READ THE TRANSCRIPT

BILL MOYERS: Welcome, but be forewarned: a few scenes in this hour are disturbing, because we are dealing with violence and don't want to hide what is true about it. As you know, one year ago this weekend, as you know, 20 school children and six educators were massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The killer also murdered his mother, and then killed himself. 28 deaths in all, from guns. And across America, perhaps as many as 30,000 more have been killed since that fatal day.

This is why I have asked Richard Slotkin to join me. He has spent his adult life delving into how violence took deep root in our culture, from colonial days to now. In his magisterial trilogy, "Regeneration Through Violence," "The Fatal Environment" and "Gunfighter Nation," Richard Slotkin tells how America came to embrace a mythology of gun-slinging settlers taming the wilderness to justify and romanticize a tragic record of subjugation and bloodshed. His latest book, "The Long Road to Antietam," tells the tale of the bloodiest day in American history.

In these and other works, this preeminent cultural historian tracks the evolution of the gun culture that continues to dominate, wound and kill. Richard Slotkin has retired now from a distinguished teaching career of over four decades at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, just 45 minutes from Newtown.

Welcome.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: What were you thinking as the first anniversary of the massacre approached?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, I was thinking of the sadness of that day and just the idea of all those, as one woman at the town said, "those poor little babies" being slaughtered. And I was also remembering with some anger the way in which one of the first knee-jerk responses to that event was a kind of rabid defense of, not only defense of gun owning, but a kind of plea for extending the privilege of gun ownership and the number of occasions, type of occasions on which guns could be used.

And not only that the different places that one can carry guns and also the number of situations in which it's permissible to pull out your gun and shoot somebody. I'm thinking about Stand Your Ground laws, so-called.

BILL MOYERS: When one of these massacres occurs, do you automatically or just habitually think about this long train of violence that you've been researching and writing about for so long now?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, thinking about this Adam Lanza case, the killer in Newtown, at first it just seemed to me a crazy kid doing something almost inexplicably crazy with a gun. As the report has come out--

BILL MOYERS: The state report recently--

RICHARD SLOTKIN: --yes--

BILL MOYERS: --came out a couple of weeks ago.

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.

BILL MOYERS: Talk about that a moment, train himself?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, that is he's obsessed with performing some validating act of violence and he does these-- he treats these videogames as training films. I could do it this way. I could do it that way. And as I follow out the script of the videogame, the videogame validates my actions in various ways. You triumph within a narrative, or you simply score points and build up a score.

BILL MOYERS: There is a video game, believe it or not, it's violent I'll warn you, it's violent -- it allows you, the viewer, the follow the killer of Newtown--

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, I--

BILL MOYERS: --to follow Lanza, and actually shoot the kids in front of you. You are a cultural historian, not a behavioral psychologist, not a weapons expert. What do you suppose the producer of that video had in mind?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Just simply exploiting the appeal of violence in a particular kind of situation. And also in this case, there's an appeal of transgression, of--

BILL MOYERS: Transgression?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, of violating everybody else's norms and doing something that really grosses everybody out. You think even, to take a more normative example: the videogame Grand Theft Auto, in which you behave like a criminal, you'd think in a kind of standard videogame you'd be the hero against the bad guys. But the appeal of that is that you get to go to the dark side as, to use the language of Star Wars. And the dark side of the force always has its appeal.

The graphics put you in a very realistic situation so that you're the killer. It's an imaginative leap that in my generation, it took a little more difficulty to make that connection, but we made it nonetheless. I grew up with western movies.

BILL MOYERS: So did I.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: And I'll say John Wayne-- he wasn't necessarily my hero, but he's the type of a kind of hero that I admired. And we played guns in the street. You'd start off-- guns were-- you were cowboys. You'd segue without a break into marines and you'd segue into cops and robbers. But the gun was the thing you were playing with.

BILL MOYERS: And yet so many who would do that never went out like Adam Lanza--

RICHARD SLOTKIN: No--

BILL MOYERS: --and started killing. That's why people are reluctant to say this causes that.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes just to extend my example a little bit, one of the syndromes that people working with Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD was something called John Wayne Syndrome where the young men had internalized the John Wayne model of heroism and one of their problems was they felt they had failed somehow to live up to that model.

And that's the psychology we're talking about here. You internalize a model of heroic behavior from the media that purvey the myths that shape your society. And there's a whole spectrum of responses you might have in relation to that internalized model.

You might not do anything yourself. You might simply consent that the government or somebody act on your behalf, you don't make the war yourself, but you consent that somebody make the war for you, kill the bad guy for you.

BILL MOYERS: The report also says he used a spreadsheet to chronicle previous mass shootings and collected articles all the way back to 1891 about school shootings.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes. Yeah, his imagination is horribly fascinating in a way because he's reaching for a historic-- he's not just reaching for a model. He's reaching for a historically validated model that will somehow invest what he's doing with meaning. What the meaning is, is gone with him, but the gestures seem to me to point to that.

BILL MOYERS: So put it historically what this tells us about the lone killer.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: We produce the lone killer. That is to say the lone killer is trying to validate himself or herself in terms of the, I would call the historical mythology, of our society, wants to place himself in relation to meaningful events in the past that lead up to the present.

BILL MOYERS: You say “or her”, but the fact of the matter is all of these killers lately have been males.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, yeah, pretty much always are.

BILL MOYERS: And most of them white?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah.

Yeah, I think, again this is because each case is different, but the tendency that you've pointed out is true and I've always felt that it has something to do, in many cases, with a sense of lost privilege, that men and white men in the society feel their position to be imperiled and their status called into question. And one way to deal with an attack on your status in our society is to strike out violently.

BILL MOYERS: I guess we'll never understand this. That official report laid out Lanza's troubling behavior. He was diagnosed at six with sensory integration disorder. He couldn't stand to be touched. He had Asperger's syndrome. He closeted himself in his bedroom with his windows sealed by black plastic bags. He didn't want to communicate with his mother, except mostly through emails. What do we take away from this-- knowing we'll never know?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: I think the thing that I'm tempted to do with that is to shift away from the unknowable Adam Lanza to the people around Adam Lanza and his mother-- that here you have an obviously disturbed young man, everybody sees it, his mother sees it. And one way of dealing with it is to buy him guns as presents; buy him fairly exotic, well-chosen models, train him in the use of apparently this elaborate arsenal which his mother had.

And she said she loved her guns and never made the connection to the fact that these guns are available to an extremely troubled young man. And the neighbors never questioned that her love of guns might be putting weapons in the hands of somebody that they found disturbing to deal with. And to me that speaks of our mystique of weapons. Perhaps his mother thought the gun was curative in some way.

We have the gun as a symbol of productive violence in our history has magical properties for a lot of people. And I have this horrible feeling something like that prevented anyone from seeing just how desperately dangerous was the situation which these people were living.

BILL MOYERS: It's almost incomprehensible that when the police went into the Lanza home after the massacre, they found this gift she had left him, a check that was dated the 25th of December, Christmas. And it was to be used by him to buy a CZ 83 pistol.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: She must've thought that the gun would do him good.

BILL MOYERS: Richard, you live close to Newtown and you followed this of course, not only because as a citizen but because of your work in history. What did you see about the reaction of the community in the days and weeks following that that affected you?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: The thing that really got to me most was the strength of the pro-gun reaction that came out almost immediately, that, anticipating that of course there'd be some call for some forms of gun regulation or gun control that there was kind of a preemptive attack on that by a range of organizations within the state, no, it's gun control won't do any good.

And within a couple of weeks I was on a panel discussion in which there were four people who had been typecast as anti-gun which I'm not really-- and the pro-gun people, as if it was a 50/50 balance.

And of course the pro-gun people kind of took over the whole thing because it was-- a bad moderator. So you got the impression that the state was sharply divided. When the governor came out with a program of increased regulations, the majority was so overwhelmingly for it that the bill passed.

BILL MOYERS: I remember that.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: And without any back and forth really about it. So that it turned out that they weren't even a large minority, but they were a minority, minority within the state. And yet rhetorically their presence was very powerful. And the arguments that they were making were the kind of arguments that resonate with our love of liberty and so on. They really to just take this terrible incident and a situation which might lend itself to some sane regulation and just blow it up into a life or death of the republic kind of issue which makes it almost impossible to deal with.

BILL MOYERS: You said you were not anti-gun.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: No, I'm not. There are situations in which it is perfectly reasonable for someone to want to own and use a gun. Hunting is a legitimate and respected and necessary aspect of the ecology.

There are many people in many places, many different kinds of places, rural, far from police, where it makes perfect sense to want to own a weapon for self-defense. So can't say I'm against guns. But then when you go beyond the rational, it gets a little crazy.

Why wouldn't you want if you're a legitimate gun owner, why wouldn't you want gun ownership to be regulated in such a way that to the extent feasible criminals, insane persons could not readily gain access? Why wouldn't you want a prohibition on illegal gun trafficking if your guns are legal and it's a legal sale? Why wouldn't you want rules mandating some program of safe storage of weapons so that people can't be as careless as Mrs. Lanza seemingly was in leaving guns around where crazy people and criminals can get their hands on it? That's where the rule of reason has to enter in, and that's where it doesn't enter in.

