Violence in the Media ViolenceintheMedia 2/25/04 3: 50 pm page 1



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“Film, television, music, dress,
technology, games They’ve
become one giant playground
filled with accessible evil,
darker than ever before.”
ViolenceintheMedia 2/25/04 3:50 PM Page 19


“They’re incredibly violent, and they’re the most popular games on PCs right now says Mike Davila, editorial director of GameWeek, a trade magazine. The object is to kill people—you see chunks of the body flying indifferent directions.”
Eric Harris, one of the shooters in Colorado, reportedly was an expert player of Doom, a D shooter game introduced in 1994 by id Software of Texas.
Doom’s marketing strategy was hard to resist The game was given away over the Internet. Players could customize their killing rooms, selecting from a cache of multiple weapons. They could add new levels by paying for software. At least a half-million copies of Doom were sold or distributed. Doom led to
Quake, a $50 game that has sold about 700,000 copies.
The similarity between such high-tech pursuits and the high school slaughter was obvious to Joe Rosenthal, an editor of Rolling Stone’s online service Its as if these kids were playing a game of Doom, going from room to room,
shooting people up, using multiple weapons.”
Rosenthal was among those sifting for clues in the lyrics left behind by Harris in his America Online user profile. The lyrics were from an anti-racist German band called KMFDM, which released its final album on Tuesday. Some of the lyrics are brutal, Teutonic and nihilistic—“Iron will . . . Born to kill . . . Son of a gun . . . Master of fate bows to no kingdom or state”—but no more shocking than, say, hardcore rap music or any other forms that have flourished since the advent of punk music in the 1970s.
Increasingly, musicians must push the edges of taste, because it’s truly difficult to shock their audiences. When your parents grew up with rock-and-roll and still flock to concerts by the Rolling Stones, how do you rebel against them Some white suburbanites turn to gangsta rap others immerse themselves in such theatrical genres as death metal or “grindcore,” which focus on mayhem, mutilation and death. They boast such names as Cannibal Corpse and Visceral Evisceration.
This slide to the shocking takes many forms. You can see it in pro wrestling,
whose televised stompfests bring a ratings bonanza. You can see it in cartoons like South Park and “Futurama,” in which a recent episode featured a planet run by robots whose goal is to kill all humans. And in Family Guy a cartoon featuring an infant neo-Nazi character who keeps bumping people off.
You can see it in a performance by the artist formerly known as Prince, who on a recent tour performed with a microphone shaped like a handgun. When he sings, it looks as if he’s pointing the gun into his mouth, flirting with suicide.
Much of yesterday’s armchair analysis dealt with the subculture of Goth music, a genre characterized by gloomy lyrics and a poetic fascination with misery. Goth-rock captures teen angst it does not promote violence, its adherents say. If wearing black makes you Goth, then Johnny Cash must be awfully
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