During Sunday's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, Cong. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) fielded a question and somehow turned it around to a discussion of the movie ratings system's inadequacy.
Clearly, if only "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" had received the R rating some people think it deserved, we wouldn't be quite so awash in random acts of violence today.
And so it begins. As my colleague Ted Johnson reported on his blog, the "Blame Hollywood" deflection has already begun. And trust me, if it means making any kind of progress on the gun issue, Democrats — who have been responsible for most do-gooder attempts to curb media violence — will be more than happy to throw Hollywood under the bus.
Violence in movies, TV, videogames and music inevitably gets accused of "coarsening the culture," and there's no doubt that it has — at least, in terms of boundaries regarding what's acceptable. That said, there's a big difference between being coarse and homicidal, especially in the destructive way assault weapons can.
It's also worth noting that despite all those studies by the likes of George Gerbner and Leonard Eron (and yes, I've read a bunch of them), the relationship between viewing violence and behaving in a violent way has at best been correlative, not causal. Granted, that's because social science doesn't allow for the kind of studies that would establish the latter, but as someone who viewed a tremendous amount of violence as a kid, I still think there's a pretty wide chasm between watching violence and rough-housing, as children have been shown to do in the immediate aftermath of seeing violent programs, and actually acting out in the most terrible ways.
It's difficult to ascertain what puts crazy people over the edge. But there's simply no debating that the level of damage they can inflict in a short amount of time is exacerbated by rapid-firing guns.
Assuming it's impossible to eradicate such mass killings, the best society can do is to reduce the number of them. And limiting access to guns with the capacity to kill promiscuously is simply the most pragmatic way to achieve those objectives.
So while I won't bother to defend first-person shooter videogames, the torture porn of "American Horror Story" or the kind of horrific slasher movies the industry churns out (and seriously, there's nothing more festive than "Texas Chainsaw 3D" ads and billboards right before the holidays), any attempt to raise media violence in the wake of what happened in Connecticut is, quite simply, a red herring.
Politicians can complain about movies, or talk about random acts in countries that already have strong gun-control laws. In this debate, nothing is perfect or foolproof.
But we've been fooled before by efforts to turn attention away from guns by citing other factors. And if the media allows that to happen again, then shame on us.