‘Acquired Violence Immune Deficiency’ and ‘Compassion Fatigue’

It’s easy to blame guns for violence. They are the end-point of the death and destruction. But there have always been guns and gun crime, but nothing like we are seeing today. Why the difference? There are a number of factors. First, moral certainty is uncertain. Moral relativism rules the day.

Second, most Americans have been desensitized to death and violence. The horror of human carnage was foreign to most Americans until the early 1960s and 1970s when the assassination of President Kennedy and the Vietnam War were brought into our living rooms through the miracle of television. Prior to the Vietnam War, the majority of soldiers who fought in World War I and II kept the horrors to themselves.

Is there a third factor? Some people think there is. The following is from John Naisbitt’s 1999 book High Tech High Touch that was written soon after the tragedy that took place at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April of the same year.


For decades, American’s have turned a deaf ear to studies correlating media violence to violence in our culture. . . . “If Natural Born Killers or Pulp Fiction had been released in1939, the year that Casablanca was released, you can imagine how our society would have reacted,” says [Retired Lieutenant Colonel David] Grossman. “But what has happened is generation by generation, we have been horrendously desensitized to human death and suffering and have learned to associate human death and suffering with our pleasure.  And we have been taught to do that. The television industry learned very early on that the addictive ingredient was violence. The problem is, like the tobacco industry, the additive ingredient is also the deadly ingredient.”

“Children’s exposure to violence in mass media, particularly at young ages, can have harmful, lifelong consequences,” said Leonard Eron, chairman of the American Psychological Association’s Commission on Violence and Youth. “There can no longer be any doubt that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime, and violence among young people in our society.”

Lieutenant Colonel Grossman suggests we are creating a generation of children with a new, lethal disease: acquired violence immune deficiency. “We’re letting our children watch vivid pictures of human suffering and death. And they learn to associate it with what?” he asks. “Their favorite soft drink and candy bar, or their girl-friend’s perfume [from the advertisements]. We have raised a generation which has learned to associate violence with pleasure.”

The average American child sits in front of a screen five-and-a-half hours a day, including an hour and a half playing electronic games. Professor Kline points out that all it takes is an hour to begin to feel the effects of desensitization. “I played some of those violent games just to get the feel,” he says. “And after an hour, I honestly felt completely numbed and pushed to the limit emotionally. I was playing alongside a twelve-year-old lad who had recommended that we get this game because it was fun. It becomes an emotionally grueling experience to shoot one more person, even if it is an imaginary person. But he could do it. And he could experience that as excitement and fun. And that really disturbs me.”Desensitization to violence and a cultural acceptance of violent imagery is making it difficult for people to recognize real danger. One student, who was outside when the Littleton boys crept toward the school before the massacre began, didn’t respond when he saw the trench coats and guns because he thought it was a “senior prank.”He was shot at. Kids in line at the cafeteria, waiting to buy their school lunches, were told by other kids that some boys had guns. They laughed and didn’t respond because they thought it was a joke. Then bombs exploded. During the massacre, one neighbor heard the bombs blast, the guns pop, and the police car and fire engine sirens. She blankly described it as “a scene from a police movie.”

In a culture of electronic violence, images that once caused us to empathize with the pain and trauma of another human being excite a momentary adrenaline rush. To be numb to another’s pain — to be acculturated to violence — s arguably one of the worst consequences our technological advances have wrought. That indifference transfers from the screen, TV, film, Internet, and electronic games to our everyday lives through seemingly innocuous consumer technologies. Sissela Bok, in her important 1998 book Mayhem, calls it “compassion fatigue.” “Empathy and fellow feeling,” Bok points out, “form the very basis of morality. The capacities for empathy, for feeling responsibility toward others, and for reaching out to help them can be stunted or undermined early on, depending on a child’s experiences in the home and neighborhood.” It becomes too easy to turn our backs on fellow human beings. Technology, we are learning, is not neutral.

According to Bok, “mean world syndrome” is another consequence of media violence.

Today everybody wants to be a star, especially our children, whose lives have been steeped in advertising and media images conveyed through information technologies: magazines, billboards, films,television, and now the Internet. In a poll of high school students,two-thirds of respondents answered “celebrity” when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. Children who spend so much time ingesting images from screens want to be on those screens. The Littleton boys believed that movie directors would fight over the rights to film their story, and if they had their choice they’d pick Quentin Tarantino. In America, the way to be noticed above the rising din of a modern world is to be increasingly outrageous: Madonna, Dennis Rodman, Marilyn Manson, Howard Stern, and Jesse “The Mind” Ventura have propelled their careers by shocking contemporary standards in the same way the networks have attempted to raise their ratings with “shockumentaries.” To gain one’s 15 minutes of fame only requires one to be extreme. If a child shoots another child in a city alley, it will go unmentioned on the evening’s news and in the newspapers. But if a kid flushes out his classmates with a false fire alarm and lets fly rounds from a semiautomatic weapon, killing four kids, a teacher, and wounding dozens of others, that merits the cover of Time, international TV news, newspapers around the world, and possibly a book and movie deal.

