The Rise in Violent Crime has been Caused By…

Well, today I saw a police officer on a video repeating an old claim that violent video games are part of the reason for the rise in violent crime.

I’ve seen similar claims about the availability of guns, about divorce rates, about taking prayer out of schools, about decline in religious (particularly Christian) fervor, and many other things.

There’s just one problem:  violent crime isn’t rising.  Oh, there’s been a slight increase in the last few years, but only slight in comparison to what it’s been in the recent past.

So, let’s take a look at crime rates and violent video games:

violent video games
The blue line is the reported violent crime rate for the year according to DOJ statistics.  The numbers call out when various video games that were controversial for violent content were released.

Mortal Kombat was particularly noted as a fighting game where one graphically killed ones opponents.   Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were among the first fairly realistic “first person shooters”.

Now, I’m not going to claim that the reduction in violent crime is a result of these games release.  Correlation does not equal causation.  But what it does show is that the claimed link to “violent video games” and any rise in crime is ridiculous because crime hasn’t risen.  If playing these kinds of caused people to commit real-life crimes we would expect to see a rise in crime coupled with the games becoming available and popular.  We do not.

Have many violent criminals played these kinds of games?  Probably.  But then lots of people have played these games so that’s to be expected even in the absence of any causal connection.  Or perhaps there’s a causal connection the other way.  Perhaps those prone to violence are more likely to play violent video games.  That would give you a higher percentage of violent playing the games without the games being any kind of cause.

There are all sorts of possible reasons that folk might see a connection between video games and violent crime.  It may seem “reasonable” to them that what they “practice” in the game they might try to do in reality.  But the simple fact is, there is no increase in violence to explain.

So this is just one example of many, where people try to use something that, for whatever reasons they want to restrict, as an “explanation” for crime and violence.  You have to agree with their restriction, right?  Why not?  Don’t you want to reduce crime and violence?  What kind of monster are you?

The only problem with that is that what they’re wanting to restrict often has little or nothing to do with actually causing crime and violence.  That’s not even to consider whether the restriction itself is even more dangerous than the crime and violence  it’s supposed to combat.  Why, yes.  The cure can be worse than the disease.

It’s especially nonsense when the rise of the thing they’re wanting to restrict is accompanied by a fall in crime and violence.

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A musical interlude

 

I was thinking about doing something on Immigration and my thoughts on immigration policy but the truth is I already covered that not too long ago.  So today I’m just going to provide a musical interlude.  Today features symphonic/gothic metal.  Remember I take a “big tent” philosophy when it comes to Goth.

 

 

 

 

 

And…Combo Breaker.  A different style of music but a band I really like for its delightful darkness:

 

Still Working on Viking Goth

As I said, I tend to be all over the place.  Yesterday I got all political.  Today I present a gallery of my attempts to develop a “Viking Goth” aesthetic.

During the recent solar eclipse, I visited Oleg Volk, a friend of mine in the Nashville area who is also a professional photographer.  While there, in addition to the photos of my daughter (including the one for a book cover I posted about recently) he took some pictures of me for one of my experiments in the line of “Viking Goth”.  We were kind of rushed because of the need for the long drive back although traffic turned out to be so bad that perhaps it didn’t really matter.  In any case, here are the pictures–the Viking Goth and his unimpressed daughter:

“Both sides are bad”

How terrible!  How horrible!  How dare you say both sides are bad when one side is Nazis!

Well, I’ll tell you, there are worse things than Nazis in the world.  Yes, the Nazis of the 30’s and 40’s were horrible, vile, beyond the pale.  But even so, there have been worse things in the world.

That’s even leaving aside that as far as actual Nazis are concerned, there are no more than a few hundred to a few thousand out of a nation of over 300 million.  You can find more people believing that the Earth is flat, that it’s hollow and there is “another world” on the inner surface, or that NASA has a sex colony on the moon.  That’s actual, ideological Nazis, not the “everyone who disagrees with me is Hitler” type of “Nazis” that seems to be so popular among certain elements of the Left.  And the only people who take them seriously, or at least to profess to take them seriously, are pundits on the left who present them as though they’re if not the norm then at least common to drum up support for opposition.

To us, Hitler was a monster

To Lenin and Stalin, he was an amateur.

