Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fifty Dead in Orlando

Fifty dead in Orlando, Florida, in a horrific gun massacre at the Pulse, an LGBT nightclub where a capacity crowd was dancing to Latin music on the main dance floor and another DJ was playing reggae music outside on the patio. The mass shooting came on the heels of the murder of a popular young singer, Christina Grimme, the night before, also in Orlando. Grimme, who came to fame during appearances on NBC's The Voice, was shot dead as she was signing autographs after a performance at The Plaza Live, a music venue, formerly a theater and a cinema.

Why are entertainment venues becoming shooting galleries and why are entertainment industry figures and their audiences becoming targets of heavily armed mass murderers? The nation's expensively-coiffed talking heads won't be asking that question any time soon, certainly not in broadcast media venues. In a nation in which popular culture is constantly marinated in violence as entertainment by the most influential media, why would anyone be surprised by mass murders? Yet even after high-profile shootings in movie theaters in Colorado in July 2012 and Louisiana in July 2015, even after the live, on-air murder of a local CBS affiliate news crew in Virginia, in late August 2015, Americans have heard little or no useful public discussion about the role of the entertainment industry and its subsidiary news organizations in gun violence generally or gun massacres in particular.

In the wake of the nation's worst mass killing by a single shooter, because the crime was committed by a Muslim, corporate news outlets have focused primarily the killer's presumed ties to Islamic terrorism while minimizing if not excluding other possible contributing factors including questions about the shooter's mental health and his sexual orientation. That the killer, Omar Mateen, was Muslim, a U.S. citizen born in this country of Afghan immigrant parents, is convenient for the entertainment industry and its controlled Broadcast Media news organizations, which are in reality little more than propaganda outlets. Though violent crime rates are down, mass murders have increased in frequency in recent decades. Many law enforcement agencies are at least as concerned about home-grown White supremacist terrorism as they are about Islamic terrorism in the USA. Until the recent mass murder in Orlando, studies showed that White supremacist terrorism was by far the deadlier threat. Of course, most Americans would be surprised to learn that, given the heavy emphasis on Islamic terrorism in Big Broadcast Media entertainment fare and news reports.

Most gun massacres in the USA are committed by shooters with mental health issues. Indeed, the act of gun massacre murder is, in and of itself, prima facie evidence of mental instability or mental defect of one kind or another. Decades of social science research, literally thousands of studies, point directly to violent and hyper-violent entertainment product as harmful to the mental and emotional health of regular viewers, especially young viewers, and as a contributing or causative factor in real world violence and criminality. Yet, despite all of the research, all of the evidence, and the dozens of high-profile gun massacres committed by shooters habituated to violent and hyper-violent entertainment product, meaningful discussion of the role of violent entertainment product is effectively banned or strictly limited by mass media corporation gatekeepers. At the same time,research on gun violence under the auspices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is effectively prohibited, blocked since 1996 by members of Congress in thrall to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Hollywood and the NRA seem to be determined to keep Americans armed, ignorant, and paranoid.

One can almost feel sorry for poor Tom Brokaw. Even the éminence grise of NBC News is forced to tiptoe around the rogue elephant in his living room. On NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, Brokaw was free to express outrage that "we don't have any dialog going on in America about all of these mass shootings," but even he dares not try to explain why there is no meaningful, productive public discussion about gun violence and gun safety legislation. Brokaw is in the employ of a major Big Broadcast Media corporation that profits directly from lucrative, socially-destabilizing violence as entertainment product, a corporation that rakes in billions by sensationalizing, glamorizing, and glorifying gun violence with criminal abandon, for profit and for political advantage. So, in NBC's news programming, as in all other Big Broadcast Media news venues, there can be no meaningful public discussion of the causative role of violent Big Media entertainment product in real world violence. Any such discussion would be harmful to the Big Broadcast Media business model, which profits directly socially-destabilizing violent and hyper-violent entertainment product. Because Big Broadcast Media news programs dominate, limit, and shape what passes for a public discussion in the USA, there is a great deal of political propaganda but very little informative, meaningful, productive public discussion, period. This has been true for decades, as Carl Sagan once observed.

