Historian Richard Slotkin on Adam Lanza’s Influences

Cultural historian Richard Slotkin talks about Newtown shooter Adam Lanza in a rather lengthy interview with journalist Bill Moyers. The interview touches upon some other topics as well, but a fair bit of it is spent discussing Adam Lanza's behavior, his fascination with guns and violent video games, and his deep study of school shootings dating back to the late 1800's. At one point Slotkin says that Lanza used video games as "training films," where he used the knowledge in them on how to act while accomplishing a "mission." According to Slotkin an example of this "training" would be how Lanza loaded his guns during the shooting.

The interview can't be boiled down into sound bytes, because it's pretty complex and delves into a number of topics like the cultural influence of war, media, gun ownership, etc. You can check the video out to your left or you can visit Thruth Out for a transcript of the conversation. Here is one choice morsel that stood out:

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah, the state report has gone into the way in which he used videogames and obsessively played violent videogames. And apparently did research on massacres. And there's a way in which in the individual case you see something that also works on the cultural level. And that is that people will model their behavior on examples that they consider to be heroic.

And that's how mythology works in a culture. There are cultural myths that define what for us is a positive response to a crisis. And it's embodied in media. And we learn it through the media and we model our behavior on that of heroes. And apparently Lanza in the way he conducted the massacre was making the kind of moves that are the standard moves of a person playing a violent videogame.

You'd never enter a new room unless you've put a fresh clip in your gun. So he would shoot off half a clip and then change the clip anyway– because that's what you do when you're playing a videogame. And that image of playing out a script that's been written for you, that has some value for you as a way of gaining control or being a hero is what he's living out.

And what Lanza did was really to indoctrinate himself and train himself in a way analogous to the way we now use videogames to train the military.

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