Time is a flat circle. The year is 2022, and a Fox News anchor recently asked an on-air guest whether or not he believed that video games enable mass shootings.
On Saturday, an 18-year-old white man named Payton Gendron opened fire on a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. He killed 10 people and injured three, the majority of which were Black residents. After planning his crime over Discord, he drove 200 miles in full tactical gear and streamed the shooting on Twitch. Gendron has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Fox News brought in Bernard Zapor to discuss the causes of mass shootings. Zapor was a former special agent for the firearms division of the Department of Justice and a current college instructor in criminal justice. The news anchor Jon Scott asked Zapor: “It seems like things have gotten so much worse since video games became so realistic and so violent. Have you done research or learned that video games tend to just desensitize people to the actual result of pulling a trigger?” He made no mention of the shooter’s 180 page manifesto about being a committed racist.
While Zapor wasn’t as eager to relitigate the video game controversies of the 1990s, his response wasn’t necessarily more coherent: “I think in terms of causation, what the information shows us is as we become more disfranchised as individuals, and groups, people leave a faith for example, the family units become smaller or more disconnected, we live further distances. We’re communicating through a medium that was never really intended for human beings, which is online. Or through texting. Or these kinds of things. We get separated as humans to have connections that build inner morality.” So there you have it, folks: It’s not Call of Duty. It’s actually your cell phones and your social media accounts that are chipping away at your reluctance to open fire on innocent people.
No, it isn’t. It’s about the Great Replacement Theory, a false belief that there is a concerted effort to eliminate the white majority. It turns out, if you give white supremacists easy access to guns and tell them that minorities are going to spell the end of your race, they sometimes decide to commit horrible acts of violence. But Fox News is not going to make that connection while they play a national role in stoking fear about ‘illegal immigration’ and the declining dominance of white Christians.
The tragedy at Buffalo is not the first time that video games were blamed for mass shootings. The most famous example was the 1999 Columbine shootings. The Chicago Tribune reported that the perpetrators were fans of the video game Doom, and “used it to get ready for their attack.” After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Senator Joseph Lieberman said that young men like the shooter had a “hypnotic involvement with violent video games.” When asked about whether or not stronger gun control was the answer to gun violence, a Republican congressman said to NPR: “The biggest pusher of violence is, hands down, Hollywood movies, hands down, the video game market.” Fox News has previously written an article that connected first person shooter games with a gunman who attacked a Washington Navy Yard.
Despite politicians’ eagerness to find a plausible scapegoat for their own policy failures, major video game markets such as Canada, Europe, and Asia aren’t reporting hundreds of mass shootings every year compared to the United States.
The Department of Justice is currently investigating the Buffalo shooting as a hate crime.