Squatted Upon in America

Not to take anything away from The Sopranos, but my guess is that grade schools and universities have done more to normalize deviancy than even the entertainment complex.

Which is sad, because we are paying for those schools and universities.


That’s what I was getting at a few weeks ago when I wrote about schools allowing or encouraging students to fundraise by having people pay to watch them suck peanut butter off each others’ toes, or lick each others’ armpits. It’s more than deviant, no, maybe just different from deviant; it’s de-humanizing, it’s like the geek at a carnival, ripping live chickens or rabbits apart with his teeth. “Is he a man, is he an animal?” the barker wonders rhetorically. Humans can be de-culturated. And that would be a worthy goal of the Davos crowd. No backchat from people so far gone into the old black night of our animal natures.
And “murder”? Animals can’t murder other animals, nor can they murder a human. Not while we still have the power of language.


@drlorentz you have to admit that repetitious crowing about crime and criminal behaviour does tend to make people more accepting of it - especially children. First-person shooter games have made some messed up kids, with skill sets that are scary. eg. I personally think we take people into the military too young. You learn to kill - and do it well - at too young an age. So for me, the original Rambo movie hit a nerve. Those were MY guys. Trained and ready to assault a fortified position like it was just a walk in the park. Then one wonders why there are so many cases of PTSD.

And let’s understand. PTSD as a clean psych diagnosis is one thing; in a combat vet it is altogether another. In the vet it tends to be his conscience bothering him about what he was trained to do. NOT his choice. Just look at shooting statistics. In the Civil War - on average a battalion of infantry suffered 9 casualties per minute. This in a closed-rank formation firing at least 3 volleys per minute with rifles capable of accurate fire at 600 yds. CLEARLY the majority of shooters was not even TRYING to hit the opponent. But the average infantryman of the era did NOT break ranks and run, NOR not fire his weapon (usually - even that was in evidence in that war) mostly because of peer pressure.

So what society is exposed to wholesale does make a difference. We as kids were exposed to John Wayne - always the good guy in the white hat. Always. Now we see movies where the “hero” is a crook who is just trying to get back what was stolen from him - which HE obtained by murdering the opposition to obtain.That can’t help but affect how society looks at crime, violence, etc. So I think @civilwestman’s point has validity. Sopranos was not a gimmicky film about some daring theives; it was about a violent crime family, making them “normal” in American homes. ?What conclusions would a young growing boy reach from such “influence”.


Aside from the psychotherapy sessions, this sounds like an extended version of the Godfather trilogy, wherein several generations are followed and their family lives are described in detail.

Depicting something is not the same as accepting or normalizing it. War is the subject of many films. Awful scenes of violence and mayhem are shown. In my opinion, this lays bare the horror rather than normalizing it. It’s my thesis that most war movies are, in fact, anti-war. Certainly, a book such as All Quiet on the Western Front makes a strong antiwar statement and was widely viewed as such. It was a best-seller in the US. The 1930 film adaptation (which is great, btw) was banned by the Nazis.


Perhaps you have something else in mind but The Sopranos does not crow about crime and criminal behavior. Of course, it is not aimed at children and, as a parent, I never allowed my kids to see it or similar material. First-person shooter games are off topic. The post to which I responded was about a television series.

But since you brought up video games, I don’t think there’s evidence that they lead to violence or cause harm to adults. Again, regarding children, it is the role of parents to police what their kids are exposed to, whether it’s film, television, books, or video games. There’s always been plenty of material that is inappropriate for children. If you have any references to evidence that video games harms adults, I’d be interested is that. Otherwise, it’s just conjecture.

I can’t think of any such films offhand. Certainly, The Sopranos is not such an example. Other series, such as Breaking Bad, depict some awful criminal behavior but they also show the consequences of it, namely, everyone is dead at the end. This is hardly a persuasive argument for engaging in criminal behavior.

One possible exception is the some Tarantino films. The violence in Kill Bill is very cartoon-like and not realistic at all — somewhat reminiscent of comic-book violence: POW! BANG! Earlier Tarantino films (Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) are rather graphic and I admit to looking away once or twice. But like war movies, such depictions make me abhor violence even more that before. If you’re already repulsed by violence, seeing it doesn’t make you like it or get used to it.


The movie that came to mind was Payback starring Mel Gibson. He plays a singularly nasty crook who was double crossed his “partner” in the original crime, which consisted of killing the couriers of a rival gang and taking the money. He’s shot and left for dead. He comes back “for his share”. It was not only a violent movie but had no redeeming characters in it. Certainly Mel’s character is truly nasty.

As for adult influence with outside example, there is evidence that “training” can modify your inherent tendencies. That isn’t perhaps directly the same thing, but it’s close enough. For that, you merely have to read On Killing by Lt.Col. Grossman. That is a dissertation on military violence over the years, with statistics to support the ideas. It is noteworthy that most men in war do NOT want to kill another man. This has been documented as a problem going all. the way back to Roman Legionaires. There are exceptions, which Grossman lists, but for the most part his working hypothesis is that a species does not want to kill itself. He supplies adequate evidence that changes in how the military (and police, by the way) train creates the responses on the battlefield that are seen. Often that disparity shows up in the turmoil that a combat vet experiences on coming home (to relative safety), caused by the disparity between the moral code he learned as a child vs how he behaved from his training. As a practicing ED MD I can attest to how many cops came in after a police shooting a total wreck. Most ended up quitting the force, unable to face the fact they took a life. It takes an exceptional person to be able to take a life in the right circumstances and not be affected by it.