To Mao, he was just so adorable!

In the Holocaust, the Nazis killed about 11 million people.  In the Holodomor, just one of the many atrocities Stalin committed, over 12 million were starved to death.  Mao basically said, “Hold my beer and watch this” and killed between 49 and 78 million people, most of them within a single four year plan.

In this running, Leopold II of Belgium in the Congo was an also-ran with 8 million killed.

So, “Nazis” vs. “Antifa”

On the one hand we’ve a handful of people of no real import, limited to saying mean things who have, with very few exceptions been no violent except in self defense (Yes, there have been exceptions, but few, and generally quickly shut down with essentially nobody making excuses for or justifying them), who apparently live rent free in a lot of Leftists heads.  On the other, we’ve got an objectively larger group, that uses violence regularly, that we’re apparently not allowed to criticize for fear of being called a “Nazi sympathizer”.

Screw that.  I know which one of those is actually a threat to freedom.  It’s not the one using free speech in ways I don’t like.  It’s the ones using violence to shut down people using free speech in ways I don’t like.

So, if you are using violence to silence people saying things you don’t like, then, no, how offended you are isn’t an excuse.  How “hateful” they are isn’t an excuse.  How ‘justified” you think you are isn’t an excuse.  For anything short of incitement to violence where there is a real and immediate threat of that violence being carried out, the proper response is to speak in opposition.

If you really think that you’re views are superior, if you really think that you have the majority on your side, then speak out.  No need for violence.  Rally your side’s support, win in the political arena, and they’ll slink away as they have done time and time again, perhaps raising their voices more loudly in what they pretend is anger but is actually frustration.  If they engage in actual violence, then of course you can respond in kind to the violent–not those who are simply speaking, but the actual violent.

But if you engage in violence to shut down verbal opposition, however vile you may think that opposition, then you are the fascist, whatever you might call yourself.

September 11

Today is the 16th Anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center.  However, that’s not what I’m going to talk about.  Everyone’s talking about that.  Instead, I’m going to talk briefly about some of the other things that have happened on various September 11ths throughout history.

1297.

Battle of Stirling Bridge.  William Wallace and Andre de Moray defeat the English.  The Scots met a substantially larger force of English, in particular the English had a much larger force of cavalry.  One of the things that this battle showed was that in the right circumstances, Infantry could be superior to cavalry–a lesson that would take time to percolate through England before it became a potent factor in the Hundred Years War.

The Scots had less than a year to celebrate the fruits of their victory before the Scots and English met again at Falkirk, where the Scots were soundly defeated.  Wallace escaped that battle and his activities are uncertain (a couple of small skirmishes, possible diplomatic mission to France, probably a lot of hiding) before he was finally captured and executed.

1390

Teutonic Knights begin a five-week siege of Vilnius in the Lithuanian Civil War.  The siege would prove unsuccessful, the war a stalemate, and eventually a compromise reached.

1565

Ottoman forces at the Great Siege of Malta retreat retreat from the defending Knights Hospitaller, ending the siege.  And while the Ottomans continued to expand elsewhere, they never attempted to seize Malta again.

1609

Setup for the Greatest Real Estate Swindle in History.  Henry Hudson discovers Manhattan.  He meets with natives.  Later, so the story goes, Manhattan was purchased from local Indians for a few trinkets.  Only, as further stories tell it, the natives who “sold” Manhattan weren’t actually native to the island and were just passing through.  All of the references to these come much later than the events themselves so no one really knows.  But it makes a great story.

1776

A piece conference in Staten Island fails to curtail the growing American Revolutionary War.

1813

British Troops march into Mount Vernon in preparation to attack Washington DC where they will burn the White House.

1897

The ancient kingdom of Kaffa comes to its final end, conquered by Ethiopia, as the last king, Gaki Sherocho is captured by Mennelik II of Ethiopia.  Gaki Sherocho would live the rest of his life, until 1919, in captivity.

There is, of course, far far more I could go into but that’s just a few of the interesting things that have happened on this date in history.

 

Were Shieldmaidens Real?

Recently DNA tests were done on the skeleton in a Viking Warrior grave.  The tests produced a surprising result.  The skeleton was of a woman.

Cue the immediate hemming and hawing.  Since this was a woman, it couldn’t have been a warrior.  “Shieldmaidens” were pure myth.  It Says Here.

