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Col. David Grossman on Violent Video Games

Today Gurudeva introduces Col. David Grossman, an expert in violence and the psychology of killing, to talk about violent video games and their effect on children. His chilling explanation in this excerpt from an interview with Hinduism Today? That video games teach children to kill in exactly the same way that the military teachers soldiers to kill. An important message for every parent and child.

Unedited Transcript:

Today at Kauai Aadheenam, January 19th.

We are opening the doors of Cyberspace Ashram to you. We are on retreat. We are reflecting. We are thinking. We are planning for the future because the thoughts we have today, make the future tomorrow. This brings us to an interview that we took part in for international magazine, 'Hinduism Today', with Col. David Grossman.

Col. Grossman is a retired U.S. Army officer, who specializes in the training of soldiers. Especially, how to train them to kill another human being. Listen to this very, very carefully because it is related to your life, your neighbor's life, and the lives of young people and old alike, who are involved in dangerous, destructive video games. He is going to explain to us why those games teach our children to be killers. Let us hear what Col. Grossman has to say.

Col. Grossman: I do speaking to High Schools and Junior High Schools. On occasion, on a fairly steady basis, we get standing ovations from High Schools and Junior High Schools. The teachers will say, "That is the first standing ovation we have ever seen them give." What I do is outline to the kids, the tremendous manipulative process that is in play here, the toxic substance. I give them some stories from the Jonesboro shootings that make the horror come alive I talk to them about the case studies that is in my article, 'The Wesley Shaeffer Case', in South Carolina and the way this becomes conditioned. They become quite receptive.

I talk to them and tell them, "Look, you don't want your friend down the street running around with his own assault rifle. You would call the police if you knew he was running around with his own gun and rightfully so. In the same way, we don't give you the physical instruments of destruction."

We most definitely need to be careful about indiscriminately giving to children, the mental instruments of destruction. If I give you a gun, I can take that gun back away and lock it up. But if I give you this tremendous capacity to use that gun, as a form of operative conditioning, I can not lock that up. I can not take that away. At some moment down the line, it has a potential to come back out again and it represents a threat to everybody associated with that individual. They truly are functioning at a far more dangerous level. The military and the law enforcement communities around the world use these mechanisms to enable violence with great care and caution. There are safeguards involved. That is what I testified about in the McVey case. But what is happening is the mental equivalent of putting an assault rifle in the hands of every child in America.

Most of the kids understand how terribly destructive violence is. They understand that it is not right for them to play with guns. Now they achieve a level, a significant portion of them, achieve a level of understanding that it is not right to play about killing other human beings. Now, this is totally different than playing, "Bang, bang, I got you". When you play with guns, which a lot of parents don't believe in, understand that it is far less dangerous if I am,for instance, playing guns with Billy. I say, "Bang bang, I got you" at Billy. He says, "No, you didn't", and I hit him over the head with my little toy gun. He runs to his mom and cries. I get a swatting.

In the end, what have I done? Well, I have learned about interacting with other human beings. I have learned that they are real. I have done the same kind of play, if you will, that every species does. Tiger cubs, kittens, puppies, bear cubs maul and play and roll at one another. This is normal behavior.

If on the other hand, I sit in a video game and instead of interacting with another human being, I shoot and shoot and shoot endless thousands of rounds with no discipline, no interaction with another human being, no repercussions, no ramifications, just a simple set of conditioned responses is being set into me. Something profoundly different is happening here. Explain that to kids, when you are talking to the Wesley Shaeffers and the Micheal Termeals out there, it really opens their eyes and they become very receptive. You have got to begin with an understanding of how destructive just television violence is. You cannot look at video games without laying a foundation of understanding of how destructive simple violent imagery is.

Now it is just the violent imagery that children are so receptive too. The spoken word and the written word for all practical purposes, they won't do the job. You can't operatively or classically condition somebody with a book or a magazine or a radio, unless you hit him with it. But these visual images have got enormous power. You understand that the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1980's looked at 2500 scientific studies about these visual imagery on children and came to the conclusion that, "There is a clear consensus." In 1992, the American Psychiatric Association said, "The scientific debate is over". We know that these visual images are tremendously harmful.

Now, we have entered a realm where, instead of being the passive receivers of human death and suffering, we are now pushing the button that inflicts human death and suffering on another human being. You take that even another notch further, where you actually hold a weapon in your hand, point and shoot, and learn the motor skills of killing another human being, making it an automatic reflexive response. Like, children in a fire drill or pilots in a flight simulator. Now we have entered a realm where it is absolutely despicable, around the nation.

I am testifying next week in the Washington State Legislature. I will be testifying later this week to the Louisiana Attorney General's task force, I am a member of the Arkansas Attorney General's task force on juvenile justice. One of the things that we are looking at around the nation is to say the 'point and shoot' video games, the ones where you hold the gun in your hands, are for adults only. We wouldn't let children have their own guns. We don't let children have ammunition. We don't let them have tobacco or pornography or alcohol, and we certainly don't need to let them have military and law enforcement quality psychological enabling, with the safety catches turned off. These things are so effective, so economical that the military and the law enforcement community have begun to use these kind of video game trainers. The most pervasive one that the United States Army uses is made by Nintendo. It is really indistinguishable from any other games that any of the kids would buy and play.

Gurudeva: Well, now you have heard from an expert, about violent video games. He told you that these games train your children to kill exactly the same way the army trains soldiers to kill, even better perhaps. He also talked about the indisputable connection between violent television and real violence in our lives. His advice to parents - "If we don't actively present our religious values, then the media and the video game makers will most assuredly inflict theirs on the children". Make a call for decency and love and peace, as an alternative to death and destruction not just for the sake of our religious community, but for the transformation of our culture. You have listened to a seasoned, respected man in our community and of our country. We have to take into our hearts and minds everything he has to say. You can be a missionary to save childrens' lives. Put them on the path of ahimsa, rather than himsa. Non-violence, rather than violence. That is our message for today in Cyberspace Ashram, everyone.

Play this back several times. You can make a difference and the good karma will come to you in your future. For, what you do today and what you think will create wonderful tomorrows or terrible tomorrows. You are the boss here. It is your life.