Humans love to set aside disbelief and be caught up in fiction — be it a Penn and Teller magic show, a campfire story, a novel, a movie or a video game.
Watching a good movie is great fun. But what if you never left the theater? What if you lived there 24/7 and spent your waking hours watching movies year after year? Might your concept of reality become warped?
Our entertainment industry has become very good at getting us to set aside disbelief and become immersed in a story that has what Coleridge calls “human interest and a semblance of truth.” Give us 3D on an IMAX screen with Dolby surround and fiction becomes more “real” than anything we encounter in our boring everyday lives.
We need to remember that our news media is a part of the entertainment industry. As just one example, the same company that owns ESPN and ABC also owns Pixar, Disney Pictures, Miramax, and Touchstone. Too often, a “news” story with “human interest and a semblance of truth” will trump cold hard fact.
In the plugged-in, Bluetooth, 4G, WI-FI, virtual reality worlds we live in 24/7, we run the risk of having our understanding of reality warped — either by the mainstream media or by conspiracy theorists and end-of-the-worlders.
The aftermath of events at Sandy Hook provide an example of how our perceptions can be warped.
Here are some semblances of truth that many of us have come to believe:
• We live in an age of violence.
Fact is, never in history has there been a less violent age. Read Steven Pinker’s 800-page, well-researched “The Better Angels of Our Nature” if you find that hard to believe.
• Guns are needed for self-protection.
The men who framed our Constitution were no fools. True, back then there were no assault rifles, but guns could still be used to rob a store, commit suicide, accidentally kill yourself, kill someone in a moment of passion, or kill someone in a well-thought-out duel (and to protect yourself).
Despite these dangers, they gave us the Second Amendment, and they did it not so that we could protect ourselves from bad guys but because they believed it “necessary to the security of a free State.”
(As a sidelight, we didn’t eliminate dueling by banning handguns.)
• The need for guns in the context of the Second Amendment is no longer relevant.
It’s true that our government has enough armaments to invade Europe and has predator drones, tanks and missiles.
Yes, if my government wants me gone, even an assault rifle won’t help me. But the American people collectively — that’s a different matter.
We own 310,000,000 firearms. And we’re not just a bunch of hillbillies with a shotgun under the bed.
More than a third of college graduates own guns (I’m part of the other 63 percent). Many gun owners have military training, know military tactics, and have experience taking aim at human beings.
Heaven help any government, foreign or domestic, that thinks predator drones, tanks, and missiles are a match for the American people — ask any Afghan.
• Corporate profit and bad parenting bear primary blame for violent video games.
To see who’s really behind violent video games, start by looking at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies website.
ICT “was established in 1999 with a multi-year contract from the U.S. Army.” Click the “Prototypes” tab to see ICT’s “Real World Impact:” Leadership, Counter IED, Rehabilitation, Counter Insurgency, PTSD Therapy.
Click the “Collaborators” tab and you’ll find a list that includes the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force along with any video game companies such as Activision (Call of Duty Black Ops), and Electronic Arts (Crysis 3 “Assess. Adapt. Attack. Get revenge.”).
“America’s Army” is a video game developed by the Army. Between 2002 and 2008, it ranked in the top 10 FPS (first person shooter) games played online during that period.
Our military feeds on young men who have grown up playing violent video games, and it stokes the game industry fires.
So set aside disbelief for 126 minutes and go and see “Life of Pi.” Pay extra to see it in 3D. Allow yourself to become immersed in a great story.
When it’s over, let it become a starting point for a discussion regarding the difference between reality and “a semblance of truth.”