BILL MOYERS: There was a surge of sanity on the part of politicians again after Newtown. Truth be told, and as we all know, very little has changed. How do you explain that?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, I think the extreme gun rights position, so called, some once called it “gun-damentalism” connects on a kind of spectrum to more normative attitudes. You have, as I said, reasonable gun owners. Then you have the American consumer. The American consumer looks at the gun as it's a piece of property. The American consumer wants to use his property without restraint, wants to throw his plastic water bottle wherever he pleases, wants to drive a gas-guzzler, wants to play his boom box loud.

Which is a crude way to put it, and yet I think there's a lot to that. Nobody wants to be bothered registering their weapons. Take it a level down from that or level further out from that, there's an ideological level which really kicks in around the time of the Reagan presidency in which gun rights is a very powerful symbol for the deregulation of everything. If you can deregulate that, you can deregulate anything.

And then the last level is what I'd call the paranoid level, the people who think that they have a Second Amendment right to resist Obamacare-- that the constitution protects their right to resist the government, that that's what the Second Amendment is about.

And that's dangerous stupidity and nonsense. But it uses the language of liberty and rights that we're used to thinking of in other contexts. And if you think of all of the rights in the Bill of Rights, haven't they been extended and expanded over the years? Why not Second Amendment rights as well?

And that's the level at which it gets pernicious. But their appeal, their ability to control the debate, I think, comes because their position coincides with the interest of the Reaganite ideologue who doesn't want to regulate anything and the consumer who simply doesn't want to be bothered.

BILL MOYERS: And don't both of those strands, both of those tendencies have their roots deep in our culture, going all the way back to the beginning?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, yes, I mean, the thing that's different, that's exceptional about American gun culture, so called, is the license that we grant for the private use of deadly force. Other countries have similar levels of guns in the home.

BILL MOYERS: Now, Switzerland is a militia state--

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Switzerland.

BILL MOYERS: --and the guns are kept at home.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: But the guns kept at home in those countries are not used to murder individuals. They're not used to settle property disputes, are not used to shoot somebody who comes to your door trick-or-treating and you're not sure who they are.

And what we have in this country is we have a history in which certain kinds of violence are associated for us with the growth of the republic, with the definition of what it is to be an American. And because we are also devoted to the notion of democratic individualism, we take that glorification of social violence, historical violence, political violence, and we grant the individual a kind of parallel right to exercise it, not only to protect life and property but to protect one's honor and to protect one's social or racial status. In the past that has been a legitimate grounds.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, I'm thinking of the Jim Crow era in the south where if a black man is walking on the sidewalk and towards a white man and the black man refuses to give the sidewalk he can be-- any sort of violence can be safely visited upon him because no jury will convict. Cases where-- another book that I wrote about in which a successful black farmer refused to sell his crop, this was in South Carolina, for the stated price. And events escalated from a personal attack to ultimately lynching. So we granted to private citizens the right to police the racial boundary and the social boundary.

BILL MOYERS: You write in one of your books, "In American mythogenesis," the origin of our national mythology, "the founding fathers were not those eighteenth-century gentlemen who composed a nation at Philadelphia. Rather they were those who … tore violently a nation from implacable and opulent wilderness." Talk about that.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, first of all I have to say that every nation, every nation state requires a historical mythology, because a nation state is a kind of political artifice. It pulls diverse peoples together. And so you need an account of history that explains that you're actually all the same kind of person or that your different natures have been blended through experience. So what--

BILL MOYERS: We the people?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: We the people. And the United States is a settler state. And this begins with colonial outposts in the wilderness. And our origin has a story then, has to be how did we go from being these small outposts to being the mightiest nation on planet earth? Well, we did it by pushing the boundaries of the settlement out into Indian country. We did it by ultimately fighting wars against Native Americans, driving them out, displacing them, exterminating them in some cases.

And in the process of pushing our boundaries out, we acquired certain heroic virtues-- an ability to fight cleverly both as individuals and cooperatively, and a connection with nature which is particularly critical. As a country really develops you get a kind of American exceptionalist notion of progress which is that American progress is achieved not by man exploiting man, but it's achieved by conquering nature, by taking resources from nature, farmland originally, timber resources, ultimately gold, minerals, oil and so on. In the American model, in order for it to work, you have to say that Native Americans, Indians, are not quite human. And therefore they, like trees in the forest, are legitimate objects of creative destruction. And similarly blacks, African Americans, are legitimate objects of exploitation because they are considered to be not fully human.

So what you get in this, the evolution of the American national myth, really up through the Civil War is the creation of America as a white man's republic in which, different from Europe, if you're white, you're all right. You don't have to be an aristocrat born to have a place in the society. You don't absolutely even have to be Anglo-Saxon, although it helps.

But so among whites you can have democracy. But the white democracy depends on the murder, the extermination, the driving out of Native Americans and the enslavement of blacks. Both of those boundaries, the western frontier, the Indian frontier, and the slave frontier, are boundaries created and enforced by violence, either literal or latent, potential violence.

BILL MOYERS: So that's why you wrote something came from this mythology, something about "the land and its people, its dark people especially, economically exploited and wasted, the warfare between man and nature, between race and race, exalted as a kind of heroic ideal."

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes. That is the frontier story. That's the western movie in a way. That's “The Searchers.”

BILL MOYERS: The movie, “The Searchers,” yeah.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: The movie, “The Searchers.” Yeah. That's James Fenimore Cooper. That's Buffalo Bill. In a curious way you can even take it to outer space, but--

BILL MOYERS: How so?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, space, the final frontier. "Star Trek" was originally going to be called “Wagon Train to the Stars.”

BILL MOYERS: You mentioned Buffalo Bill. Didn't Buffalo Bill say "the rifle as an aid to civilization?"

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, but that's exactly the American myth. Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett's rifle, killing the bears, killing the game, killing the Indians is what makes the wilderness safe for democracy, if I can paraphrase Woodrow Wilson.

BILL MOYERS: And Samuel Colt, who gave us his famous or infamous pistol, there are many versions of a quote either by or about him, something like, “God created men equal, Colonel Colt made them equal." There's even one that goes, "Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal." On and on these variations go. What do you make of that idea?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, that's the Colt, “The Equalizer,” was the nickname for the Colt revolving pistol.

BILL MOYERS: I didn’t realize that.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah, and it's a curious-- it represents a kind of shift if I may, that the mythologized weapon, the rifle, is a hunter's weapon. And it's also a soldier's weapon, a plainsman's weapon, but also a soldier's weapon. The Colt pistol is a man killer. It's a weapon that's used as much within the boundaries of society as on the borders of society.

And Colt-- one of Colt's original marketing ploys was to market it to slave owners. Here you are, a lone white man, overseer or slave owner, surrounded by black people. Suppose your slaves should rise up against you. Well, if you've got a pair of Colt's pistols in your pocket, you are equal to twelve slaves. And that's “The Equalizer,” that it's not all men are created equal by their nature. It's that I am more equal than others because I've got extra shots in my gun.

BILL MOYERS: But you write about something you call “the equalizer fallacy.”

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, the equalizer doesn't produce equality. What it produces is privilege. If I have six shots in my gun and you've got one, I can outvote you by five shots. Any man better armed than his neighbors is a majority of one.

And that's the equalizer fallacy. It goes to this notion that the gun is the guarantor of our liberties. We're a nation of laws, laws are the guarantors of our liberties. If your rights depend on your possession of a firearm, then your rights end when you meet somebody with more bullets or who's a better shot or is meaner than you are.

BILL MOYERS: And yet the myth holds--

RICHARD SLOTKIN: And yet--

BILL MOYERS: --stronger than the reality?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, yes, the myth holds. And it is stronger than the reality. Because those guns, particularly the Colt is associated with one of the most active phases and most interesting phases of expansion. And therefore it has the magic of the tool, the gun that won the west, the gun that equalized, the whites and the Indians, the guns that created the American democracy and made equality possible.

BILL MOYERS: But there are other nations with a particular history different from ours that have been very valid. I mean, Nazi Germany was no slacker, the Soviet Union, Europe, all white countries contributed two wars within 30 years of each other. They have their own peculiar violent tendencies.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: The difference in American violence-- two kinds of difference. One, it's settler state violence, that is to say it's legitimated when it's directed against Native Americans, Mexicans outside the boundaries of society or against an enslaved class within it. Eliminate slavery and you start to make problems there.

We're a colonial society in which we've incorporated elements that the Europeans never really incorporated. And the second element is this democratic individualism that we grant the license to kill to individuals in a way that Europeans don't. Their violence predominately, their mass violence especially, is social, police state violence, class warfare of a violent kind. For us the murder rate, individual violence, lynching--

BILL MOYERS: 30,000 people killed every year by gun violence.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, and I would take it back even further than that to the period between the Civil War and the 1930s when you had, partly as a result of the Civil War, a society awash in handguns, war surplus handguns, very few law, no national regulation of most things, essentially a sort of a right wing Republican dream of the unregulated society. And what you got was social warfare waged by individuals and groups of individuals.

BILL MOYERS: KKK.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: KKK. But in the south that is on the racial boundary in the south KKK, White Citizens' Council, Knights of the White Camellia against blacks, against their white allies in the Republican party. In the north you have labor wars in which armed strikers are opposed by so-called private armies of detectives, we'd later call them goon squads, but called detectives then, armed to shoot the workers.

BILL MOYERS: Homestead 1892, Ludlow massacre out in Colorado.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Right. So you have a period in the United States as I say from 1865 to 1930 of extreme social violence in which America, a lot of Americans are armed. European visitors all remark on the prevalence of pistols and Sears manufacturers a whole line of men's pants with a pistol pocket.

