Write It Like You Stole It

Browsing the front page of the local newspaper today (that’s right, a twenty-something reading a dying media), I came across something I hate to see in the news: video games. Below the main headline read “Brothers Played ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ Drank Before Officer Was Killed”.

The article is a follow-up to the recent shooting death of an area public safety officer. It presents updated information regarding the shooter (who was also killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound) and the circumstances leading up to the crime. The same article is available at Mlive.com here.

As someone who plays video games regularly and can think critically, I was deeply disappointed when I saw this article. Not disappointed that a video game was involved in a crime. Of course, I was disappointed that people do these things. But I was also disappointed that the journalist thought that the game was important enough to mention three times within the article, not including the title. Even the pullquote mentioned “GTA”. We get it! The scumbag who shot a cop played "Grand Theft Auto"! But is that any more a valid factor in his actions than, let’s say, the alcohol and firearms?

I would bet that if it wasn’t the decision of the author himself, somewhere down the line, someone suggested that this violent video game be put in the title. Because a news article about a cop-killer is a shame. But a cop-killer who played video game that lets you kill cops? That’s media corrupting our youth! Well… in this case, a 31-year-old felon, who had been drinking and had access to firearms.

“Both [Leonard Stalter and his brother] had felony records and lived across the street from each other in houses where there were unsecured firearms. They would spend hours drinking Captain Morgan, becoming intoxicated and playing ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ a notoriously violent TV video game.”
-U.S. District Court Magistrate Hugh W. Brenneman

I’m not sure why he also felt it was necessary to mention that they were drinking “Captain Morgan”. Maybe it’s the drink of choice for heavily-armed felons? Were they eating “Funyuns” (also known as “the snack of violent crime”) and needed something to wash them down?

This just comes off as a lazy attempt to demonize something that they don’t even care to understand. I’m not sure how a “TV video game” differs from a “video game”, but I’m sure Brenneman doesn’t know either. But we all know the reason “video game” or “Grand Theft Auto” is ever used in print is to scare the same older generation whose music choices were condemned as immoral. Sorry kid, but your lifestyle choices aren’t rebellious or edgy – everything your generation likes is subversive and wrong.

I realize that it’s their job to not only write a story, but to also sell it. Even if they weren't trying to say that playing "Grand Theft Auto" was a legitimate factor these men's actions, it’s irresponsible to imply it. These adult men made their own decisions, resulting in the needless death of man doing his job. Alcohol was a far more valid factor, but even that is not an excuse for anyone’s actions. Blaming violent behavior on drinking or video games themselves is insulting. It’s insulting to the family of the officer killed and trivializes their loss. It’s insulting to those who would rather deal with the real issues at hand.

Statler brothers drank alcohol, played 'Grand Theft Auto' before Officer Eric Zapata was shot to death


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