So, this non-warrior was buried with typical “warrior” grave goods.  The grave goods include a sword, an axe, a spear, armour-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields, and two horses, one mare and one stallion; thus, the complete equipment of a professional warrior?  The complete kit, particularly in an established grave site of other warriors, clearly marked this as the burial of a warrior of some importance–right up until they discovered it was a woman.

There have been previous finds of women buried with weapons.  There was a previous result where folk started claiming “half of viking warriors were female”.  Only the study was the grave site of settlers, not raiders, and had a very small sample size (13 graves with 6 women buried with weapons).  Why these women were buried with weapons and others were not is never explained.  For some people there must be some explanation other than “because they actually used those weapons” since “There were no woman warriors” (It Says Here).

One individual in attempting to rebut the find claimed that no European Culture ever had warrior women.  Well, perhaps not as a common thing but there certainly had been the occasional exceptional individual.  Scanning through the list over on Rejected Princesses (not a reliable source itself but a good list one can use to checkindividual cases) and checking on various individuals from “European Cultures” (staring with Boudica and going on from there) we find quite a few.  Some Mythical, but some quite historical.  It was never a common thing, but it did exist.

Beyond this archaeological find we have various historical records.  Not many, but a few.  The Wikipedia entry (again, a starting point for follow up) on Shieldmaidens has the following:

There are few historic attestations that Viking Age women took part in warfare,[6] but the Byzantine historian John Skylitzes records that women fought in battle when Sviatoslav I of Kiev attacked the Byzantines in Bulgaria in 971.[6] When the Varangians (not to be confused with the Byzantine Varangian Guard) had suffered a devastating defeat in the Siege of Dorostolon, the victors were stunned at discovering armed women among the fallen warriors.[6]

When Leif Erikson’s pregnant half-sister Freydís Eiríksdóttir was in Vinland, she is reported to have taken up a sword, and, bare-breasted, scared away the attacking Skrælings.[6] The fight is recounted in the Greenland saga, though Freydís is not explicitly referred to as a shieldmaiden in the text.[7]

Saxo Grammaticus reported that shieldmaidens fought on the side of the Danes at the Battle of Brávellir in the year 750:

Now out of the town of Sle, under the captains Hetha (Heid) and Wisna, with Hakon Cut-cheek came Tummi the Sailmaker. On these captains, who had the bodies of women, nature bestowed the souls of men. Webiorg was also inspired with the same spirit, and was attended by Bo (Bui) Bramason and Brat the Jute, thirsting for war.

Admittedly, that’s pretty thin pickings for historical references but when you consider that shieldmaidens would have been rare (I’ll get into that more in a minute) and that even with nothing more than a quilted jacket as armor, let alone leather, chain, or other metal armor, a woman on the battlefield would basically just look like a smallish man.  When you’re being raided and begging God to deliver you from the fury of the Northmen, are you going to stop to check what they have between their legs?  Note that in the Varangian case above it was after the battle when they discovered that some of the folk they had just defeated in battle were women.

And, finally, of course, there are the various legends.  Other cultures have legends of women warriors that are almost certainly ahistorical.  The Amazons of Greek mythology, for instance.  But note the role they serve in the stories.  The Amazons existed primarily for Hercules, the ultimate symbol of masculine manly-might, to seduce their queen and subjugate them.  They later appear so that one of their number, Penthesilea could be killed and Achilles could engage in some breast beating about a woman who might actually have been a worthy mate for him.  In short, they existed to show how “awesome” the Greek Heroes were.  This is not the case with Shieldmaidens in Norse sagas.  Brynhilde in The Volsung Saga didn’t win Sigurd’s heart by her battle prowess.  It wasn’t that she could match him in combat.  She couldn’t; nobody could.  She won his heart by her long speech of “wisdom”. (And then she lost it when he was given magical amnesia and–it got complicated.) Her being a Shieldmaiden was almost beside the point.  It was just something she was.  This is a quite different dynamic from that of the Amazons.