In the end, we are all responsible for our actions. Millions of people do not murder. Millions of people with guns and high capacity magazines don’t kill other people. Bit if we’re going to play the blame game, then let’s include more than just the end-point product. This will mean Hollywood, liberal actors who eschew violence but star in films riddled with violent content. It will also mean a change in the curricula of government schools that by default teach moral relativism.

23 thoughts on “‘Acquired Violence Immune Deficiency’ and ‘Compassion Fatigue’

  1. In this damnable century of moral relativism, ignorance, and lost souls, blaming guns is the simplistic attempt at explaining the evil that ever-lurks to conquer men’s souls. Satan is alive and well in the 21st century. But God is all-good, all powerful, and will reign forever. Let the fools blame the stone, the arrow, the trebuchet, the gun. Ever since Cain and Able it has been known that humans have a propensity for killing one another. War is as much a part of the human condition as is reproduction. The only answer for all these weaknesses is to turn to God, accept His gift of Grace, forgiveness, and eternal life, and live in His service. All others will be lost in an abyss of the damned. Pax vobiscum.

    1. James White, M.D….Amen. Veritas vincit.

      May God continue to bless and guide you in the New Year and may His love be made manifest in all that you do.

      Soli Deo Gloria.

        1. A country that turns it’s back on God and kills it’s children will lose it’s blessings from God. America has fallen from the Grace of God. That’s why He’s allowing her enemies to enslave her. We ARE being enslaved by Obama and his minions. We were warned many, many years ago, but the warning fell on deaf ears. It’ll take trememdous effort to stop this rogue government. Nothing’s impossible with God.

        2. A country that turns it’s back on God and kills it’s children looses all it’s blessings from God. America has fallen from the Grace of God. So, He’s allowing our enemies to enslave us. It’ll take tremendous effort to stop it.

  2. Yup; they didn’t say it was ‘our fault’ they are just ‘blaming’ us by taking away one right and freedom after another in the pursuit of ‘safety’. Purely statist (NOT liberal mind you…) reaction to anything they can’t reason or control, they attack.

  3. Sin in general is understood by most Christians but often enough it cheapen by the propensity to underestimate its power. God’s grace through faith provides the way of salvation but the Church has often cheapened it. Example teaching grace without God’s plan for men. Eph. 2:8,9 but leaves out vss. 10.
    Things like love not the world, and be holy because the Lord your God is holy are left out.
    The great commission Mt.28 and Mk. 16 are not preached. Saved by grace is often thought of as (it is all that is required). But what about disciplining those who are saved so they can carry on the the walk of faith and overcome the world?
    The idea that a person can take what ever they want from the Word of God and leave out the rest is no less than hypocrisy and the young people know it.
    If the Christian church is to be empowered and thrive it must repent and seek God. 2 Chron. 7:14 is the great example.
    If you refuse to repent,then the children will suffer as the world will draw them in.
    Without the Holy Spirit leading the church there is no power.
    What happens then is the secular world takes over in their lives.
    No morals, no absolutes, drugs, sex and violence and no stopping the violence of lawlessness, murder of the new born and old and feeble.
    My advice is simple. Repent of your laziness in Christ, seek God through His Word and prayer.
    And he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. You are going to need it.

  4. “The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families. How is it possible that children can have any just sense of the sacred obligations of morality or religion if, from their earliest infancy, they learn their mothers live in habitual infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant infidelity to their mothers?” – John Adams

    “Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus” Thomas Jefferson, 1775

    “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” – Thomas Jefferson

    We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. — C. S. Lewis

    Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. — C. S. Lewis

    God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. — C. S. Lewis

  5. Butt
    doesn’t children’s exposure to B.S. kill more than any other weapon!?

    Fight for your right to have rights, and freedoms!

  6. Great article..What I took from it is we created our own demise; not us directly but Hollywood for starters – The money is to the extreme, and let’s face it guys, it all comes right down to the “mighty dollar”. Howard Stern for starters, how anybody can watch that no-talent, excrement for brains is beyond me. With regard to the video games, whatever happened to PacMan, Donkey Kong and the like. Some of the games my son played in the 80’s were innocent in comparison to today’s video massacres. Parents need to be aware and stop putting $$ into this crap their children are putting on their Christmas lists. Because our future hangs in the balance. With regard to guns, they all nee a trigger finger, they do not go off by themselves.

  7. Although the article has many good points, the real issue is what causes these freaks like Adam Lanza to act out?

    Obviously as a group the children being raised today are going to have a different view of the world than those above age 40, that said, not all of them will be the murderous freaks like Lanza and the killers at Columbine.