BILL MOYERS: What about the argument we increasingly hear that we need to have more guns because of a threatening government?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: To me that's the most nonsensical thing I've ever heard in my life. First of all, the government isn't the black helicopter government that they have in mind. But if it were, your guns wouldn't do you a bit of good. And it's an idea that began with the big lie about the reason that Hitler took over in Germany was because he disarmed his enemies. The communists were not disarmed. They were outgunned. And they didn't have the army on their side. There's one, in that panel discussion I was in somebody--

BILL MOYERS: After Newtown?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: After Newtown. One of the spokesmen spoke about the—that oh if the Poles had had more widely distributed guns, the Germans would never have invaded. Right, you know, a bunch of farmers with shotguns standing up to the Wehrmacht. The Japanese didn't invade California because they knew Americans were all heavily armed.

And that the Japanese never intended to invade California had nothing to do with it. It's a pernicious lie. And the reason it's so pernicious is that it legitimates the idea that you have a right to violently resist the government. Most people won't do that. Most people when the cops come to the door, will put their hands up if it comes to that. But there are people, some of these violent tax resistant movements, who take that position very literally.

BILL MOYERS: We continue to hear from a lot of people, notably Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association. Here's what he said right after Newtown.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The only way, the only way to stop a monster from killing our kids to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

BILL MOYERS: So what kind of society do we get? What kind of social order do we get if everyone is armed?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: To me we get a very dangerous, or if we're talking about the United States, it's extremely dangerous because there are so many things about which Americans feel violently. The country is still very much divided by race. The anger that one hears about things like Obamacare, the rage that's expressed, the level of political rage makes me feel that there's anger out there looking for an object and that the more heavily armed we are and the more permissive we are about the use of guns, the more dangerous it's going to be.

BILL MOYERS: I hear you talking about race and wonder how that has shaped the pattern that produces more outrage over mass killings like this one, and there should be outrage, than over the slow but steady accretion of one on one killings in the inner cities. I mean, over 106 kids were killed last year in Chicago alone.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah we don't regard as outrageous in the same way the daily killings in the ghettos and in the black neighborhoods that we do when it's, you know, little white kids in a little white suburb. There's also a difference though in that one is a kind of abhorrent outburst of violence in a part of the society that feels immune to violence.

Whereas we've allowed violence in our cities to become a kind of normative pattern. And actually I shouldn't say we've let it. It's always been that way. It goes back as far as our cities go that they've always been violent places. And the culture has taken a kind of dismissive attitude towards it.

BILL MOYERS: How so? Why, historically?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Historically I think, it has to do with the way in which members of racial and ethnic minorities are not considered to be fully human, so we expect them to behave violently to each other.

BILL MOYERS: And a threat to jobs, a threat to our own standard of life, standard of living.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: The Irish were seen as a threat to the wellbeing of the Protestants.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Now, the blacks in the cities were a threat when they were rioting in the '60s, a threat to white neighborhoods. And you got gun control and attempts at violence control as well as measures of social welfare taken in order to avert that threat. But black on black violence in isolated, in urban, neighborhoods leaves white America untouched in both the literal and the figurative sense, even though that is the largest share of the killings that go on.

BILL MOYERS: Well, we talked about videogames. But what about movies? Here's a group we put together. If we find that entertaining, are we in a societal way condoning or validating violence?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: I think it has to do with proportion. There's so much violence and it's so inescapable. If you look at the-- if you sort of did a genre map of the different types of films that are now available, so many of them are violent action movies that if you're taking your repertoire of responses to the world from the art that you consume, violence is the right response in, let's say, eight cases out of ten.

That's the first thing. The second thing is that, aside from just the sheer level of raw violence that one sees, the question I would ask is what kind of rationale are movies now, television programs and videogames, what kind of rationale for violence are these stories providing? The old Western movies provide a very important rationale. And that was the principle that no moral, social, political problem can be resolved in a Western without violence.

Anyone in the Western who thinks you can get away without a gunfight is wrong. And there, it isn't so much the spectacular quality of the violence, because by modern standards, it's pretty tame. But it's that insistent rational: the only way to resolve the situation is violence, and anyone who thinks differently just doesn't understand the way that the world works.

BILL MOYERS: I have actually wrestled for some 20 years with something you wrote in “Gunfighter Nation.” You said that central to the myth, the myth of America, the myth of how we came to be is the belief that “violence is an essential and necessary part of the process through which American society was established and through which its democratic values are defended and enforced.” So we invoke violence because we think it not only saves us but nurtures us and that we have some kind of obligation to use it in the service of spreading democratic values?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yes, and it validates our beliefs, it validates our values, the things we stand for if we're willing to fight for them. Nothing validates them like combat, fighting for them. And, you know, and the frontier myth is the oldest myth. We have a couple of others that work with similar kind of power. One of the ones that I was thinking of when I wrote that was what I call the “good war myth” or the “platoon movie myth.”

And that's the-- it's the newest of our myths, it comes really out of the Second World War in which the United States, which had been always a white man's republic, an Anglo-Saxon white man's republic, becomes through the platoon movie, that ethnically and racially mixed unit now becomes a multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy united how? Through war against a common enemy, a good war, a justifiable war, a necessary war, a defensive war, a war that liberates Asia and Europe through the force of American arms so that our self-transformation into all men are created equal finally, whatever their color or creed or national origin, is achieved through war and only through war.

BILL MOYERS: As you know so well, President Theodore Roosevelt, back at the turn of the 20th century wrote that quote, "mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct … are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway."

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah, he also said that a savage war, a war against savages, is always a righteous war. And it was certainly what Roosevelt was doing there was taking the American past of Indian fighting and of conquering the west by driving the Indians out, and expanding it to an international stage.

BILL MOYERS: So this idea of the frontier continues to summon us, to--

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah. It does, although not often in as literal a way as Teddy Roosevelt would've had it. Two analogies, sort of two examples occur. One is: why is it that for liberals, I'm thinking about Obama particularly, the war in Afghanistan was a war of necessity whereas the war in Iraq was a war of choice. They're both wars of choice. But the war in Afghanistan has all of the hallmarks of savage war, a primitive enemy bent on our destruction, can't make a deal with them, can't liberate them, can only destroy-- I'm thinking about the Taliban and I'm thinking about the Al Qaeda, people there.

BILL MOYERS: Bin Laden hiding--

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Bin Laden, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: --out, operating from there.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: That's a righteous war, whereas Iraq, Iraq was supposed to be World War II, was supposed to be a war of liberation, but it wasn't. And it soon became obvious that it wasn't that. And so you’ve got a kind of public revulsion against that, among some liberals who supported it initially, but not against-- not until recently anyway, not against Afghanistan. And the second piece of that is the economic piece of that which is that the American economy is an economy which perpetually expands without costing anybody anything, without cost to a lower-- without exploiting a lower class.

For the past 30 years it's been perfectly obvious that that's not working anymore. The rich get richer, the working class gets poorer. And yet we still hold to that. Why don't we believe-- why don't we believe in global warning and the consequences of that? Why don't we believe-- because nature's inexhaustible, has to be inexhaustible.

If nature is not inexhaustible, infinitely exploitable, then the American system will stop working. Let's not even say whether it used to work or-- it will stop working, it will fail. And we can't afford to believe that.

BILL MOYERS: So we create myths that help us organize our beliefs against the reality--

RICHARD SLOTKIN: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: --that we cannot factually deny?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: That's right. That's right.

BILL MOYERS: So what is implicit in this notion of regeneration through violence?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: I think it's, for today, it's still our belief in the validity of violence as a way of dealing with the complex problems that as a nation, as a society, even as people, that we face. We still trust to military action excessively in dealing with foreign affairs.

And we still, it's still a kind of predominant mode. We'll cut foreign aid of all kinds, but we won't cut, or not cut as much, military budgets. We'll develop new ways of using force to intervene in foreign affairs, covert ops, special operations, but force still has that critical role for-- it's almost like there-- it's not necessarily the first resort, but sure as hell is not the last resort for us.

BILL MOYERS: I sometimes wonder if Charlton Heston will have the last word on this argument. Here is Heston speaking in the year 2000 at the annual convention of the National Rifle Association. Their nemesis, at the time, was Al Gore running for president as a Democratic candidate, who they said would take away their guns.

CHARLTON HESTON: So as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words, for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed and especially for you, Mr. Gore -- from my cold, dead hands!

BILL MOYERS: What do you think listening to that?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: I think the man's an idiot. If the government was actually the kind of government he somehow fantasizes, they would take the gun from his cold, dead hands. There's a wonderful line in the first “Men in Black,” where the space alien comes and wants the farmer's weapon. And the farmer says, "From my cold, dead hands." And the alien says, "Your negotiation is accepted." I mean, that kind of defiance is cheap. Because it threatens a resistance that would be illegitimate if it was undertaken and that no one in their right mind would actually undertake.

BILL MOYERS: But mythologically, what does it represent?

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Well, it's an assertion that you're Davy Crocket. That you're-- well, I guess, in his case, it could be an assertion that you're either one of the revolutionaries at Bunker Hill, defying the British, from the age of the weapon he was carrying, I would assume he was defying the British. Or it could be Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy.

And this notion that if you don't like the way the… if you don't like the outcome of the election, go start your own country. Take up arms against the government and somehow that's a legitimate and constitutional action. It isn't. It's unconstitutional. And if you do it, the government will come and take the gun from your cold, dead hands.

