Trump Turns on Gamers

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Gun violence in American schools: What are we to do about it? Common-sense legislative gun reforms supported by a majority of Americans? Increased budgets and training for mental-health professionals in educational settings? Give teachers guns? Melt down the old guns and make one big gun that everyone has to take turns using? Or maybe — just maybe — an oldie but goodie: Blame video games!

The White House announced this afternoon that Donald Trump is going to meet with video-game industry representatives next week, in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month.

“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And then you go the further step and that’s the movies. You see these movies, they’re so violent and yet a kid is able to see a movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved. Maybe they have to put a rating system for that,” the President (whose entire worldview is shaped by the last person he’s spoken to and who has bragged about being able to shoot someone in the middle of the street without consequence) said last week.

This is, strategically, a very stupid idea. For those of you who don’t remember, Trump’s election to office is partially attributable to the same sorts of grievances and tactics that powered Gamergate — distrust of the media; an opposition to political correctness and diversity; using said grievances to justify outsize online vitriol, sexism, and harassment. Trump laying blame on the primary hobby of his extremely online fanbase is, let’s say, risky. It’s similar to the risk Trump undertook when appointing Ajit Pai to the FCC and allowing him to roll back net-neutrality protections. Leveraging supporters online is incredibly important to the president, even more so now that Brad Parscale, who ran digital on his 2016 campaign, will oversee the entirety of Trump’s 2020 run.

Look, yes, there are video games that depict graphic violence — the same way that there are violent movies, and violent books, and violent music, and a bunch of videos of people getting assaulted and killed all across the internet. I do not need to belabor this point because, as a culture, we’ve mostly moved past the ’90s-era fear that video games are desensitizing children to violence to any greater degree than the rest of our violence-saturated media.

But President Trump is meeting with video-game manufacturers, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke about doing “everything we can to protect schools across the country,” and that means raising the specter of violent video games that turn children into killers. Any excuse but guns.

Trump Turns on Gamers