Tom Brokaw Calls Videogames "Cancerous"

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
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Tom Brokaw Calls Videogames "Cancerous"


Former news anchor Tom Brokaw says it was OK for NBC to air the Virginia Tech killer's insane video rants, but that videogames and blogs are "cancerous."

Brokaw, speaking in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, defended his network's decision to give airtime to the killer despite his murderous rampage. Asked if it was the correct decision, Brokaw said it was, adding, "To get back to something we were talking about earlier in general thematic terms, I don't think we're doing a very good job about talking about violence in this country, either. You know, Virginia Tech went away. We didn't have any ongoing dialog in our communities or on the air about the corrosive effect of violence."

He then went on to say, "It was not what he, what people saw of him on the air that will drive them, it's what they read in blog sites, and what they see in videogames. It's that kind of stuff that I think is cancerous."

Brokaw, described himself as a "free speech absolutist" but also said, "I think at the same time, we need to have free speech in some kind of a context," spent the balance of the interview debating NBC's role in potentially "incentivizing" copycat killers. The full text of the exchange between Brokaw and Hewitt is available at GamePolitics [http://gamepolitics.com/2007/12/07/tom-brokaw-airing-va-tech-killer-videos-okay-but-blogs-video-games-cancerous/].


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Anton P. Nym

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I'd argue the antithesis to Tom Brokaw's thesis, that it's the publicity garnered by media coverage, far more than the isolation of video games, that incents these isolated individuals to commit suicide by massacre; it's not the violence they crave, it's the attention.

However, that may be because of my enjoyment of video games and because my bread-and-butter doesn't come from television news.

-- Steve
 

LordOmnit

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If we dwell on those topics of acts of violence and such there is probably more likely going to be more copycats, because they will be like, "Oh my god, they are still talking about this XX (units of time) after it happened. If I did that, I'd be freaking famous!" not like, "Vidja gams mak me wanto stabby shooty shooty!" And if they aren't in it to be famous, but rather having some strange delusions of grandeur [http://gamepolitics.com/2007/11/08/video-game-and-movie-and-music-and-book-and-gun-and-craziness-connections-emerge-in-finnish-school-shooting/], then these people are also corroded to begin with, seeing continued violence and such doesn't help, but a healthy and mentally capable individual is certainly not going to turn into a raving lunatic because of video games. They are intentionally going around and slaughtering people for shits and giggles or some grand, insane dream.
HH: NBC ran the Virginia Tech killer tape on the day they obtained it [...] [d]o you not think it?s going to incite other people to try to do the same thing?
TB: No, I don?t. I think? to get back to something we were talking about earlier in general thematic terms, I don?t think we?re doing a very good job about talking about violence in this country, either. You know, Virginia Tech went away. We didn?t have any ongoing dialogue in our communities or on the air about the corrosive effect of violence.
So, what do you want Tommy? Do you want to talk about it, or just send the "corrosive stuff" all over the place? Make up your mind.
 

Gilgamesh999

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Here are some of the basic problems that I have with discussions of videogame violence:

1. Violence existed *well* before any form of media did. Nobody ever considers that. "The Iliad" has some of the most graphic depictions of violence in literary form, but no-one is clamoring to remove that from High School lit class. I'm pretty sure the Janjaweed militias in Africa are not spending their down-time playing videogames.

2. It's the insanity, stupid! Most of the (completely bat-shit crazy) people who commit these crimes were crazy *well* before they ever picked up a controller or keyboard. You don't just pick up a copy of Halo and think, "gee, I've got the day off... Why don't I go around forcing people to fellate this here gun!" The arguments for whether or not videogames even exacerbate a pre-existing problem are specious, at best. So far, I've yet to encounter convincing evidence proving any link. And considering the millions upon millions of current and former videogamers who have *not* gone on a killing spree, I'd wager that the ratio of mass-mudering fuckheads to normal people is probably the same as in the non-videogame-playing populace. This doesn't even touch on the idea that most crazy people are too poor to even afford a place to live, let alone an XBox.