BILL MOYERS: What a conflicted country this is.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yeah, yeah. But think of the resentment and the fear that would lead to that kind of posturing on a public stage. That's the, to me, that's the menace of our time is that undercurrent of resentment and fear and hatred that finds an outlet in the legitimated forms of violence.

BILL MOYERS: Including the killing of 26 people, 20 of them children, in Newtown, Connecticut.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: Yep.

BILL MOYERS: Richard Slotkin, thank you very much for being with me.

RICHARD SLOTKIN: You're very welcome.

Richard Slotkin on Guns and Violence

December 13, 2013

Ahead of the one year anniversary of the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 school children and six educators, Bill speaks with cultural historian and scholar Richard Slotkin about the role of guns in America’s national psyche.

Slotkin has spent his life studying and writing about the violence that has swirled through American history and taken root deep in our culture. In his works of history and fiction, Slotkin tracks how everything from literature, movies and television to society and politics has been influenced by this violent past including the gun culture that continues to dominate, wound and kill.

Slotkin talks about Lanza’s apparent obsession with violent video games and mass killings — as outlined in a November report issued by Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice — and examines the roots of violence in America. “The lone killer is trying to validate himself or herself in terms of … what I would call the historical mythology of our society. He wants to place himself in relation to meaningful events in the past that lead up to the present.”

Producer: Gina Kim. Associate Producer: Danielle Varga. Editor: Sikay Tang

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  • Anonymous

    Ridiculous!

  • jan

    I disagree. Private firearms ownership would do nothing to deter the government if they were inclined to enforce something against your will. Your guns are no match for the weapons they have and they are well aware of that. They don’t fear your firearms at all.

  • jan

    Overall I agree with Mr. Slotkin on almost everything but after reading his assessment of Lanza, I’m not convinced he understands autism or aspergers very well. I have never understood why Lanza’s mother took him to a shooting range or how she could let him get away with putting black bags on his windows and closeting himself in his room if that (closeting himself in his room) is what he did.

  • Strege

    I disagreed with Slotkin’s views. My comments were never posted. So much for free speech! I stated that he was completely wrong in describing mine and my friends reasons for defending our right to own unregistered guns. I also mentioned how the Jews in the Polish ghetto managed to resist the Nazi tanks and German army with small arms (guns). This embarrassed Hitler. These Jewish individual citizens with guns lasted longer against the Nazi army than the entire Polish military. How can Slotkin claim this idea is myth when history proves it does happen in dire situations? I would rather die with a gun fighting for my children and dignity rather than in a concentration camp created by people who hate me. Please attack these crazy first shooter video games and violent gun movies that deranged young men feed on. Why claim violent games are free speech then protect that constitutional right at all cost while going after the constitutional right to bear arms for self defense? This is sick and I believe somehow that it is coordinated attack on traditional America.

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  • Bob

    How about discussing the hoplophobia in the psyche of the American Left?

  • Anonymous

    I really don’t care how many liberals or progressives share your view. It is irrelevant to the argument.

  • http://about.me/csiamerica Crime Scene America

    Not the point of the interview. We are talking about gun violence here not homophobia.

  • Khatti

    What is the argument exactly? You’re not a fount of information here. I really can’t even tell what side of the argument you’re on.

  • Anonymous

    The argument is over gun control. I’m for it (to a reasonable extent), particularly in urban and suburban areas. If you’d listened and read you’d understand, which you obviously don’t.

  • Khatti

    Yeah I’m a disappointment to my mother too.

  • Anonymous

    “Your guns are no match for the weapons they have and they are well aware of that. They don’t fear your firearms at all.”

    Au contraire, mon ami. That is exactly what they fear. True, the powers that be have overwhelming firepower. They can kill and do great numbers of people and destroy great amounts of property with relative ease. So what?

    All those high tech killing & destroying tools require maintenance to function as designed. Each soldier in the field requires the support of at least three people. Tanks & aircraft require more support. This presumes the easy availability of parts & supplies that come by truck over highways. That may not always be so. Roadblocks work for both sides.

    Consider also the number of troops who will desert if ordered to fire on their fellow citizens, the number who will mutiny against such orders, and those who will actively resist.

    “Hey, LT, catch!”

  • Barry Hirsh

    All of this psychobabble mumbo-jumbo is meaningless.

    The Supreme Court has acknowledged that the people have the right, that it preexisted the Constitution and even the founding of this nation, and that any law that materially injures the right is impermissible.

    So, blather on. It’s meaningless. Annoying, but meaningless.

  • Anonymous

    The video game argument has zero merit. Japanese youth play even more violent video games than USA. 4 murders 2011. Western European countries same movies as USA. Germany 22 murders 2011, England 16. Switzerland 3rd highest percentage of guns per 100 citizens in world 6 murders 2011.

  • Anonymous

    Poor woman.

  • Michael Walsh

    I guess we can add stupidity to Slotkin’s comment about “that undercurrent of resentment and fear and
    hatred that finds an outlet in the legitimated forms of violence.” Anyone who can’t understand that no right is absolute (including the right to own a gun) has to label intelligence as “psychobabble mumbo-jumbo.” Otherwise he’d have to deal with the issues instead of saying he’s too stupid to understand the issues.

  • Anonymous

    Not very far from the surface of the American psyche is a deep ambivalence about “civilization.” For the American gunslinger, civilization is represented by schoolmarms and preachers. It’s an effete, “feminized” place, a place of women and children, a place that would tame “real” men by unmanning them. The gunslinger will fight to protect civilization’s naturally weak inhabitants, but the Davy Crockett and the Daniel Boone in him will choose to do that on the frontier between civilization and savagery.

    That relates to what Slotkin says about global warming denial. Nature must remain “wild,” as in the rodeo tradition, which survives through the (artificially conditioned) supply of wild, untamed animals that provide real men with the opportunity to prove that manhood is still intact and virile. Maybe you, personally, can’t get on a bucking bronco or a raging bull, but you can own several guns, which legitimize your manhood nevertheless — and if you should ever feel that mere gun ownership doesn’t do it for you, you can always shoot somebody.

    With that kind of underlying national mythology, is it any wonder that American boys respond quite differently to video games than do other Western boys?

  • billhook

    It’s worked pretty well for the Taliban so far and if the govt. uses nukes, tanks and cruise missiles, they will likely kill as many or more of the FSA voters that keep them in power than real Americans. Leave it up to a Fudd to stab other Americans in the back so long as they can still kill Bambi, a right not covered by the 2nd Amendment.

  • billhook

    You can’t be this dumb, can you?

  • billhook

    But it is Constitutionally protected, same as the right to keep and bear arms.

  • billhook

    The Taliban haven’t lost against their more numerous and much better-armed US and NATO foes, however. Do you believe that most military officers and soldiers will obey orders to turn their guns on fellow citizens, including friends and family? Bomb US cities?

  • billhook

    If they’ve committed no crime and aren’t certifiably mentally-ill, why shouldn’t they be able to own a firearm? Or is it because they might be “good ol’ boys” whose background and views you dislike? The burden of proof to deny someone a firearm should be on those wishing to deny them that right.

  • billhook

    What’s the logical implication behind his comments? That gun ownership by ordinary citizens is not desirable and that citizens have no right to remove governments and systems that oppress them. Just keep picking “heads” or “tails” of the same debased coin.

  • billhook

    Assuming the soldiers will kill their own friends, family and fellow countrymen. I guess it has worked out that way in countries on the left of the political spectrum and those on the left here feel it will play out the same.

  • billhook

    Are they going to kill their fellow citizens? I know those on the left know that has been the standard M.O. for militaries in leftist countries since 1917, but it just might not work out, as much as you might hope.

  • billhook

    Are they going to kill their fellow citizens?

  • billhook

    Yeah, a govt. that sends thousands of armored vehicles to police; stocks up on billions of rounds of ammo for law enforcement; monitors e-mail and telephone communications; contracts training targets for LE that consist of children, pregnant women and old persons; uses intimidation against its enemies (IRS investigations, subpoena of phone records), etc., has the best interests of its citizens in mind. Keep grabbing you ankles long enough and it may finally feel like freedom.

  • billhook

    “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was
    finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

  • KP

    First comment apparently censored, not sure why, guess a nerve was struck. As soon as the murders in Newtown happened I said there will be hooplah about guns and zero about the many facets of our society that is sick and rotten and producing the Adam Lanza’s. If a hundred people committed suicide by jumping off a bridge I believe the correct course of action would be to figure out why they are committing suicide, not how to get rid of bridges.

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  • TerryS

    US kids spend way more time sitting in front of a screen than Japanese kids, and more time than European kids. But regardless, guns are much, much more strictly regulated in Japan and Europe than in the USA.

    Slotkins point wasn’t necessarily that playing violent video games will make you want to commit mass murder, rather he was arguing that if you decide to commit a mass shooting that certain video games are excellent for training purposes and that Lanza used them for training purposes. Note, Breivick the Norway shooter, testified that he used certain video games specifically for training purposes.

  • TerryS

    Excellent comment, but I think Slotkins was also making the point that all these cowboy movies and huge number of other movies that glorify guns don’t just inspire mass shooters, but they also inspire average Americans to love, love, love their guns. Not just to love their guns, but to see guns as the source of goodness and freedom and justice. No wonder they are so afraid that someone might try to take their wonderful guns away.

