Controversies related to incitement to violence through the content of works of fiction and in particular war video games are nothing new. Just one more example of the causal discourses that try to circumscribe the horror of a drama whose magnitude challenges it to incomprehension by accusing media hobbies.
When it lacks any expertise in the matter, the expediency of these discourses is often matched only by their weak arguments, whether produced by emotion or by petty political calculations that pass regulation a popular pastime for the fight against terrorism. It is indeed a rule that with each murderous act committed by young men, the war video game is indicted.
The killings of Columbine (1999), Erfurt (2002), Utoya (2011) and Newton (2012), or closer to us in Istres (2013) will each time give rise to this unfair assignment in contempt of individual biographies and scientific studies. As if mental illness, psychopathy, social exclusion, politico-religious extremism or access to firearms, so many causes – and not excuses – firmly established, did not quench the thirst for explanation moral entrepreneurs.
Let it be said clearly, it is not the search for truth which prevails on these post-drama occasions but rather the banal expression of a popular belief socially shared and of certain class relationships (socio-cultural, generational and even gender) fueling moral panic.
It would also be naive to think of the actors in these controversies as completely independent or above the debate they are engaging in. Where then would be in the interest of taking part in it?
Professional career or personal and private experience is never fortuitous. Let us agree on the hegemony of the American mass culture which has imposed itself in the course of the liberation of Western Europe.
Besides the deplored fact that it partly conveys an ideology of emancipation and armed justice inherited from its national history, the American cultural industry will have had the art and the means to address itself directly to all the youths of ‘Occident, especially because it gives credit and power to the young people it stages. What Japan has also been able to do through cartoons and video games since the 1980s.
This innovative imposition of cultural codes from abroad, is however the resumption, in a fictional or playful way, of an ancestral and almost universal model of male socialization which makes manhood and its control, respectively the prerogative and the issue of young men.
Besides the natural rivalry between individuals, this institutionalized model of militarized masculinity has been, and is still widely used by communities for their real or fantasized survival, seems to have escaped the sagacity of the abjurators of violence.
At a time of lasting peace in Europe and the end of military service, we can question the persistence or even the prevalence in our cultural imagination of this model which integrates and values manhood socially. However, this shift in the imagination comes precisely from the process of civilization which requires everyone to repress their aggressive impulses or discharge them in protected settings.
In essence, these fictions correspond less to an exhortation to violence, often legitimized as a response to aggression, than to a sublimatory exorcism of human and intra-community conflictual tensions. The popular belief that underlies the reasoning behind these discourses is ultimately the ancient fear of contamination of reality by fiction updated by the evolution of techniques.
This belief always supposes the confounding or ripple effects of any fictional immersion, especially since the immersion is long or the subject young. However, it is the real social experience of the subjects that fundamentally organizes their behavior and their distanced relationships with fiction, and not vice versa.
Popular environments, dangerous environments
But whatever those considerations … Never mind that thirty years of scientific research has shown no causal link between the practice of violent video games and the act of violence. Never mind that in the past 40 years crime rates have been at their lowest in the United States and Japan, two countries that produce violent images.
Finally, it does not matter that politicians have known for a long time the real causes of violence between citizens, without acting on it. No, the important thing is to consider, since the middle of the 19th century, that adolescents and in particular those from working-class backgrounds considered to be more “fragile” represent, through their rowdy socialization and their explicit leisure activities, a danger for the whole society.
For the cantors of pacification of mores belonging to the ruling class, a few dramatic examples will suffice to sound the alarm and illogically claim that cinema, rock’n’roll, comics or video games are crime-pushers of their time. The speech will easily convince those furthest from the subject of the crime. And the shift of parental guilt to contemporary Western culture will relieve those who face difficult adolescent identity crises!
As for the enthusiasts who must publicly prove their probity, their age and / or mental health in order to avoid any confusion, they will have won a retribution online.