and behaviors. And I don’t believe that cultural artifacts like songs or movies or news broadcasts can make you do anything. To argue that they can is and leads to Tipper Gore levels and worse of censorship and stupidity. But they do give specific and certain shapes to how we express our impulses. That’s just a fact. That’s why my Dad played cowboys and Indians and I played Dukes of Hazzard and my nephews play Avatar. The impulse to play and entertain yourself and your friends is there, innately, but how you express it is determined by your culture.
That’s why people need to be astute consumers, to question what they’re putting in their heads and why and what kinds of influences it might have on them. And why producers of our cultural vocabulary need to think and weigh carefully the ways they talk about things–it becomes the ways we all talk about things.
The ultimate responsibility for the mosque vandalism lies with the perpetrators of that act. That doesn’t mean that Channel 5 had no role in creating a situation in which vandalizing a mosque seemed like an appropriate response.