    And no wonder gun manufacturers are making so much money, they don’t have to spend hardly anything on advertising, instead Hollywood provides billions of dollars in free advertising.

  • Ardi Hominid

    Interesting discussion. Most Americans welcome some form of gun control, but the political right has been bought off and many lack courage. Change will come because we cannot live like this.

  • Anonymous

    The NRA message has devolved into myth for those who feel they lack a superior place in our society and resent it. For gun manufacturers, the reality is more global gun sales. NRA is a two-headed hydra.

    The root of Gundamentalism n. < fr. early Americanism < gun + mental.

  • Anonymous

    We don’t have much information to go on, but it seemed to me the mother socially isolated him (which he then self enforced). While there many problems seemingly not addressed, I think he may have received his mother’s praise for being an excellent marksman. Maybe that’s the only good attention he got.

  • david haight

    I was raised to believe that what “God meant” by saying Thou Shalt not Kill is the act of murder. This clears (or is supposed to)soldiers from feelings of guilt and remorse on the battlefield. And I suppose it would exonerate the “Savage” killers of the wild west as well. Crimes of passion, in some courts, are also viewed as “guiltless”, however, it’s not clear if God would judge them that way. Like Slotkin, I loved playing with toy guns as a prepubescent male. But, in my teens, when I got my first BB gun, I would often feel extreme remorse if I was able to kill a sparrow with it. It was a troubling discovery. I loved guns, war movies, the outdoors and being in the woods … yet I knew I wasn’t, and could never be, a hunter. In my opinion, fear trumps empathy in someone’s heart. Its a decision we all ultimately must make. For many, or perhaps most, it address’s our deepest and oldest fears, our primal past, and our childhood memories. Finally, I believe we can change, we have free will. We can choose a more civil and humane society. It may be a cliché, but the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

  • Curtis

    If our social and political center devolves to the point where the US military has been ordered to fire on US citizens, yes, I do. We’ve already done so once in our history. It was called the Civil War, when brother fought brother.

  • Curtis

    I don’t think you were listening to what he said, and equally important to what he didn’t say.

  • Curtis

    You keep asking this like the answer is a foregone conclusion, and there is no historical evidence to suggest that they wouldn’t. Nearly every repressive regime in history has eventually fired on its own citizens. What makes you believe the US would be any different?

    Besides it wouldn’t take much of the US military to disarm you. We have the most professionalized, automated, technocratic, well funded, most redundantly stocked military in the history of the human race, by multiples of times over, not just a little bit. With our unheard of network of surveillance, spying, eavesdropping, drones technology and god only know what else, the US military would crush your rebellion like a cockroach. You’ve played too many video games.

    It’s the laws we make, the caliber of politicians we elect, the structure of our social and economic and politic order we agree to and build that keeps us free. It’s how we share opportunities and bind and care for the wounds to the citizenry that prevents the madness you imagine. Not your guns.

  • david haight

    I personally don’t think that gun owners, who say they will use them to protect their 2nd amendment rights actually believe they’d have a chance against the US Military. In my opinion, they believe precisely what Heston said, “from my cold dead hands”…in other words, they will sacrifice themselves for a principle. Yes, this is mostly bravado and over reacting, The Alamo mentality. And fear-based thinking. We have the military and police to protect us from bullies. There will always be bullies, but we don’t take the law into our own hands. That’s called anarchy. Not democracy.

  • Curtis

    Where has anyone here or Mr. Slotkin argued that your guns should be repossessed?

  • Curtis

    You have the right to remove governments and systems that oppress you in the United States through the ballot box. It’s a republic. You should start doing your best to try to keep it, to make it better, to make it govern fairer and for the benefit of more of your fellow citizens than just the rich ones, the way we’re now doing. You could start by overthrowing Citizen’s United and rolling back the repression of voting undertaken of late by the Republican Party.

  • lysander
  • lysander

    You might want to ask those who would be required to actually effect the door-to-door confiscation, if they fear the american gunowner. “You can’t conquer a free man. You can only kill him.” – Robert Heinlein

  • lysander
  • Khatti

    Interesting thought. I would point out that our own Civil War was not started by the Communists. A more important point is that any political development that makes you grab your gun and barricade your front door needs to be of enough social concern to at least split the military. That was the thing that made the first Civil War possible.

  • Khatti

    And if you like blood and gore check out a Samurai flick.

  • Khatti

    I should point out that the real Davy Crockett was never comfortable with war. His experiences during the 1812 war soured him to the whole enterprise.

  • Anonymous

    Great point, if the video game or movie argument had on iota of truth. 25 Japanese would be hacked to death every weekend

  • Khatti

    You have no problem believing your government is going to do something tyrannical to you. Why do you have problems believing that federal troops will have qualms enforcing that tyranny?

  • Khatti

    Perhaps you should try a few other outlets for that passion. Here’s something to try: my advice for all my conservative friends is to hunt down any liberal they personally know and ask them the following question: “How much in fines, jailtime, and possible institutionalization in a mental health facility would you be willing to see me get in order to further your agenda? No fretting about what those people you don’t know in Montana are thinking, what are you willing to do to me?” in this thread you’re surrounded on all sides by people of the Left. Ask them. After all, aren’t you just as much at war with these people as you are the people they elect?

  • Brad

    To all who believe more guns=better, please realize this. At some point in time anarchy would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Anonymous

    It would be very annoying to the gun nuts.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Only annoying so long as it’s mere blather.

    As soon as it becomes a real, viable threat to our liberty, it becomes, er, something MORE than annoying.

    If ya get my drift….

  • Barry Hirsh

    Fine. You can welcome them for YOU.

    As long as it’s you, voluntarily, and not me, involuntarily, no harm, no foul.

    But it doesn’t work exactly that way, now, does it?

  • Barry Hirsh

    If they’ve committed no crime and aren’t certifiably mentally ill, they have a fundamental RIGHT to own (and carry) firearms that are a) in common use and b) have some reasonable relationship to the efficiency of a militia.

    Thus saith the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

    And so said the folks who ratified the Bill of Rights.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Regardless, mayhem committed by criminals or insane people does not mitigate the rights of the general public, who, by an exponential margin, do not commit crimes or pathological violent acts.

    This is not only the core of the American ethos, it is plain common sense.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Repossession presumes prior possession.

    Not repossessed, Curtis; CONFISCATED.

  • Barry Hirsh

    It does not. A tiny pocket of armed resistance does not an armed populace make.

    I mean, come ON…

  • lookin

    There is something ordinarily truthful about Heston’s good guy- bad guy theory. It’s something very powerful to say fight fire with fire. It is something written in the natural law. To say that to stop someone killing others you must kill him. Who could argue agaisnt that.
    That being said, I think more guns is not the ultimate solution.
    The ultiamte solution is the popularization of human kindness to one another in any circumstance in movies, tv, schools, homes, books, what else…
    Then guns may disappear without much debate, from a naturally inclined peaceful, generous and loving society, confident in human mutualness. Then enforcement of order through force may also fall from within, but I would like to see that happen, ha.

  • Jeff

    I want to read Slotkins’ book, He
    makes great points about the essential use of violence in this culture and civilization
    itself. He nails the lie but then falls short because of the blasphemy. But I
    think he tows the line of all scholars and they don’t challenge the
    ideas of government and how civilization enslaves us. We must violently remove civilization
    because civilization will not go away without a fight. We are killing the
    living world to live as we do and we create programming to make we follow it!!! This government is the black helicopter gov he says is not true.

  • Charles Shaver

    With some exception, the conversation again degenerates into the argument for and against guns. As one who was born during WWII and raised in a ‘cowboy-Indian’ era during a cold war with nuclear attack drills in public school, I certainly would not go so far as to say Mr. Slotkin doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but there are a few relevant things he either doesn’t know or simply omitted: the bad example the federal war mongers set, the negative aspect of the adversarial team aspect and mentality of spectator, so-called, ‘sports’ taught in public schools and, most immediate I do believe, the U.S. FDA (FDA) approvals of mind altering and injuring food additives and drugs.

    More than seven and a half years since first writing the FDA about my twenty-five years of mild allergies and chronic illness that their 1980 approval of the expanded use of added monosodium glutamate (MSG) caused me, and some 20,000 others who wrote the FDA about MSG by the time I first did in March of 2006, I’m still asking what will it take to get the so-called ‘experts’ to take a good look at the evidence and statistics that prove that food additives (cultured MSG in particular), hospital stays and prescription drugs for only symptomatic treatments can account for about a million premature American deaths a year by diet and doctors, while only a few dozen are much more tragically killed by ‘inexplicably deranged’ young males. ‘Inexplicably?’ None are so blind as those who refuse to see, decade after decade after decade.

  • JonThomas

    And thus, to help the general public protect it’s own interests, and secure the General Welfare of the citizenry, rational gun regulation is reasonable, responsible, and necessary.

  • jan

    So it’s okay if they shoot at me or my direction with the intent to intimidate and it’s okay if they trespass on my property while hunting and maybe shoot a cow causing me a financial loss and it’s okay if they disrespect a business and it’s customers to carrying their gun into a “no guns allowed” posted place of business because after all they haven’t broken a law?

    Can you see something wrong with it now?

  • JonThomas

    Actually, while it is an interesting, and to many, a beguiling thought process, ‘fighting fire with fire’ is, more than likely, not ‘natural law.’

