Updated: November 28, 2013 6:31AM
Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow is a crusader against violent video games. He seems to sincerely believe that, over time, they inflict permanent harm on young minds and too often result in violent behavior.
Glasgow is no Jimmy-come-lately to this issue, having banged this drum for years, and he would prohibit youths from playing them if he could. That’s not realistic, so he’s now launching a multimedia lobbying campaign to educate parents about games such as “Grand Theft Auto Five” and its clones.
However, some generalities are wide oceans only about an inch deep. Understanding basic questions about the human mind requires a level of sophistication that easy fixations hardly afford.
In his drive against violent video games as a contributing cause of a degenerating society, Glasgow presumes to know the answer to the basic question — what is cause and what is effect? Does playing violent video games for years make a person prone to violence or merely abet a casual crassness that affects our society today?
Even scientific experts in the shaping of teen and young adult minds are not sure of the answers. If social scientists could prove a clear correlation between violent video games and violent behavior, we might have a good debate. But they cannot.
Glasgow likes to cite a few infamous young killers as proof of his thesis. Did playing violent video games affect them more than a barren home life, poverty, despair, general alienation or easy access to drugs and guns?
The adolescent mind is complex, a soup of crass cultural influences about violence, sex and civility. About all that current science can conclude is that violent video games increase aggressiveness and intolerance in some kids in some situations to some extent. A one-size shoe to fit every foot is an illusion that denies context.
Glasgow emphasizes that parents should watch out for what their kids see and buy. Good advice, but so obvious that it seems designed for publicity and political feel-goodism — tapping into a need for pat solutions is a staple of American politics.
We’d like Glasgow to focus less on video game violence and more on street gang violence. That’s much more worthy of a crusade.