The Consequence of Fantasy

Alyssa Rosenberg makes excellent points on the idea that we should blame video game fantasies for violence but not the more consequential fantasies entertained by the likes of Gayle Trotter and Wayne LaPierre.

But at the same time that they were lamenting the idea of young men sitting at home working themselves up to kill by playing video games, both witnesses and senators were engaging in some of the same fantasies of heroic deployment of guns against imaginary enemies. Trotter imagined a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-like fantasy of a housewife brandishing high-caliber weapons in defense of her family: “An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon and the peace of mind that a woman has as she’s facing three, four, five violent attackers, intruders in her home with her children screaming in the background, the peace of mind that she has knowing that she has a scary looking gun gives her more courage when she’s fighting hard and violent criminals.”

LaPierre’s fantasies justifying gun ownership were more post-apocalyptic, including dreams of a national disaster or a sudden breakdown in government, scenarios Baltimore Police Chief Jim Johnson called “scary, creepy and just not based on logic.” But Sen. Lindsey Graham backed up LaPierre’s argument, saying that the risk that “You could find yourself in a lawless environment in this country,” like the 1992 Los Angeles riots, justified the continued legality of higher-capacity magazines. [...]

Maybe there’s a difference between pretending to shoot targets in Call of Duty and going to the firing range, feeling the recoil of a weapon, and learning to appreciate what Walter Kirn, in an essay for The New Republic, calls “the power over the power of the gun.” But if yesterday’s gun control hearing proved anything, it’s that you don’t need to pick up a console to fantasize about emerging a hero by using guns to kill people who you believe are victimizing you. And when it comes to setting policy, the fantasies of people like Gayle Trotter and Wayne LaPierre have far more impact in the real world in the form of things like Stand Your Ground laws than the dreams of people who pick up pixelated weapons and head off into battle.

Less formally, and with a quip, I refer to the Heroic Defender of Freedom fantasies of the Right as the Red Dawn Theory, but it's possible my poor attempt to satirize their fantasies doesn't adequately respect the consequences of their delusions.

If you view things like Stand Your Grand law, a law which more or less legitimizes murder, as a direct consequence of real world paranoia and fantasy, the idea that we should blame video games seems even more preposterous.

The former has tragic, real world consequences, while the latter is virtually consequence free. And my suspicion is that, if the two were to converge, and an unstable person who is already prone to violent thoughts begins entertaining both fantasies, that's the only case you could say video games may have had an influence on their actions in an indirect sense and after the fact. It's far less tangible and loose than the direct line that's easily drawn from Doomsday paranoia to laws that enshrine gun fetishism.

Of course all of this speculation would be for naught if we didn't have over 300 million guns in circulation in this country. It's simply far too easy to obtain one. Or two. Or a dozen.

  • LeShan Jones

    Notice how all these gun fantasies never mentions the accompanying fear of someone firing back. This is part of the sad and pathetic reality the gun nuts live in, where they’re more terrified of being a hypothetical victim of crime rather than the very real shootings occurring on a daily basis.
    The fantasies these fools concoct always have them heroically standing their ground and never missing a shot, never panicking or freezing up in the chaos.
    Yet were supposed to believe that video games are the real problem.
    Excuse me, I’m going to fire up my Playstation now and play Batman. I think I’ll terrorize a bunch of idiots with guns who think they’re invincible, or maybe I’ll play inFamous 2 and beat up a bunch of gun toating hick-fascists instead.

  • gescove

    Why exactly was Gayle Trotter invited to testify? Who is it that she and the “Independent Women’s Forum” claim to represent? Her “testimony” was devoid of substance and any basis in fact. Since when does pure conjecture constitute a meaningful contribution to the debate? — “Imagine, if you will, that I am confronted by a marauding horde of zombies in the aftermath of the Apocalypse that is sure to happen within a week or two. And you would confiscate the only possible protection for me and my sobbing, desperate offspring?! Shame on you, Senators!” WTF?

  • GrafZeppelin127

    There is simply no dispelling the “Heroic Defender of Freedom fantasies of the Right.” It’s all they’ve got, really. Even the ones who are willing to admit that there is no “tyranny” now (hence the only reason they are not out “fighting” it), we have to make sure we’re armed to the teeth just in case it becomes necessary at some unknown time in the future to ……..

    Back them into a logical corner on this issue, such as by asking them what the factual/legal/political predicate would have to be and who or what would have to authorize/sanction/legitimize the violent, bloody overthrow of a lawfully-elected government by an individual or a small faction that has unilaterally and subjectively judged it to be “tyrannical,” and they lash out in all directions. They cannot let go of this fantasy.

    Well, that’s actually not quite true; they did let go of it between 20 January 2001 and 19 January 2009. And between 20 January 1981 and 19 January 1993. And between 20 January 1969 and 19 January 1977. And so forth.

    I swear, I am so frustrated by this I can’t talk about it without getting upset. At the end of the day, since the future can’t be predicted with any certainty, you can’t really prove that this whole “guns are for fighting tyranny” thing is naught but a paranoid narcissistic fantasy because neither the “tyranny” nor the “fighting” will ever, ever, EVER happen. They can’t prove it will, we can’t prove it won’t, so they keep comfort in dreaming up their heroic resistance against the imaginary evil tyrants.

    Everyone wants to feel heroic. This is how this particular faction has chosen to do it. I can’t imagine being a Sandy Hook parent, knowing my son or daughter is dead because people who have never suffered such a loss want to make sure, just in case, that their fantasies can come true someday.

  • trgahan

    Graham’s invoking of the 1992 LA riots as an example shows how much of this debate is based in racial fear/resentment.

    Please Senator Graham, tell me how higher-capacity magazines would have made that situation better? Are you really arguing that a business owner mowing down looters (note how the criminals in their fantasies are never equally armed) taking insured property is the best solution to the problem? How does one riot contained in one part of one city justify an unregulated assault weapons market while multiple mass shootings of unarmed innocent people across the country doesn’t justify squat?

    Or are you just engaging in the all too common gun fetishist fantasy of finally having a chance to “legally” put “them” in their place?