    A more basic ‘natural law’ may be found in a predication of ‘responsibility’… one should be careful bringing anything into existence – and one should reconsider continuing to support, enable, or feed – that which one cannot nurture towards a life-giving and an existence-affirming condition and which takes away from continued life (just a simplified description to make the point.)

    So, while some may choose to fight against violence – with violence – this thinking, while arguable at this point in existence and growth is by many (if not most,) unfortunately regarded as necessary, it may not (probably does not) consequently fall into the realm of ‘natural law.’

    Instead, I would submit it is simply a reaction mainly caused by a lack of maturity, wisdom, and simply not knowing a better way to respond.

    Unfortunately, humans (as a species) are not yet fully mature.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Only so long as it doesn’t materially infringe the right, is narrowly tailored to the stated purpose, and the probable success of the stated purpose is supported by a preponderance of credible evidence.

    THAT is the standard for fundamental rights.

  • JonThomas

    Be careful, the NRA may not like that you conditionally agreed lol.

  • Anonymous

    Except that it did not involve the military, I thought Ruby Ridge and Waco proved the wrongness of those thinking having guns aplenty laying around was protection from the government.

    If a “open revolt” got big enough to involve the military, the public would be behind the military not the revolutionaries; this country is not for home-grown terrorists any more than for foreign ones.

  • Anonymous

    Amen, Brother!

  • Anonymous

    …and Hollywood is making $$$$ as well.

  • jsp

    If missile launchers were outlawed, only outlaws would have missile launchers.

  • Anonymous

    Amen to you as well!

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    I am with you we need to question all of the culture that promotes this behavior.
    There is a degree of arrogance in the American psyche from being powerful. We encourage with ads, games, etc…kids on drugs do not reason. Here we have violent cartoons…crazy.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    20 years ago I spoke against this video games for children common sense that people get affected,

  • lookin

    To JonThomas. I agree that peace (non-violence) is something more mature than war from an evolutaionary standpoint.
    And that societies express violence in many ways, natural and civilized,

  • Khatti

    There is something passively paternalistic and autocratic about your point. People who disagree with you do not view themselves as immature, they view themselves as being in fundamental opposition with you. Furthermore your opponents hold your view to be incompatible with their freedom and happiness–and they’re right. Maturity, as you define it, will have to be imposed upon the immature.

    The Left is quite capable of imposing their point-of-view upon their detractors through government force–look at sexual harassment laws and an increase in prosecuting drunk drivers–but they have a disturbing tendency to view this activity as something other than imposing their view upon others with government force. This leaves the Right wondering if the Left is lying to them, or is indulging in self-deception. Either prospect is disturbing in a group that wishes to control your life to their taste.

  • fadista

    Attempting to understand the way myth works in culture is fascinating. I agree more or less with Plotkin’s analysis. The crux of the matter is how to identify and change destructive myths in a culture because until you do, they become more ingrained.

    I think one of the myths we’re deconstructing now, particularly in the West, is religion. The literal interpretation of religious myths is ever at odds with science, and in a world so dependent on science, through technological advances, the role of religion diminishes, or changes, and is questioned more and more.

    It’s harder to change the myths that are more ambivalent, such as those surrounding violence because the core problem is tribalism; violence is the inevitable expression of “tribal mentality” because inherent in tribalism is righteousness, privilege and propriety.

    The White settlers committed genocide on the native Americans because of a sense of tribal superiority (there was established a hierarchy of WASPS at the top and “Indians” and Blacks on the bottom, with others in between). Gang violence in the inner city is tribal in that it’s about “turf” or borders, separating tribes, and then punishing those that violate the established norms or propriety. Loyalty to the tribe results in privilege.

    I’m all for sensible regulation of guns but until we dismantle the myths that legitimize violence, we’ve got a long way to go. But it can be done.

    Although there was significant opposition to it at the time, educating kids about the reality of homosexuality is paying off in this generation being far more accepting of open gays in society than ever before. Most of us understand now that homophobia is a fear response and one we learned (probably from religion).

    Just as our good behavior is learned, so is our bad behavior. The more we understand about our myths, where they come from. why we continue to support them, the more adept we’ll be at shedding the ones that harm us. After all, we create and celebrate myths that supposedly enhance our lives, not harm them.

  • JonThomas

    lookin… At a glance it seems your thought may have been truncated.

  • fadista

    To be overly concerned about the effect of video games, is like only focusing on the guns. Yes, those things need to be looked at, but also look at the reasons why these games exist. Look at the anti-social behavior. Who celebrates it? Why is it “cool” to be a bad guy? To kill virtual cops in a video game? Might it be because young people are anxious and ambivalent about the police. The police are getting away with murder in our country every day. That the police don’t seem to be there to protect and serve them but rather to protect the privileged business class, to harass, strong arm and pepper spray students and protesters and arrest kids who are driven to self medicate with illegal drugs. The young people see the bleak future we’ve created for them. They’re anxious. Some are anti social. Focus on the root not just its manifestation.

  • fadista

    You’re so wrong Khatti. It’s true that you cannot impose maturity on the immature, but you can tell them drunk driving and sexual harassment are not going to be tolerated in our society. And, yes,imposing the will of one group over another is sometimes necessary. Call it paternalistic if that makes you feel enlightened or anti-authoritarian, I call these laws a measured and necessary response to dangerous and outmoded behavior that most of society does not want to tolerate anymore. I’m shocked that anyone other than Rush Limbaugh would suggest these as examples of the Left going too far. And anyway, it isn’t the Left that is responsible for these laws. Victims of drunk drivers and sexual harassment organized and lobbied govt for these laws, Only an idiot would call that paternalistic. So,forget your attempt to politicize this as a Left vs Right issue. (I suppose in your ignorant and macho thinking, victims on the Right, just take it without the “sissy” need to involve govt.) Let me remind you the basic functions of government are to protect and to enable citizens. Your libertarian views are ignorant and should remain in the dustbin of the 18th century.

  • JonThomas

    Passively paternalistic? And here I was thought I was being actively so.

    I’m not sure anyone who disagrees that maturity and conflict resolution go hand-in-hand would be worth the time spent arguing (I suppose that sounds dismissive.)

    If, however, they wanted to sit and discuss, therefore showing a measure of… wait–for–it… maturity, then I’m open.

    It is undoubtedly true that different people see the world in different ways (which is one of the preeminent reasons for why violence manifests to begin with,) but I’m not sure I’m being either passively, or actively “autocratic” by expressing my views.

    Which part of my comment leads you to believe I would want to oversee, enforce, or even control anything?

    Responsibility begins as an extremely personal experience. It can grow to encompass larger groups, but each person alone is the director of his own being (thoughts, beliefs, decisions, actions, etc…)

    Individual responsibility does indeed cover, and extend to those whose decisions are made under a person’s charge, enforced by a benefactor, or at the bidding of someone who is in a position of responsibility, but such examples are isolated to those who are under such charge. I should point out though, that if it is abdication which leads to such a circumstance, this does not provide a legitimate reason for negating, or invalidating personal responsibility (as in the infamous… ‘I was only acting under orders,’ as an example.)

    Now, as far as left vs. right… you’re on your own there.
    I did not, nor do I have any interest in creating such distinctions in discussing this subject. In this instance the divide is yours. I did not mention, nor did I intend such distinctions.

    The subject was natural law, and natural law, as it were (and if it exists in this instance…) would cover any- and every-one.

    I too find that dictatorial tendencies can be equally egregious when emanating from any political quarter.

    Humans of any stripe can be down-right monstrous, especially when they believe they have a moral right or obligation.

  • Charles Shaver

    leah…thanks, but if senseless violence was simply a matter of cultured arrogance and aggression, and dangerous drugs, wouldn’t there be a lot more of it (relative to population growth and drug use)? Adding toxic MSG…crazier, more insidious and prominent on the timeline.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Jan, all but one of those actions are violations of law. Do not confuse the actions of folks who break the law with those who don’t. Disrespecting a private policy that deserves none isn’t a crime (so far). What if the sign said “No Blacks Allowed”? Or, “No Freemasons Allowed”? Or,. “Men Only”? I mean, it’s private property, right?

    It is a basic tenet in this country that even private businesses open to the public cannot violate people’s civil rights, and keeping and bearing arms is a civil right.