Strict control of the public discussion by Big Media gatekeepers regarding mass shootings has been standard operating procedure for decades. Not coincidentally, the other issues that are as strictly controlled are U.S. Middle East foreign policy, relations with Israel, the power and influence of the pro-Israel lobby, and Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine. As gun massacres have become increasingly frequent and the numbers of the dead have risen with the advent and proliferation of extremely lucrative, hyper-violent video games, which gun massacre murderers have often used as training aids, rigid control of the public discussion has become all the more imperative for Big Broadcast Media corporations. Only rarely does any truly useful information about the risks and dangers associated with violent media product slip through in Big Broadcast Media programming.

Even a former Pennsylvania governor and the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security was rudely interrupted when he attempted to speak about the role of media violence in mass shootings on NBC's Meet the Press. The Big Media mob's gatekeepers shut Tom Ridge down quick and dismissed his statements out of hand, with David Brooks substituting patently false entertainment media talking points, aka lies, damned lies, and phony statistics, that fly in the face of decades of social science research. This less than 48 hours after a young, mentally unstable video game addict, Adam Lanza, murdered 20 first graders and six adult school teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012!

In 2014, a 22-year-old Hollywood director's son, Elliot Rodger, killed six, stabbing three and shooting three others before shooting himself as police were closing in on him after his killing spree in Santa Barbara, California. Rodger left behind a 141-page manifesto in which he proclaimed his hatred of women and detailed his decade-long obsession with violent and hyper-violent video games. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown described Rodger's killing spree as "obviously the work of a madman" and said it was "very, very apparent that he was severely mentally disturbed."

Why would it surprise anyone that entertainment industry venues, entertainers, and their audiences are increasingly involved directly in gun violence? In so many ways, the entertainment industry's finger prints are all over America's epidemic of gun massacre murders. The lucrative, socially destabilizing violence that Hollywood and the predatory video game industrypeddle so relentlessly as entertainment is coming home to roost. The motion picture industry has been embedding ads for firearms in its products for decades, and much of that material is extremely violent, patently racist, often misogynistic, inherently irreligious (ungodly), and socially divisive and destabilizing. The notion that one can separate the surfeit of that kind of poisonous entertainment fare from the gun massacres that plague the USA is utter nonsense.

Will Americans learn, eventually, that the two violent lunatics who, in separate and apparently unrelated incidents, killed 50 people in Orlando last week were habituated to violent and hyper-violent media product, as was Dylann Roof, who murdered nine members of a Bible study group in the basement of an historic African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, in what he said was an attempt to start a "race war," in 2015? If we do find out that these particular killers were regular users of violent or hyper-violent media product, it certainly won't be because Big Media corporations wish Americans to understand the contributing and causative roles their products so often play in mass murders. Rather, the Hollywood mob, which has a long and ugly history of vilifying Arabs, would much prefer that Americans remain focused on Big Media news organizations' favorite bogeyman, radical Islamic terrorism.

To ensure that they are able to continue profiting from the deluge of lucrative, socially-destabilizing violence they pump into American popular culture with criminal abandon, the entertainment industry aggressively lobbies not just state and federal lawmakers but a long list of federal agencies.