    I maintain these animals are propagated and nurtured by society.
    1. Start with a child who has a compromised mind
    2. Remove his father (or relevance of) from the home
    3. Drug the child to get him to behave. Adjust drugs as needed.
    4. Shower the child with messages that HE should be more like his counter-parts, the girls.
    5. Spend years hammering in politically correct messages that a white boy is a racist POS and insisting he cooperate in the efforts to limit his future . . . or take a back seat as others are given un-earned opportunities.
    6. Refuse to reward good behavior of the child because it is not fair to other children.
    7.. Allow the child to play first person shooter games for many hours a week, in which he is able to kill hundreds of people an hour AND be rewarded for his behavior.
    8. Recall the child is absorbing the constant disdain and hatred pointed at his gender by society as a whole.
    9. Finally – – – JOLT the boy into adulthood and hope everything “goes well”

    Outcome: You get an “Active Shooter” aka a murderous freak.

    Stating the obvious does not fit into the agendas of political correctness or that of the liberals. knowing this, the problem will never be corrected, there will be more deaths of the innocent, even ift he Gov’t DOES take firearms away from citizens.

    1. fliteking….Excellent and very plausible analysis. Hell will freeze over before the left ever admits that their twisted and politically correct world view has any influence on the younger generation.

  8. I’m reading “Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill” written by Lt.Col. Dave Grossman. Very interesting. Everyone should read it.

  9. Blaming the media is easy—blaming the lack for parenting is more politically incorrect, but where the discussion has to begin; after all, you can replace the media, but you can’t replace parents. Here’s how I personally see the issue as: violence on TV is not for very young eyes to see at all…but upon reaching adolescence, that is where such violence and morality or immorality should be seen as teachable moments for parents to their adolescent children, so that they then mature to realize that this is for entertainment purposes only, not to be imitated in real life. (This also includes when violence is moral – i.e., wartime, and when it is not.) The problem is really a lack of parenting, and I will say, almost entirely a lack of parenting (I can’t say entirely without the qualifier almost because some people exhibit mental illness only under the perfect storm of circumstances).

    With such proper parenting by adults, violence in media mostly becomes irrelevant. But the school cannot teach these things.

    A similar argument was attempted in court by the since-disbarred Jack Thompson, also citing Natural-Born Killers after the Heath High , but the courts tossed it before it could reach trial.

  10. Video games are much to blame for our children becoming blase about maiming, blood, and killing. Games even score points for stealing cars, smashing into property and PEOPLE, killing “hos”, the bloodier the action, the better! Some now DO have contestants trying to survive ‘zombie attacks’, for instance, perhaps to mollify parents! Many games are rated ‘mature’, or ‘extreme’, but children STILL manage to get and play them!

    The Columbine shootings followed the routines established in those video games……..only one shot per target, carefully aimed, central body mass, saving having to reload so often! All with little emotion, calmly moving from room to room, BANG…..BANG……BANG….BANG! After all the video gaming, it became just like second nature, ‘virtual video’, as it were!

    1. That is where parenting comes in…if the parenting is adequately done, the children will know that violence isn’t okay to replicate in real life. That’s parental issues, not media issues.

      As for Columbine, the firearms were backups; Klebold and Harris had intended to bomb the school (not unlike a Palestinian terrorist attack), but the IEDs failed.

  11. This makes sense if you look at the bigger picture. WHY are our children being desensitized? What could the possible reason be? Maybe, and this is just a guess, its for when chaos runs in the streets from a total collapse of some kind. They’ll just look at it and go, “oh well”, “I made the next level”. Without an emotional detatchement death and blood lose would be horrendous to a normal child. YEt they now see it every day. Same with sex on TV or games. Its normal, its fun, its bloody and sexy, yeah gimme gimme gimme. And we do. We feed it down their throats for hours on end. Is it any wonder when they throw tantrums or have violent mood swings? Or your teenage daughter is pregnant at 14 years old? Next time tell your kid to go outside and play. See how that works. They’ll be back in 10 minutes crying their bored. This country has lost its imagination for play. Now its on TV, in a game,on the internet. When was the last time you heard a child ask to go outside? I can’t remember.

  12. I know of a 4 year old child, whose father is a friend of a close relative. This child challenges anyone to beat him in the video game Call of Duty. He and his father are very proud to brag that no one (child nor adult), can beat his score (for kills). And my relative has assured me that this kid truly plays this game for hours on end, which is an adult rated game, with the approval and encouragement of his parents.
    When this kid gets to be a teenager, I would bet that by then he will be extremely bored with killing thousands of people by video game only. My relative can sense that there is something “off” about this 4 year old already. This is the kind of godless parenting that leads to tragedies such as Newtown. And we wonder why these kids go off the rails.

  13. Here’s a silly story that will prove the author’s point. When I was about 10 (1965) my family went to see the movie, Lawrence of Arabia. If I recall correctly, there was only one scene that showed any blood. That night, however, I was so upset by that scene that I couldn’t sleep . . . it really haunted me.
    Now, skip to the present. How many 10 year olds have seen endless scenes of violence, carnage and blood through movies and video games? And if you’d ask any of them, they’d tell you it doesn’t bother them one bit.
    This is what we’ve come to.

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