  • MSII

    The lunatic-idolatry of guns must end, the worship of the military and soldiers idolized as some kind of shining knights of the holy-realm must end.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    The police suffers from the same antihumanistic belief that life is cheap rather than sacred. Reverence for life is seen in the way we treat the environment and it’s creatures, how we respect the earth, the living planet, how we feed the hungry and lift the poor through social programs.
    The governing moral schizophrenia is apparent in congress where 36 percent of the budget is dedicate to department of defense , the drones attack, rather then education and well being of the nation.
    You have more prisoners here than any country on earth, the utilitarian philosophy is that humans anywhere are collateral damage not sacred souls.
    Now you see our children treated the same, collateral damage of a destructive decadent society.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    Myths are forgotten when greed and power corrupts the soul, compassion is lacking, each is lost in this world of things without rituals and respect for life, neither their own or others. All in search for meaning and it’s not to be found in the nearest mall…or drug.
    Teach your children to look inside for the meaning in their heart.not video games but doing good for others.
    Alienation is the beginning of insanity and it’s fruits are bitter. Tech is a prop not an answer, past civilization where more advanced than we are and perished just the same. All you have in life is the moment you are in. Cherish it and that is what children need to know and love, life in every moment with care and respect.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    Actually if pot was legal for all this anxious people it may be safer than prescription drugs which can generate side effect as suicides and killing.
    Marijuana can be developed without the elements that produces psychosis. Uk is working on that.
    There are many reasons for violence and one is the pressure to perform at school and life. The one who fail are victimized and left behind.
    For all Christian churches we have there is little compassion for the wrong doers or mental disabled. The system hides them in prison at heavy cost to tax payer. Someone is getting rich somewhere off of this.
    Too much corruption and little compassion.
    US has absurd laws and mandates. 60 billions annually for prisons..many are in not for violent crimes. Now you have broken families, children with fathers and so on.
    Sorry to see the country so wrong on so many fronts. That includes academics who take too long to test new cures simply because they did not come up with the idea and if they do they loose government funds for research.
    It’s like living in the twilight zone. And yes those people are crooked and arrogant.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    I just thought of Gandhi who defeated the British empire without firing a shot.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    You could use an arrow, that would be cheaper and safer.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    How can you determine mentally ill , after the person uses a gun? About prescription drugs that cause people to go ballistic

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    American psyche is still looking for civilization in the dictionary. Try decadent instead..

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Moyers,

    I am impressed that you chose to have Richard Slotkin on
    your show. As someone who has admonished
    you to have him on a variety of topics, the issue of violence, including gun violence in American culture was as good a topic as any. Although, as we can see from the interview the issue of savage wars was easily another topic, as the current political
    divisions could have been as well. You
    did discuss the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, you could have as easily discussed the push for a “savage” war against Iran and the assertion that any kind of negotiation is capitulation. You needed
    more time to explore the cultural importance of regeneration through regression narratives, and how Americans use them to assert their individuality by
    asserting that they make independent individual choices. Which is the basis of the gun control debate, and the hopelessness. The basis of the
    pro gun argument is that having a gun means having a choice to use it responsibly and that not having a gun means not having the choice to do bad
    things with it, and thus also to not do those bad things and thus be a good guy. Take away the gun, you take away the choice. Because asserting that they make choices as a way to assert the cultural ideal of being an individual, those who see guns as a necessity are not going to give them up. They will see any discussion of guns as a threat to their basic identity as Americans with a choice to do good or bad. You can see from the comments on this interview from the gun people that they completely ignored Slotkin’s comment that he is not anti-gun, and asserted that he and whoever wants to take all their guns away. Their need for an enemy, even one they make up, demonstrates their need for a regeneration through regression story, one of overcoming something so they can assert they are an individual. Which brings me to the comments. It appears that no one commenting on this has actually read Slotkin’s books (except me and my students). They are big, and long, because they are full of example after example after example, that supports what Slotkin says.

    Again, thanks Mr. Moyer for having him on your show.

  • Barry Hirsh

    By evidence presented in a court of law at a mental competency hearing.

    Due process applies, even if it’s inconvenient.

  • Charles Shaver

    You have an impressive blog history and I see we share some of the same concerns, traits and views. I’d say that while we’re not exactly on the same page we are both more on target than Mr. Slotkin.

  • Charles Shaver

    True, about me not having done the reading, and, after viewing the interview, I will not be much inclined to read any of Mr. Slotkin’s lengthy books. And, after reading your comments I will not be much inclined to have or suggest you as an instructor. I’ll continue to follow Bill Moyers.

    The whole issue of gun violence is much more immediate. We are all exposed to the history and the culture but we don’t all go off the deep end. I say the genetic tendency for some of us to react excessively, one way or another, to dietary substances is of more immediate concern, especially when the dietary substances is MSG, a non-nutritive and non-preservative cultured additive that is alleged to be a ‘flavor enhancer,’ and promotes excess consumption, diabetes and obesity (minimally) in the midst of a healthcare crisis exacerbated with an economic crisis.

    I’m fairly certain you and Mr. Slotkin have good intentions but unless you were, perhaps, to ‘waft a while in my blues’ you will never understand my thirty-three year working-class victim/investigator perspective. If you and Mr. Slotkin are not personally sensitive to added MSG, lucky you.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    thanks Charles, found the answer, even Virginia is getting on board to avoid imprisoning those with mental disorders but are not dangerous.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    goodness Charles I was answering Barry Hirsh response and send it to you instead,I am underwater cannot see too clearly! thanks

  • Charles Shaver

    leah… not a problem. If you are forgetting to come up for air now and then it might be due to some acidic erosion of myelin from the nerve cells in your brain, from allergy/MSG reactions. You might want to avoid MSG in bottled salad dressings if you use them on your veggies.

  • MSII

    shouldn’t that be “liber-tea”…?

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    I read your post on msg. Do not use any processed food, neither use dressing on salad, only dressing I do is when I come out of the water.

  • Anonymous

    I am sensitive to MSG and successfully avoid it, except when I spent a long time in SE Asia.

  • JonThomas

    I think that is an excellent example!

  • george the sceptical

    Not even close

  • george the sceptical

    Close, but no cigar.
    It needs to be more difficult to kill another human being than simply pointing at them.

  • george the sceptical

    Wrong.
    If video games can effect you, you have much deeper problems.

  • george the sceptical

    Pictures, Leah!!
    I want pictures!!!

  • george the sceptical

    We don’t have that problem in Texas (Bill Moyer’s home state, BTW).
    We just execute them….

  • TerryS

    If the media has no effect on people, why is the advertising a multi-billion dollar industry?

  • george the sceptical

    Like I said….
    You have deeper problems

  • george the sceptical

    Go to You Tube, look this up:

    Dr. Strangelove – Precious Bodily Fluids

  • george the sceptical

    Says you!!
    What the hell you think religion is for, anyway?

  • george the sceptical

    Gimme a break…..
    “Holier Than”?
    That would be you, alright….

  • george the sceptical

    Nice word salad.
    Bite me.

  • Khatti

    Gee. I didn’t touch a nerve here or something, did I?

  • Khatti

    Though I wouldn’t expect that to be a norm. A great many Southerners had to be killed to free the slaves.

  • george the sceptical

    Answer the question

  • Khatti

    Sure. Much of religion is about controlling other people to your taste. It’s interesting that one of the great motivators of Christianity isn’t love, it’s misanthropy. People love God and Jesus because they can’t deal with the people around them.The expect God and Jesus to do something about the….people around them.

  • george the sceptical

    To my TASTE!!
    As an orthodox Pasaferian, I’m going to pray that the Flying Spaghetti Monster teaches you something about taste…

  • Khatti

    And I’ll undoubtedly be quite chastened when that happens.

  • george the sceptical

    And when I get struck by lightening….. Ditto.

  • george the sceptical

    Think about it, you silly boy.
    One involves a lovely tomato, oregano wonderful experience.
    With Pasta!!
    The other is struck by lightening.
    Yeah. I’m gonna stick with my beliefs. And put a monument on the Oklahoma State Capital Grounds. They said I could….

  • Khatti

    I wasn’t interested in discussing the merits of either sexual harassment or drunk driving laws. I was merely pointing out that the Left can be just as autocratic as the Right if they feel the necessity, and it is hypocrisy at best, or self-delusion at worst, to think it otherwise.

  • Khatti

    You might be over-thinking this George.

  • george the sceptical

    No.
    Pretty sure you are underthinking this.
    Just like the Republicans in Oklahoma.

  • Khatti

    Well, I’m from Minnesota, and have a slightly different situation going on here. It’s depressing, I’m somewhat of a Liberal, though I really understand much of what people on the Right are going through. I’m also an avowed Heinlein-ite, and tend to worry when people put too much faith in the goodness of their own motivations. As you can see it makes me popular with other Liberals.

  • george the sceptical

    Damn. Here in Austin, all I can afford to be is a Natural Light-ite.
    I don’t feel sorry for you.

  • Khatti

    That is indeed your option.

  • george the sceptical

    Nah. It’s just what I can afford.
    That and box wine.
    AND PASTA!!

  • Khatti

    It’s been fun, but gainful employment calls. May the god of my pagan ancestors smile upon you.

    Oh, and I think you’re thinking of Heineken, not Heinlein (the science fiction writer).

  • george the sceptical

    You’re right.
    I am familiar with Heinlein., never considered him someone worth worshiping.

    Vonnegut? That’s a different story……

  • george the sceptical

    Uh huh…..
    That’s because you are not allowed to seceded from the Union.
    No matter what Rick Perry thinks.

  • george the sceptical

    I’ll try, Sean
    But you need to understand.
    Moments ago, I was in the comment section of U-Tube.

  • george the sceptical

    So where’s my RPG?
    I could really use the damn thing!!!
    The ferrell pig problem here in Texas is just nuts!
    Not to mention the beavers that are stripping the trees!!
    Dynamite!! Dynamite down by the trees.
    Negates the idea of saving the trees, but how much fun would that be?
    Beaver go BOOM!!

  • Khatti

    I think we’d best resign ourselves to be in disagreement on the Vonnegut/Heinlein thing.

  • Khatti

    That’s also true. Though there are thinkers on both the Left and the Right who are considering whether or not breaking up the union into more politically homogeneous parts might be an idea whose time has come.

  • Barry Hirsh

    Again the ridiculous hyperbolic, straw man retort. Clue: It gets monotonous.

    According the the Supreme Court, arms “in common use” that “have some reasonable relationship to the . . . efficiency of a well-regulated militia” are those protected under the enumerated right.