3. Most people who rail against videogames don't seem to actually play them at all. Haven't we all encountered that person who reads a movie review, decides that the movie is crap, refuses to even see it, and then loudly denounces it to anyone who will listen? Now replace all instances of the word "movie" from the previous sentence with "videogame", and you get Jack Thompson.

4. Videogames have a strict ratings system. The fact that most retailers don't give two humps whether the purchaser of an M-rated game is actually old enough to buy it is not the fault of those who actually make the game. I get carded way more often when I'm buying cigarettes and liquor than when I'm buying M-rated videogames. The reason for this disparity is that people generally understand that adult activities such as drinking and smoking are for adults only; videogames, however (and also comics, for that matter) are seen as more juvenile pursuits. Which reminds me of another excellent point:

5. The ridiculous and inaccurate things that people say about videogames now are *the exact same* ridiculous and inaccurate things that people said about comic books and rock 'n roll back then regarding their negative influence on society. The only difference is that detractors have subsequently realized the inherent artistic value of all other media except videogames.

I could go on, but honestly, there's not enough time in the world to denounce the logical fallacies surrounding the violence/videogaming arguement.
 

Anton P. Nym

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Gilgamesh999 said:
I could go on, but honestly, there's not enough time in the world to denounce the logical fallacies surrounding the violence/videogaming arguement.
Indeed, but here's one more to add to the refutation; I grew up in Brampton, Ontario, and I was there in 1975 when they (we?) had the shooting at Centennial High School. Unless we're talking Pong-as-murder-simulator, that's one data point well outside the "games make murderers" curve.

-- Steve
 

Beery

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Some really good points have been made in this thread. I don't have anything to add except to say that I agree with the general consensus and I wish more forums had contributors who were as intelligent and literate as you guys.
 

moromete

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Bah, add another old-media kind of guy to the long line of old-media guys that really do not understand anything past mainframes...
 

dannyodwyer

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Dec 3, 2007
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Clearly media is secondary to the social and civil reasons that contribute to these horrific massacres. But then again its never easy to go to the root of a problem. It takes too long and if you cant explain it in a sentence or headline, nobody finds it interesting.

I dont think individuals from such an odd position in society as Mr.Brokaw can expect to give any sort of reasoning towards issues which concern individuals on "ground level" as it were. Not in a glass bubble of a lifelong career of talking without listening.
 

hickwarrior

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Nov 7, 2007
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My parents are against violent games and like to see them banned. Mainly because they see we lower our norms, because we do not care what we shoot down in a video game.

Talk about strange, because yo ushould know it is not realistic at all. Maybe i am saying this behind their backs, but videogames aren't meant to be realistic, yet they don't like what they see.

Maybe that's because of the overkill of FPS games on the market(or so i hear).
 

Sp00kslew

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Dec 7, 2007
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yup, figured it was about time for one of these. It's funny too, how it always comes from the older generation, that blames these new fangled vidja games.

I wish, for once, they might relate to the fact that possibly mainstream media, might play a negative roll in all of this. In lieu of the recent shooting in the Omaha, Nebraska shopping mall, I'm surprised they have yet to blame video games in that one. I guarantee they are trying to draw up a correlation right now. However, said shooter, writes in his suicide note that "he no longer wants to be a burden to his family [and that] now I'll be famous"...so unless he was planning on going to a world video game championship or something, I'm assuming that he meant that he would be plastered all over news stories nationwide. People do this, for the media coverage, yet the media (for good reasons) seems to ignore that, because horrific news = more viewers.

so while it was good for the news to cover the VT shootings, it was completely inappropriate to idolize (for lack of a better term, but you know what I mean if you saw the reports) the shooter for such a lengthy period. Every time I turned on the TV I saw the videos and pictures of the shooter.

and thank god someone brought up the terrific violence that some books have (Iliad is a great choice, btw) but have since been deemed artistic genius that is totally appropriate for schooling.

and I believe the last correlation I read about between violence and video games was the "beltway sniper" who practiced his "sniping" while playing Halo.

maybe they should focus more on the fact as to why these people have untreated, yet diagnosed psychological conditions (in both cases of the VT shootings and the Omaha ones) and look at the lapse in the system.
 