Scholars Jennifer M. Proffitt, Ph.D. and Margot A. Susca, Ph.D. of the Florida State University College of Communication and Information, writing in "Follow the Money: The Entertainment Software Association Attack on Video Game Regulation," point out that, "Lobbying reports from 2004-2011 outline how much ESA has spent and also explain further to which federal agencies and offices that money has gone. The legislative and federal agencies that have most frequently been the subject of the ESA’s lobbying efforts include: the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S Senate, the FCC, and the FTC. In 2010, ESA lobbied the National Security Council, the Office of the Trade Representative, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Customs Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. In 2008, the ESA spent roughly $3 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies. In 2007, records from the Center for Responsive Politics reveal similar patterns of multi-million dollar lobbying by ESA. That year, ESA spent $2.8 million lobbying Congress and all of the aforementioned named federal agencies and departments including the FTC. In 2005 and 2006, the years of substantial legislative action and Congressional inquiries into violent games, ESA spent more than $4.3 million combined lobbying Congress and other federal agencies and employed 38 lobbyists working on its behalf."

Profitt and Susca report that, "ESA has the power to flex its political muscle in all parts of the legislative process. In 2005, as state legislation in Illinois and Michigan was passed attempting to curb the sale of violent video games to minors, Hillary Clinton, then a New York senator, with Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman proposed the Family Entertainment Protection Act, SB 2126, in December. The federal law was intended to stop the sale of explicit games to minors, yet again, because of concerns about content and the ratings system. In a political move, [Douglas] Lowenstein and Steve Schnurr [sp?], an E[lectronic] A[rts] executive, hosted a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for Clinton the year she and Lieberman crafted SB 2126 (“ESA Promotes,” 2008; Zeller, 2005). By early 2006, ESA had devoted $120,000 toward lobbying against the bill (“Lobbying,” 2006). In 2006, one year after the industry dinner, Clinton, with Lieberman, appeared with Lowenstein to announce a plan to keep the ratings system voluntary. One industry watcher said: 'It’s a fascinating turnabout for these two politicians, who have previously criticized the video game industry for making it too easy for minors to get Mature-rated games' (Cohen, 2006, para. 5). In 2008, Schnurr [sp?] gave $4,800 to Clinton’s presidential campaign (“ESA Promotes,” 2008). SB 2126 died in committee." One might speculate that the primary purpose of the proposed legislation was to elicit legal bribes from the Hollywood mob's well-heeled lobbyists.

The courts are prevented from protecting Americans against the entertainment industry's excesses by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2011 Brown v. Entertainment Marketing Association (EMA) decision. The 7-2 decision struck down a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors, thereby "effectively shielding the entertainment industry from any government effort to limit violent content." The majority opinion was authored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. "His opinion voiced strong support for free speech even when children are the audience. But his support came with an exception established in cases four decades ago: The law can protect children from sex and pornography in the media, he said, but it cannot protect them from violence [emphasis added]. [Scalia] cited court precedents that exempted from the First Amendment 'obscenity' and pornography directed at children."

Why, one might ask, are Justices who would protect children from the attentions of those who target them with sexually explicit material so quick to throw the same children under the bus and allow them to be targeted by the purveyors of even the most disturbing, socially-destabilizing violent and hyper-violent media product, material having harmful effects documented by social science research? Is that not a reasonable question following the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which came three years after the Brown v. EMA decision? The Supreme Court has the authority to overturn precedent. The Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision overturned the precedent known as "separate but equal" affirmed in 1896 by the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, thus effectively ending legal argument for racial segregation in American public schools. How many more must die in how many more gun massacres in America before the Justices reconsider violent and hyper-violent media product? America can't wait 58 years for the Court to revisit Brown v. EMA.

Pity both the law enforcement administrators who are tasked with preventing gun massacre murders and the first responders whose jobs require they go in harm's way to stop the carnage and get the victims of gun massacre violence to safety and to hospital. Powerful media organizations have stacked the deck against administrators, and the trauma first responders experience is always emotionally wrenching and too often psychologically debilitating.

With the nation's legislatures, courts, popular culture, the public discussion, and the rule of law so heavily influenced and thoroughly compromised by those who profit directly and indirectly from socially-destabilizing depictions of violence and bloodshed as entertainment freighted with political propaganda, it might seem that nothing short of providential intervention would suffice as remedy. Let us not presume upon divine mercies.

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