    RPG’s are not “in common use”.

    AR-15′s ARE.

  • Charles Shaver

    Thanks, george. In the military (briefly, mysterious illness pre-MSG, undiagnosed allergies) when it was released, I don’t recall that I’ve ever seen the entire movie. It’s an interesting anecdote to add to my professionally ‘labeled’ anecdotal story. Aside from the chronic illnesses and premature deaths, I find the establishment spending hundreds of millions of research and treatment dollars on conditions I treat at home, for only pennies a dose, even more amusing than the general. And, I often muse if that part of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution is being misinterpreted in modern times; ‘promote the General’s welfare?’

  • Charles Shaver

    Repeatedly, I find it difficult to fully explain myself in a paragraph or two and failed again to emphasize the underlying subclinical allergy reactions, and specify that I’m addressing the less common, seemingly inexplicable, mass gun violence. I found through personal experimentation it is combinations of allergens in conjunction with added MSG that cause the worst, longest lasting and most serious chronic conditions. Any known food allergies or chronic disease on your part? Even as a ‘worse’ (but not ‘worst’) case scenario, I’m mostly colds, flu and prescription free at age sixty-nine. But, how much more angry and unstable might I be if I didn’t know what I mostly learned on my own about allergies, added MSG and beneficial OTC supplements; ‘…there but for fortune…?’

  • Charles Shaver

    Cute.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    Yes I have a deeper problem, I cannot watch movies with violence because I then have nightmares, if I see people being hurt I cringe and want to protect them, when I see people hurting others I feel piety for them and cry because their souls are suffering. I have a deep problem with violence against humans or animals whether is real or a game because humans are not born to hurt eachother, but to love and help others, that makes our heart sing not cringe, that helps the best in humans grow and be shared with everyone.
    Fact is your brain and heart cannot distinguish real from game. If you enjoy the game and feel nothing then your brain and heart are disconnected.
    You cannot experience the height and depth of love as you can when you are connected.
    It’s just the way we are made, unless of course you come from another planet.

  • http://Beaufishblues.wordpress.com/ leah #lovemyplanet

    Well now we know where you come from. I hope you will consider reaching down to the child that lives within you and was hurt enough to become cynical and dead in the spirit and show no respect for life.
    Life is sacred and no one human or institution has the right to take it.
    Jesus came to save the troubled and heal the sick in the spirit and we shall follow in his footstep.
    May your heart be healed of your grief and replaced by joy.

  • Josh Rich

    I don’t buy the argument that violence is learned. I think peace is learned. We only have to look at evidence of genocide between South American native peoples and even the native tribes of North America (let alone the whole history of human warfare).

    It’s not at all obvious that violence is encouraged by video games. Studies show that they may be a good way of sublimating natural violent tendencies. The unprecedented decline of violence in America correlates with the rise of violent video games (Please, before you hit the flame key, note that I’m not claiming causation).

    I can understand some people’s fears that the government could become tyrannical. Other governments certainly have. But making guns less available to us fallible humans will help to reduce random acts of violence, suicide and assault. It’s just too easy to kill dozens of people with modern weaponry.

  • KP

    I must admit, when I first read your comment I began to take it pretty personal, but then I realized you are absolutely correct. I in no way meant to imply in my original post that I actually keep the commandments, only that I strive to. I fail daily. I’ve probably failed twice since I’ve been typing this. I’m just a dirty rotten sinner given the gift of redemption.

  • David Kraus

    Mr. Rich: I do agree that peace can be taught and indeed is. But violence can also be taught and no doubt is. Using native peoples of the Americas or any indigenous culture without proper historical understanding or explanation does not lay the ground for attempting to make your argument, especially in light of the fact that whatever general history about these peoples that Americans study in school or have had access to through all sorts of media, is both biased and skewed by scholars whose bent is very Eurocentric. There is alot of scholarship available today which is very enlightening concerning indigenous cultures. The cultural situations which these people existed in then and what is happening in modern civilizations today cannot be even remotely compared. You need to do some serious reading.

    Also, concerning your comment about an unprecedented drop in violent crime in the US, the facts do not bear this out. I work with this everyday. There has been a drop in overall crime for several years now though not to the point of being unprecedented. But, two types of crimes have gone up every year and are still climbing. Both are violent: murder and rape. Though senseless killings happen in many ways, the vast majority are committed with hand guns today. And this most definitely is unprecedented.

    Rape is a different type of violent crime altogether and is not something to go into here. But suffice to say rape is not about sex. It is about power and rage against a vulnerable population, almost all women.

    The issue here is guns and murder. There is no doubt this kind of violence is learned. We do not come into the world as violent maniacs and predators, nor do we come into it as peacemakers. We learn it all. I do not believe people are inherently violent. But a culture can be, and ours definitely is. And culture is taught and learned, and passed on through generations. We live in a violent culture which we learned from our cultural predecessors, and we pass it on to our children.

    But I do agree with you completely about humans being fallible, and knowing this, we need to make guns less available to ourselves. This is a good start. But this must be accompanied by mass cultural changes so we begin unlearning the violence around us, and teaching rationality and peace.

    All the best.

  • Anonymous

    So many questions without answers. I’ve heard about autistic kids being super sensitive to sound. Maybe he had those industrial headphones?

  • Daniel Kreikneros

    Hello Mike,
    I believe you are over-emphasizing the report’s impact on this interview. After watching the intro a few times, it appears both Mr Moyers and Mr Slotkin are using the report as a segway into ideas on cultural myth and its impact on our society, and not as a condemnation of video games.
    Also, this interview presents Mr. Slotkin’s opinions–is it not an opinion piece? Why should Bill Moyers correct someone’s opinion? We are free to disagree with that opinion without asking for a correction or for an apology.
    I believe Richard Slotkin had important things to say. Certainly there are other efforts to reduce gun violence that were not mentioned in this interview, but this was an interview about a potential underlying cause of that violence, and how a segment of our society becomes extremely defensive over any mention of gun regulation.
    I am not demanding you correct your post because I disagree with it; in fact, I found it informative except for the demands of your last paragraph.

  • Daniel Kreikneros

    Hello Josh,
    I watched the beginning of the interview again, and I cannot see where Mr. Slotkin says that “violence is encouraged by video games.” His point, if I read him correctly, is that the violent attack at Sandy Hook “copied” some aspects of how shooting is done in these games, and that players seem to relish–contrary to his own youthful experience–becoming the criminal perpetrators rather than the “good guys.” If there is any implication against these games, it is in the reaction of the mentally unstable to these games, especially when combined with exposure to our cultural myths of the hero.
    Regarding the comment by Mr. Kraus on our ideas being Eurocentric–if you go to the Yanomami Tribe on Wikipedia, or read the experiences of modern missionaries there, I think there is much evidence that your statement on native tribes is correct, although all of us could use some “serious reading” on this, as Mr. Kraus suggests. I suggest anything by the late Ernest Becker on the violence inherent in our human makeup.

  • Anonymous

    Indigenous South American cultures can be violent, but “genocide?” No. No more then a fight between rival gangs in a major American city is genocide. The level of violence among Indigenous cultures is nothing compared to the level of violence imposed on, say, Iraq, in shock and awe. To assert a level of violence consistent with genocide is highly ethnocentric.

  • Michael Males

    Hello, Daniel,

    Thanks for your comment, but please go back and read the
    transcript. Dr. Slotkin specifically stated that “the state report has gone
    into the way in which he [Lanza] used videogames and obsessively played violent videogames.” That is not a matter of opinion; the fact is, the state report said nothing of the sort. This factual misstatement needs to be corrected.

    When Slotkin states flatly that Lanza “treats these videogames as training films,” also nowhere stated in the state report, he again is not declaring an opinion, but asserting a fact. But even if it is a mere opinion, I disagree that a person featured as an expert on a major, national media program is exempt from challenge for dispensing a completely
    unfounded opinion. Do you mean that Slotkin could have said ANYTHING—that Lanza,
    say, was a Muslim terrorist—without challenge?

    The reason experts are afforded such prestigious forums as Moyers’ show is that they have solid reasons and evidence for what they say. If
    Slotkin has evidence for his statements, he failed to offer it and Moyers failed to require him to provide it—other than to misattribute his own views to the state report.

    I’m not asking for a corrective presentation by Moyers simply because I disagree with Slotkin’s views, but because he made factually demonstrable errors that are not trivial, but strongly impact how the interview is regarded. Likewise, if I made any factual errors, I am indeed happy to
    correct them.

  • sawdust

    Disappointment is what I feel about the show. Slotkin strikes me as a guy far from being a well informed member of the “Great Unwashed” – a disdainful term for the citizens of this country – and one I felt he could use with ease.

    His several cheap shots towards “People” in general, and other barbs he slung with a smirk, was insulting, particularly on the issue of guns and his ignorance of 2nd amendment history. One need not be an historian to comprehend life’s circumstances in colonial America and criticizing that period’s social, political and economic leaders is dishonest and sophomoric.

    In all honesty, I couldn’t make it to the 30 minute mark before I had to ditch the link.

  • Anonymous

    I think stories of all kinds have been told for thousands of years. Storytellers include all forms like songs and games and art. They were very important and respected. Technology has added to storytelling. If it caused violence today it has done it all along. It is probably rare if that is the cause.

  • Anonymous

    Dominance on parade is among the least expected leadership models to follow for any society. When will the world learn that?