Shieldmaidens could not have been common.  Indeed, the physical difference between men and women (sorry, those who don’t want to consider that but reality doesn’t care about your feelings) in pre-industrial and pre-gunpowder combat are such that successful warrior women would have to be truly exceptional individuals falling far outside the norm.  Picking up and swinging a sword, holding up a shield and using it effectively, and continuing to do this until the battle’s over.  Then doing it again the next battle.  And again.  And again.  All that requires physical strength and stamina and men just average better in that than women do.  So you’ll have a lot more men successful at it then women.  And the term for a culture that makes a habit of having a lot of unsuccessful warriors is “subjugated” at best.

So while I think shieldmaidens did exist, I think they were rare and represented truly exceptional individuals.

Jerry Pournelle, 8/7/33-9/8/17, RIP

Jerry Pournelle, one of my favorite Science Fiction writers, passed away peacefully in his sleep today.  He had reported illness, popularly known as “con crud” on his return from the Draconcon science fiction convention.  According to reports he lay down for a nap and passed quietly.

As I said, Dr. Pournelle was one of my favorite science fiction writers.  He had degrees in Psychology, and a PhD in Political science.  His PhD dissertation, “The American political continuum; an examination of the validity of the left-right model as an instrument for studying contemporary American political ‘isms'”, was written in 1964 and is generally considered the origin of various two-axis methods of organizing political philosophies.

The first book of Dr. Pournelles that I read was “King David’s Spaceship.”  That led to reading The Mote in God’s Eye (with Larry Niven) and others.  However, the book of his that most influenced me was not his fiction so much but the collection of non-fiction essays he wrote for various venues, chiefly the long-defunct “Galaxy” magazine.  In them, he gave a much more hopeful blueprint for the future than was popular at the time.  He wrote of humanity not only surviving the various “dooms” that the intelligentsia were so bent on predicting but prospering.  Not for him a sharply restricted future with the majority of the human race either exterminated or condemned to crushing poverty forever, a future where “the limits to growth” was taken as holy writ”, but instead a future of wealth and plenty, where mankind expands into the cosmos.  And all of the reasons that folk like the Club of Rome use to say that cannot happen?  He disposes of those with detailed, fact-based, analyses.

As much as I loved the works of Robert Heinlein, he bought entirely too much into the Malthusian disaster fallacy.  Pournelle exceeded the master in this way.

Pournelle’s writings were probably the strongest direct influence on my own science fiction writing, even greater than those of Heinlein. (I knew that I could never be another Heinlein, but in my naive optimism I thought I might be another Pournelle–how fatuous youth can be.) My first fiction sale, “The Future is Now” (included as the first story in FTI: Beginnings) was a direct homage to Dr. Pournelle, using concepts that he championed both in fiction and in his non-fiction essays.  Indeed, my entire FTI universe, from near near future stories such as the aforementioned The Future is Now, Match Point, Survival Test, EMT, et al to farther future stories like Live to Tell, and Her World Exploded, (and, it is to be hoped, more to come), owes its existence to Dr. Pournelle.

Personally, my interaction with Dr. Pournelle was mostly online.  First in the long since defunt online forum GEnie (owned by General Electric, thus the capitalization).  He had his own forum (called “Round Tables” there) in which I was an active participant for a while.  He also participated somewhat in the various Science Fiction Roundtables which I could also attend because I had a “freeflag” (members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America could participate in these forums free of charge presumably on the theory that having published authors and related individuals there would attract paying customers).  He could be quite acerbic and definitely did not suffer fools gladly.  On the other hand, while I did not always agree with him (I don’t always agree with anyone, including myself) he was always worth listening to.

I only met him once in person in a LibertyCon several years ago.  The meeting was brief, but it is one of my treasured memories.

In addition to his fiction and essays he had a long-running column in Byte magazine, up until the day it folded.  His writings from a users perspective were helpful to me as I was getting my first PC’s.  When Byte folded, he continued with his own web site, with daily discussions on various topics, making him one of the first bloggers.  Indeed, as Samuel Clemens is attributed as being the first professional writer to adopt the typewriter, Dr. Pournelle was one of the first writers to use computers to write.  His first computer used for that purpose (which he named “Zeke”, beginning a long tradition of giving his computers names which which he referred to them in his writings) has been enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution.

So…Farewell, Dr. Pournelle.  Fair winds and a following sea.  If not in Odin’s Hall, then may we meet again in Gold Thatched Gimle.