Crime, video games, and how men really act in war

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Some of my readers may have heard about the recent video, published by an organization called Wikileaks, a self-proclaimed government and military watchdog organization. The video shows an Apache helicopter crew engaging a group of people in Iraq during the 2007 surge. At least eight people are killed and two children are wounded. What seems to outrage the critics the most is the verbage used by the pilots. Things like: “Good shooting” and “(laughing) They ran over a body.” Also, “Come on buddy…all you gotta do is pick up a weapon.” One pundit commented: “It’s almost like they’re playing a video game.”  Several times the pilots express glee at the sight of their kills.  

Here’s the video. Interpret the propoganda by Wikileaks as you see fit:  

But no. It’s not like they’re playing a video game. It could be said of those playing video games, that it’s almost like the gamers are at war. The people at war are not copying what they’ve seen in video games, people playing video games are obeying the animal urge to fight.  

Perhaps the greatest of all myths when it comes to war, is that men don’t like to fight and kill. What they really don’t like is to lose a fight, die or receive a catastrophic wound. This myth is a primary reason that the intelligentsia, who only study the cold movements of armies, the logistics and the death tolls, fail to fully grasp the nature of war. War is not–primarily–concerned with morality or rationality. This is particularly true in third world countries where the male urge to fight is not blunted by organized sport or entertainment.  

Many American men denied the opportunity to enter the military during WWII committed suicide. I can say from my experience in the Army that people in our current Army love to deploy to a combat zone. I rarely hear anyone complain that they are going to fight. Except for being away from their families, they’d rather be fighting than sitting in garrison. How much more does the insurgent want to fight, since after killing some Americans, he can simply walk back to his home and wife and children at night? It is primarily young males that play video games and engage in contact sports. And let’s not forget that males constitute 93% of the prison population, as of 2003.  

The nature of war and crime are closely related. Let’s look at some crime statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.   

The first thing that jumps out is that violent crime in the US has declined considerably since the 1970s. Contrary to the popular myth propagated by an ever-chugging media. violent crime has been declining for decades in the US and also in many parts of Europe. Let me suggest the un-suggestable: Could violent video games actually be partly responsible for reducing violent crime? Is the natural male urge to engage in violence being sated by virtual killing? Is it a coicidence that the fifth generation of home video game systems–possibly the most revolutionary leap in gaming realism ever– spawned in 1993? The early to mid 90s brought us the Playstation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64. The groundbreaking game, GoldenEye 007 dazzled gamers with a level of realistic warfare never before seen. 

I am not suggesting that moral lessons and teaching the value of non-violence are of no use or that other factors aren’t involved in the fall of violent crime rates since the 70s.  I’d also have to point out that violent crime rose considerable from the turn of the century until the 60s.  I’m merely noting that there is a natural male urge to engage in violent, reckless and dangerous activity and that perhaps artificial violence has diluted the real thing, whereas is the 40s and 50s it seems real values did the job.. Left to himself, a young male will probably find himself in trouble with the law sooner than later. One needs only look at crime statistics in the inner cities, where fatherless young males roam the streets. These places have more in common with Sierre Leone than the American heartland. So, in the absence of moral teaching in youth, there is also the absence of internal safeguards against the use of violence. It could be that violent video games quench a thirst that exists precisely because the male has not been taught proper social interaction methods.  

What people really don’t like when they see the above video, is that the pilots seem to like what they are doing. The critics expect men fighting to experience horror with every falling enemy body. To cringe over each wounded opponent. If fighting were that psychologically trying, men wouldn’t do it. If the insurgents felt the same guilt from killing Americans that they felt from say, accidentally killing their own child, there would be no insurgency. What men have and always will search for, is a socially acceptable reason to fight. And in the absence of fighting, they engage in other activities that stress the subcortical regions of their brains and their adrenal systems.  

I can give first hand attestation. Nothing gives me the same high as competition.  I know many men who feel the same. War is the ultimate competition, and killing a socially acceptable target gives many men the ultimate high. As a police officer, there was a thrill in the chase, to violence–and it was socially acceptable. When criminals resisted arrest, I was more than happy to use legal violence. Afterwards, I felt euphoric. Lying about this will not change what every cop and soldier knows: We didn’t get into those types of jobs for the paperwork.  

The Apache pilots acted as men have for thousands of years at the sight of a dead enemy: They celebrated. Our politicians should set aside for a while the intellectual texts (though they have their place) that drive foreign policy and pick up a copy of The Iliad. Homer captured the sheer joy of combat experienced by warriors better than anyone since. The Greeks never separated sports from warfare, and in their myth, their best warriors were also their best athletes.  

Better than Clausewitz' On War

So, men who are victorious in war act in precisely the same ways as men who are victorious in sports or in video game sessions: They celebrate. They denigrate their enemy. We lie when we speak of the savagery of ancient man. We are the same now, only now we’ve figured out ways to expend our violent energies without actually killing anyone.  

Small Wars define the current generation of fighting. Warrior cultures, composed of youthful males without much to lose and nothing else to do but fight are the enemy. The enemy is not a professional but does gain much local prestige and even food, women and a place to live by being willing to kill Americans. Our politicians fail to accurately perceive the nature of our enemy and his reasons for fighting;  not so much a sense of injustice or outrage, which are only the social phantasms used to justify the fighting. An educated Demos will not  take away the reasons for people in Somalia and Afghanistan to fight unceasingly. It will only give them a way to create methods to channel aggression into other areas besides killing humans.

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3 thoughts on “Crime, video games, and how men really act in war

    […] See the article here: Crime, video games, and how men really act in war « Rolling Hot […]

    […] Husky wrote an interesting post today. Here’s a quick excerptIt’s not like they’re playing a video game. It could be said of those playing video games, that it’s almost like the gamers are at war. The people at war are not copying what they’ve seen in video games, people playing video games are … […]

    Amos Volante said:
    April 22, 2010 at 1:13 am

    I am not they type to pick a fight, but some police work and bar bouncing made me realize one thing:

    Don’t start fights, but if you do, kick the guy’s ass, get him sent to jail, then laugh about his misfortune.

    Don’t blame me for enjoying the fight: Blame the guy who insisted on having the fight.

    And then lost.

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