Current Events, Just musing

The violence blame-game goes to the Stooges

In the middle of the golden age of Hollywood, a slap-stick trio of buffoons managed to work their way to the top of the comedy ladder, continuing to be an inspiration to many, while known to all but the very few.  The antics of Moe, Larry and Curly (and Shemp) became iconicly known as the Three Stooges, forever saved on t-shirts, reenacted in one sit-com after another and even the genesis of a recent feature film.

ThreeStoogesAt the same time, it didn’t take long for some in the 40’s to blame violence in society on the images being portrayed on the silver screen.  Poked eyes, slapped heads, twisted noses, hands smashed, skulls bashed with hammers, feet stomped and stomachs punched were a mainstay in their shorts as well as their feature films.  As a youngster, I would catch these in late-night reruns on the UHF band.  (For the younger readers, look up television prior to cable, satellite, Netflix and on-demand.)  I would crack up to see these actions. They were silly characters acting silly. I never once remember thinking to myself, hey, if I get a hammer and bash my brother on the noggin’, the hammer will end up looking dented and not the other way around. And neither did any of my friends.

BugsandHitlerDuring WWII, cartoons were used to ridicule Hitler and Stalin. Bugs Bunny would use flame throwers on the enemy, all to bolster pride in the American GI fighting force. Later, the Looney Toons gang became less political, but no less violent.  How many times did we see Elmer Fudd blasting Daffy Duck in the face with a shotgun?  How many times did the Coyote’s scheme’s backfire, often in hyper-violent manner, while he perpetually chased the road-runner? Tom and Jerry ran through homes, yards and streets being equally abused (and then parodied on The Simpsons with the Itchy and Scratchy Show).  Cartoons like Popeye, portrayed a muscle-bound hero forever having to protect the damsel from the bully, were built on one violent scenario after another.

And, as the cartoons played, there were people blaming all the ills of society on the images playing out on the screen and in the homes. At the same time, kids played cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers or war. I cannot begin to recall the hundreds of summer nights spent playing out mock battles with realistic looking cap guns or M-16s that made a rattling noise when pulling the trigger. At no point did any of us think how cool it would be to buy real guns and shoot people. We just knew better. We were raised to know better.

Movies were becoming more realistic in their portrayal of violence, from the slasher movies of the late 70’s and 80’s, to gangster movies, monster movies and war films. There was a Friday the 13th film released just about every year in the 80’s and yet the two years there was no release, violence didn’t suddenly go away in society, but Jason, Freddie and Michael Myers got their fair share of blame for increasing murder rates.

Music started getting the attention of a then young Al Gore, whose wife, Tipper, waged a “holy” crusade to ban heavy metal.  Apparently, if someone commits suicide with a poster of Judas Priest on their wall, it must be the fault of the music.

Outlaw_AtariAnd, while music and movies were in the proverbial cross-hairs of those who wanted to blame them for all the murders and violence in America, the popularity of the Atari 2600, ushered in a brand new medium for entertainment. Now the whole family could engage in side-by-side Western gun fights, jet combat over a 2D sky or wage tank battles with tanks that could only move/shoot in eight directions, all right on our own televisions. As computers became more powerful, the games became more complex. They became mini-movie productions with sound effects, music scores and art design.


All those kids (like me) who grew up pretending to blow each other up during summer vacation, began to create first-person shooters — games that made it look like you were seeing the game world through your own eyes.  The first-person shooter has since been traced as far back as Maze War, in 1973 and 1974’s Spasim.  But, it wasn’t until 1992 that Wolfenstein 3D became the basis on which almost every FPS game is based.  Soon, Wolfenstein gave way to Doom, Doom II, Quake, Quake II, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life and the list goes on and on to today’s most advanced war simulations seen in Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty.

And, I’ve played just about every single one of these games.  In fact, I’ve been a gamer so long that now my kids play these same games with me. Instead of playing world domination over a Risk board at the kitchen table, now we can wage war on our laptops, all connected via wifi, with hundreds of other players from around the world.  Yet, my kids have not once expressed a desire to go on a shooting rampage. The same can be said for all of my friends’ kids.

But, it doesn’t matter.

The longer our society is allowed to play victim and not accept personal responsibility, there will always be those looking for something else to blame as the source of violence — never the individual. And for those bent on taking away more and more of our personal freedoms, anytime there is an incident in our country, they pounce on the chance to play on emotions and introduce their statist ideology.

We don’t blame the depression for someone committing suicide. We blame the music.

We don’t blame the child and their parents for bullying. We blame cartoons.

