Now that we’ve got the right name of the killer in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre yesterday, the media profiles are starting to emerge. To the Drudge Report, playing video games is a remarkable enough thing that it bears mentioning in a headline. An italicized headline. Oh, it’s factual enough, but that typeface and those ellipses raise a suspicious eyebrow, or at least mutter a “Just sayin’.” Good work, Matt.
Having worked a cops reporting beat at a large newspaper utterly obsessed with tragedy, I can tell you what is going on: Reporters have been told to gather every single detail they can on Adam Lanza. They are. There is a bottomless desire to know as much as possible about the person who caused this tragedy. And it’s absolutely fair game to mention Adam Lanza enjoyed computer games if it’s part of who he was. If I was in my old job, I would have no trouble putting that into a story, as the Associated Press did—in the 16th paragraph, well below statements from investigators about Lanza’s potential mental illness, and in obvious context of what Lanza was otherwise like as a person.
It’s lazy and dishonest to list that detail in a headline stack along with the more likely causes of a mass killing, such as having a personality disorder, or being “obviously not well.” I’m sure parents of autistic children enjoy seeing the suggestion Adam Lanza was autistic, too.
So, what does “played video games dot-dot-dot” really mean? Stories say Lanza belonged to a high school technology club whose members organized, and you can just see someone making the airquotes here, LAN parties. The game they played was not specified. I’m rooting like hell for the kids to have been StarCraft fans. The mind boggles at how this could be pinned on an RTS, but I’d like to see asshats like Drudge try.
Gamers are naturally defensive about this scapegoating, as they have every right to be. But let’s focus our indignation where it really belongs: at a national conversation that cares more about whether a disturbed 20-year-old shot a bunch of fake guns in video games than how he so easily came into possession of real ones to go kill 27 people, including 20 grade-schoolers. Then again, America has never had the balls to forthrightly address its gun problem, and I have zero expectation that we will grow a set after this tragedy either.