I believe combat PTSD is pretty well documented to be a moral dilemma between what one learned about the morality of taking a life vs what one did in medical literature. Most VA’s now have a special approach to PTSD in vets that is basically group therapy, allowing them to accept that what they did was OK, acceptable to society. You would be surprised at how many didn’t realise that. And the Vietnam vets are the worst affected. Instead of a hero’s welcome when returning from doing their duty to their country, they were greeted with slurs, ostrization, and disdained - from a class of people who generally had no clue what those young men had gone through.


I had to look up this film because I don’t remember it at all. The funny thing is that I saw it in 2017* but it made little impression. It is billed as dark comedy, which makes it hard to take seriously your point about how evil it is. The movie is rated R, btw, so no kids without adult supervision.

I watched the trailer on IMDb and, gotta admit, chuckled a few times. Based on the trailer, Mel’s character is pretty funny. It’s hard to take the violence seriously when it’s accompanied by lines such as, “It’s all right. He’s just killing my alligator bags and shooting holes in my suits. Man, that’s just mean!”

*I rate movies I see on IMDb to keep track of unmemorable flicks like this one. I don’t want to start watching a movie only to realize I’d already seen it but it was not worth seeing again.



(I watch too few movies to benefit from this approach, but still. Clever.)


I take your point about first-person shooter games. There may be something to it, though there would need to be research on that more specifically, rather than reasoning by analogy. I seem to recall reading that such research failed to produce evidence of harm but such work is often influenced by ideology or money so it requires scrutiny.

Granting that there is a training effect, does it apply to situations where clearly no actual humans are involved? Comic books show cartoon characters getting killed. That doesn’t appear to traumatize the reader. I’ve never tried violent video games so I plead ignorance on this one.


The training is to dehumanise the process of killing a person. It is a bit Pavlovian in nature, with such things as ALL targets are silhouettes. That makes you accustomed to shooting AT human outlines. In battle, and even in everyday gunfights such as cops get into, being accustomed to seeing the human form as your target clearly makes you more likely to fire when so engaged.

?So how do we know this. Well, SLA Marshall did extensive studies of the likelihood of an infantryman shooting at the enemy in WWII and Korea. His studies showed that only some 5-15% of infantry seriously attempted to kill the enemy. This did not hold true for (a) crew-served weapons (machine guns and artillery) and (b) for long range shooters (snipers, to whom the target was so small as to no longer represent a human. Now we can go to the Falklands War. Brit troops were asked to evaluate the Argentine troops. Their assessment was that overall they weren’t much of an obstacle, except for - their machine guns and snipers. Argentine troops were trained in the traditional way - lying on a nice grassy rise, shooting at round targets 500 yds away. Bucolic scene, so to speak.

WWI. Germans complained that while they tried to teach the troops to use the bayonet as a stabbing weapon, the vast majority of troops continued to use them as slashing weapons, a far less lethal application. This is exactly the same complaint that Roman Legionaires had in attempting to teach their troops how to use the sword!

In the 1700’s the Prussians did an experiment putting up a wide piece of paper across the field, then having a battalion of infantry fire smoothbore rifles (muskets) at it at 120 yds, 80 yds, and 60 yds. Hit percentages were something like 30-40% out at distance and >60% at the near distance. Yet Civil War casualty rates in infantry fights averaged 9 per minute. A reasonably trained infantry unit of the time could fire at least 3 volleys per minute (better trained 4 volleys per). There were rifled weapons shooting the “mini ball” which were capable of killing accurately at 600 yds. Yet only 9 soldiers fell per minute. There should have been LOTS more.

At Gettysburg, after the battle, the field was policed. About 25000 weapons were collected. Some 6,000 had full charges in them. About half had multiple charges - with the biggest one having some 20 charges in it! These were men who could not get themselves to shoot to kill another man, but wouldn’t let down their brothers-in-the-line by not firing. Consider SLA Marshall’s data, ?how many more didn’t shoot to HIT the opposition but merely as posturing. (Which makes all those stories about the glory of an attack, flags flying, drums beating and bullets whistling around their ears SO TRUE!)

I could go on, but Grossman documents all this extensively in his book. After I read it I finally understood why American troops had the reputation for shooting “high”. Except the Army. Shooting participation was STILL 5-15% - in the Marine Corps (which still trained on the grassy knolls) but 92% in the Armyt - which had instituted the new training program “Two Shot-Quick Kill”.


Thanks for that interesting and informative analysis. I can definitely see how that could apply to video games, especially as their realism evolves. So maybe there is a case to be made for concern there.

Nevertheless, I remind you that the discussion started off with film and television. The key difference is that the audience is passive; nobody is shooting anyone and no one is shooting at the audience. The interactive, realistic experience of video games is relatively new on the scene. Getting back on topic, The Sopranos, The Godfather, The Blues Brothers, and The Producers all feature criminals as their main, and sometimes sympathetic, characters. In the latter case, these characters even continue their criminal enterprises in prison with the assistance of the correctional staff. In the case of the latter two, there are some terrific songs to go with the crimes. Check out these jailbirds:


Fascinating data and story, thank you! My grandfather was telling me how in WW2 they were ‘shooting across the bow’ rather than shooting to kill.

It’s deep hatred that leads to casualties, see for example the Palestinian public opinion: Press Release: Public Opinion Poll No (91) | PCPSR
… which is a result of one-sided media propaganda: https://www.wsj.com/world/middle-east/inside-israel-its-a-very-different-war-628097b2

Similar holds for the situation in Russia as well:


Now this is interesting. Is it only in war,do you think, that men shoot “ across the bow”? I only ask because I’ve read that, when states like Utah still had execution of a death sentence by firing squad, there was no shortage of volunteers to man the rifles.


I think the statistics say all wars. Grossman’s theory is that a species does not wish to kill itself. That doesn’t always seem to be the case, but as a premise it isn’t bad. He gives example that a rattlesnake will bite just about anything - but it won’t bite another rattlesnake. When they fight, wrestling - no fangs.