John Funk

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Dec 20, 2005
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My friend's mom doesn't like videogames. But she loved watching him play ICO.
 

Arbre

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ROFL

Anything else beyond this acronym is a waste, even the words I just typed.
 

Citrus [deprecated]

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Dec 6, 2007
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nothing I could possibly say that hasnt already been said,
but I agree with Kwil.
these games DO desensitize us to violence. but any human with a sane mind can
see that these ARE NOT acts to be imitated.

People in the media will argue all they want about how "Video games are bad"

But what confounds me is that there are such Worse and/or equally bad things to blame.
lots of other things in the media advocate violence in their own ways music, movies, TV.
but video games I suppose bring these to light in a fairly more realistic sense.

but really what do you feel is worse?
seeing someones head get blown off on a TV show.
or seeing someones head get blown off in gears of war?
 

PurpleRain

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Gilgamesh999 said:
Here are some of the basic problems that I have with discussions of videogame violence:

1. Violence existed *well* before any form of media did. Nobody ever considers that. "The Iliad" has some of the most graphic depictions of violence in literary form, but no-one is clamoring to remove that from High School lit class. I'm pretty sure the Janjaweed militias in Africa are not spending their down-time playing videogames.
That's the funniest thing I've read all day. So true.
 

FanboyInDisguise

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It does seem that it's only from parents and other such older figures (such as politicians) that we hear any sort of Videogame related flak. And as stated above it's a rarity that any of the previously named sources have ever picked up a videogame more recent than Centipede(Violence against bugs!!...what, no takers?) It's like what Roger Ebert said, "Videogames will never be an art form" and again as previously stated, that's what people said about comics, and about rock and roll, and even about jazz music. It's when something new comes along and shakes the foundations that the older generations come to arms. And it always goes away, everything I've mentioned are now considered art forms. And good ones at that.

I don't give a rats mummified testicle about what politicans say about video games because they are just riding a bandwagon to get-more-votes land. But I do care about what parents say, games do have a strict rating system, exactly the same as movies. Yet no one seems to care that Saving Private Ryan had one of the most gruesome (if historically accurate) opening sequences of any movie in recent memory. The Lord of the Rings depicted beheadings, dismemberments, and various other forms of not-for-kids images, yet it was praised to the high heavens (though not for no reason). Movies and books (again, illiad was a great choice) have been far more violent than game have even had TIME to be. Parents usual argument is that movies are rated and kids shouldn't see R films...which they see anyway. Yet even though games are rated exactly the same, they are still in an uproar! Why? Because they are too ready to place the blame on a company (Rockstar, anyone?)that is trying to market SPECIFICALLY to adults for creating a game with adult content that their kids play. Why? Because they aren't looking at what their buying, it's like giving your kid a porno and complaining there's nudity in it...

Anyway, enough ranting from me.
 

Arbre

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FanboyInDisguise said:
It does seem that it's only from parents and other such older figures (such as politicians) that we hear any sort of Videogame related flak.
They fear what they don't understand. Most of them have simply not played games, and probably see their kids sucked into them and can't do a thing.

Underlied: a form of jaleousy.
 

hickwarrior

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Nov 7, 2007
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Kwil, i got the problem that i think my parents won't believe me when i say that even when a person plays such a 'violent' game, that it still desentisizes... Yet, i will not go running out and about, gunning every one i see, just like in GTA. Maybe i should tell them that.

Anyway, my mom played mario kart DS. Yes, a non-brain train or any other form of game that isn't really for us gamers. Well, i hope you get what i mean.

But i think it's in how we think, but i don't think that games can make us unsensitive when we kill someone. If we are raised the 'right' way.