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The power of images to influence PDF Print E-mail

Letter to the Editor:

What cultural forces influence mentally deranged individuals to become mass murderers? The Newtown, Conn., massacre of children and adults again raises questions we have asked ourselves before. Of course the answers are complex. Here are a few basic things to consider.

Our concept of good and evil today is partly shaped by a prevailing attitude of moral relativism, where human­kind is the measure of all things, there are no absolutes. By the time one becomes a young adult, this way of thinking has been drilled into him by academia, the entertainment industry and the media.

For example, we deny that the unborn child is a person, and thus abortion becomes an acceptable choice in dealing with an inconvenient pregnancy. In our quest for sexual freedom we trash traditional morality that Americans have valued for centuries.

Having used medical hypnosis in the past to help patients with various needs, I have great respect for the power of suggestion. The same dynamic is at work in the area of advertising. Experts in the field have told me that firms like Coca Cola sometimes will advertise with just a picture of a Coke, known by almost everyone, because it is vitally important to keep one’s product in the public eye constantly. Images sell, and they influence behavior, for good or for bad.

What images and philosophies collectively distort a deranged mind to the point where he turns to unspeakable violence? Take your pick. A half-century ago we had plenty of action movies with guns blazing. But there were clearly good guys and bad guys, and good always triumphed over evil.

Today we have violent video games that glorify indiscriminate killing. And gangster rap trivializes murder and the abuse of women. Again, the mind is shaped by images and ideas that we take in. Prisoners incarcerated for violent sex crimes almost always admit that their criminal behaviors had their origins in repeated viewing of pornography. I fear that strict gun control measures will only make things worse.

These laws do nothing to remove the desire that some people have to kill. Murderers will only become more creative. Bombs, biological and chemical weapons may be the next methods for mass murder. Prevention of all these atrocities is not likely.

But we can start on a path toward fewer horrific incidents by addressing how we think as a society. Adler said that how we think determines how we behave and how we feel. Our country was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles, but increasingly we are turning from them.

We need better role models in professional athletes, in the entertainment industry, and in our leaders. Schools can get back to teaching moral absolutes. And we obviously need strong families that stress traditional values. We cannot change a culture overnight, but we can do better.

In the meantime, there are immediate steps we can take. One example is the suggestion that school principals and other officials could have guns hidden in their offices to use in the event of an emergency. This measure might have saved some lives in previous shootings, and might act as a deterrent in the future.

The most difficult question is how to diagnose when a mental patient is a risk to society. Science has not solved that challenge yet.

Warren Anderson, MD

Lake Forest, Ill.

Monday, December 24, 2012 4:47 PM


-13 #11 Frank Gabl 2012-12-29 20:13


I told you more than a year ago that I have no desire to hide my thoughts from the general public. The reason for a forum like this is to advance an opinion or argument that changes a mind or shows solidarity with others. Arguing one on one in private is a total waste of time unless that is your way of staying in control without the consequence of looking misguided? It does nothing for me.

The inference in your latest post, that I was not civil in posts 5-7, is nothing more than whining on your part.

For you to arrogantly exonerate liberalism by blaming the “gun culture” (conservatism) for Newtown, and gun violence in general, is simply unconscionable.

Cont. below:
-13 #10 Frank Gabl 2012-12-29 20:08

Did you have the guts to watch the abortion video, Jeff? 12,000 children, per year, (30 per day) grotesquely murdered makes Newtown look nearly irrelevant in comparison.

If you were honest with yourself you’d have to admit that your side is culpable for the evil and chaos that is destroying this country, not mine.

But, of course, your non-answer to the video will just add to the other non-answers I’ve received from you on numerous questions in the past.
0 #9 2012-12-28 23:21
To contributor of posts 5,6,and 7:

You may have noticed that I included my e-mail address with my original posting. My earlier offer still stands if you would like to engage in a more serious, civilized discussion.

Contributor of post #1
-12 #8 2012-12-28 19:48
Very well put Ian and Frank.
-14 #7 Frank Gabl 2012-12-28 14:02

The "contributer" in post #1 predictably stated:

“This is not about what you may see as moral decay in this country. It is about guns, and an American gun culture that is killing us at a rate far exceeding any in the civilized world.”

So, let’s examine ILLEGAL killing (murder) resulting from the “gun culture” (conservatism) compared to LEGAL killing (murder) resulting from the abortion culture (liberalism).

Total U.S. firearm homicides: (totals include an average of a whopping 52 per year from “assault weapons”)

2008 – 12,068

2009 – 11,493

2010 – 11,105

2011 – 11,101

Cont. below:
-13 #6 Frank Gabl 2012-12-28 13:58

The Abortion Culture (liberalism):

Late-term LEGAL murders – (abortion performed after 20 weeks) – the average week that a baby can live outside of the uterus is 24.

12,000 (1%) is the yearly average of babies murdered late-term of the 1.2 MILLION TOTAL ABORTIONS PER YEAR or 56 million LEGALLY killed since 1973.

WARNING - GRAPHIC: Do not open the following link unless you support Roe v. Wade, in which case, sit back, fire up a joint and marvel at one of 12,000 yearly miracles of almost-life.

Cont. below:
-13 #5 Frank Gabl 2012-12-28 13:56

Now that you’re back – this is why reasonable people conclude that supporters of Roe v. Wade are morally bankrupt, mentally confused and flamingly hypocritical.

Come to think of it, at least two of those deficiencies led to the murder of 20 innocent children at Sandy Hook School.

Additionally, what is the difference between these underlying factors that led to the horrific murders of 20 innocent children at a school and the 30 children horrifically murdered per day in abortion clinics? - Except for the fact that in the abortion culture these murders occur EACH AND EVERY DAY and at a 33% higher rate.

-12 #4 2012-12-28 08:39
Jeff, maybe we should ban the consumption of alcohol. I mean, way more adults and children are killed by drunk drivers per annum. Why don't we ban violent video games and Hollywood action movies that glorify violence as well. Hell, Chicago banned the possession of hand guns and the murder rate is at an all time high. Curious how the main stream media protects Hollyweird. we need to look at the bigger picture instead of a knee jerk reaction IMO. Found an old ash tray at my 1st cottage here in the great northwoods and it had a saying on it:
"it's better to take your boy hunting than go hunting for your boy"
+17 #3 2012-12-27 22:47
I agree: where there is a will, there's a way. Murder and violence will occur in society even without guns. No one is saying it won't.

As I tried to point out, this issue is more than good guys vs. bad guys. It is also about the dangers of guns and accidents, guns and suicide, and guns and domestic violence in homes.

I agree that "society" plays a big part, as do mental health issues. But it is misleading to think that guns -- the most popular (and efficient) instrument of violent injury and death -- have nothing to do with any of this.

Jeff Laadt
-15 #2 2012-12-27 14:11
Interesting Jeff...

So how do you explain the deaths in China from deranged individuals who use knives and cars as methods to kill innocent children? Guns are prohibited by the government there, yet people continue to do it, all without the aid of guns.

This has nothing to do with guns. It is all about the society. If there is a will, there will be a way no matter which way you slice it.

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