Art Made Me Do It
So, here we go again. The new Joker movie is coming out, and soccer moms and the usual suspects are scared to death over a movie. This fire is being stoked online with an egregious amount of content being generated over the movie’s release. Gizmodo reported that the U.S. military had issued a memo to soldiers concerning a possible event of mass violence in association with the release. Warner Brothers banned the media from the premier. The mass shooting in Colorado at the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” combined with the death of Heath Ledger has made the “Joker” character a beacon for controversy.
Blaming artistic expression for violence is nothing new. My entire life can be given a timeline based on the evolution of blaming art and entertainment for the problems of society. The image of zealots burning Rap tapes in the street mark my earliest memories. NWA was accused of causing the problems that they were merely revealing. The chicken was being blamed for the egg. What came of all of this? We all wanted to get our hands on “Straight Outta Compton.” I was only seven, and yet more than 30 years later, I remember the lyrics. Three years later, the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King would insight the L.A. riots. Political corruption spawned the violence, as the officers were completely guilty, and unbeknownst to them, the entire beating was filmed.
So, the self-righteous found a new scapegoat for our culture of violence. Democratic Senator and attention whore Joe Lieberman came up with a way to remember his name by blaming video games. Yet, another scapegoat for America’s uniquely violent society, Mortal Kombat came under congressional scrutiny in 1993. I still remember the blood code, which was a sequence of buttons pressed at a certain stage of the loading of the game that would activate the hyper-violent sprites. Since, Mortal Kombat has only become more violent over the years, and have had to get really creative to invent new ways to kill people for 25 years since.
In 1999, the Columbine school shooting happened. Both shooters were fans of a video game called Doom. One of the shooters built a level that resembled the layout of the high school. So, obviously the game was the cause. This was not the beginning of this shit show of mass school shootings that plague us to this day. In 1966 Charles Whitman opened fire from a tower at the University of Texas for 96 minutes, killing 14 people. Yet, there was no video game to blame for his behavior.
The bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building by Timothy Mcveigh had clear motives and inspiration. The attack follows the actions of characters in a book known as “The Turner Diaries” by William Pierce, which McVeigh admittedly paralleled. This book is not banned. Far-Right nationalists still are able to buy this book at any time. Surprisingly, no one burned copies in the street. Along with “The Turner Diaries” McVeigh was disenfranchised by the FBI raid of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX. He was interviewed by the media at the seen of the seige.
On September 11, 2001, a group of Saudi Arabians flew hijacked planes into the pentagon and world trade center towers. Microsoft Flight Simulator was used by the terrorists to practice flying. Yet, no one was outraged over that game. Hence, we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. This was the moment I called bullshit on all of this mass media malarky. I knew I was being lied to. Colin Powell went in front of the United Nations and explained that Sadaam Husein must be killed. His reasoning? Metal fucking tubes. The reasoning behind the longest war in American history is still baffling and disjointed almost 20 years later.
Where are We Now?
Now, we blame the accessibility of guns for shootings, along with video games and movies. No one blamed airplanes for 9/11. We act like violence never existed before. I am not sure what video games George Washington played causing the violent terrorism that created this nation. Violence is an inherent part of being human. The only reason I can sit in America is because of violence.
If anything, the new “Joker” movie attempts to explain these increasingly common events of uniquely American violence. It is a movie about unattended mental health and classism. It is a character study of how violent monsters are created. We are all capable of violence, and it wasn’t that long ago that your Uncle Sam sent you a piece of mail, put a gun in your hand, flew you across the world and forced you to kill strangers. Yet, is not Uncle Sam a piece of art? If anything, it is time to ban Uncle Sam, because he is responsible for more violence than any rap album, video game, or piece of literature rivaled only by “Mein Kompf” by Adolf Hitler.
No society is perfect. You are more likely to die in a car crash than by shooting. Fear is a tool for pimping, and I will not be a ho.