We don’t blame the gunman.  We blame the gun.

aaron-alexis-insetSo, sitting in the shadow of the 24 hours since Aaron Alexis went on a shooting rampage in the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., we have anti-gun politicians like Diane Feinstein clammoring for gun legislation while others are blaming video games. Even the President has said he will use the power of Executive Order to once again step on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It doesn’t matter that we have reports that Aaron Alexis was suffering from some severe mental disorders. It doesn’t matter that something caused him to snap and he made the decision to go on a rampage. We cannot blame the individual for their own actions because there is no political gain there. After all, no tragedy should be allowed to go to waste.

Before allowing yourself to have your emotions manipulated, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions. In all of the history of violent movies, cartoons, music and video games, how many have you been exposed to over the course of your life? How many times have you “killed” your friends and family online? How many music videos did you watch as people were killed or robbed in-time with the lyrics?

Now, how violent are you? How many crimes have you committed?

Violence is something that exists in all of us, like jealousy, anger and greed. These are part of the human psyche. But, unlike animals, we have that extra piece of our brain that allows for introspection. We are the only species capable of that. We can analyze our own thoughts and emotions and determine an acceptable course of action.

If you want to look for a source, it’s not the entertainment industry in all of its myriad forms. Look to the breakup of the family. Look to a lack of spirtuality (this is not the same as “religion”). Look to a society where we refuse to instill shame in our children while they are young. Look at yourself and ask, are you always playing the victim or do you accept your own role in the decisions you make?

The Three Stooges made a fortune acting silly on the screen, never thinking about the consequences of their actions or being held responsible for their stupidity. But the Stooges were not real. They were characters. And we all knew that because we were raised to know better.

The real stooges today are the ones who look for blame where it does not belong and failing to see it where it truly lies.

66 thoughts on “The violence blame-game goes to the Stooges”

  1. Excellent article. I plan to re-post. One correction – the Three Stooges did make money but they got totally ripped off by the studios. The studios did make a lot of money and continue to do so.

    1. Thanks for the comment and the plan to re-post. There were not many actors or “acts” in Hollywood that did not, at some point, find themselves on the losing end of the accounting worksheets during the Golden Age (and probably still, today!). I chose to focus more on the high-level success description v. the financial one, but you are indeed, correct.

  2. Video games especially have always been an easy scapegoat for the media and politicians who love nothing better than yet another week-long distraction from the issues that really matter. Gun control is also problematic for the fact that such crimes could just as easily be committed with weapons such as shotguns or pistols that would still be perfectly legal under any plan most of the gun control advocates put forward – and anything more extreme than that would certainly be a violation of the Second Amendment. In fact, all they’ve really pushed through the President is increased regulation. I don’t see how that helps prevent another shooting.

  3. I grew up watching western. They were the big thing. Paladin, Wild Wild West, Bring em Back Dead or Alive (Steve McQueen) and Bonanza and of course Gunsmoke, I saw more people shot in one evening than you can imagine. The real bizarre world was the Untouchables. In this series people were killed over beer. Beer for goodness sake. Was I affected by this violence? I never raised my hand to my wife, she would have killed me, I never raised my hand to my three children, my wife would have killed me, and I never kicked the cat, again my wife would have killed me. The worse I did was write a serial killer novel which does contain some violence but not real gore. I call it the Record Killer. I guess it is all hype. Deep down some people are violent but for the most part people are not. Those who are sick with the violence syndrome are there and there is no question about it. Does it come out from the violence on the television or the video games. I do not believe so, you have the trait and anything will set it off. Could be television or a video game, or an ice cream cone dripped on your new shirt or some moron had the audacity of cutting you off in traffic. It is the spin of the wheel or the roll of the dice that sparks it.

    1. Isn’t amazing that taking just a few seconds to put it all in perspective makes much of the mainstream media’s agenda seem trite and ineffectual? Unfortunately, in our on-demand age, many don’t seem to have those few seconds to spare.

      1. The main stream media has a function to live and breath. It therefore makes stuff up, inflates it or revs it up. Otherwise on a low news day they would have no reason to exist. Most of the investigative reporting has been done over and over. It is the same trite except on a breaking news story. How many times do we have to hear that violence is a new product. It is not if you know the history of our country. The Capone mob did not kill anyone right. Violence has been around since Adam smacked Eve for giving him the Apple and promptly got kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

      2. Anything can become a weapon. I was a school teacher for many years and you would be surprised the damage a pencil can cause. I had kids stabbed by them. Fortunately not in the eye. The “I am sorry” came after the incident usually caused by he teased me.

  4. It’s always easier to have a scapegoat than to accept blame. To accept the blame means something is wrong with society. It means people sometimes slip through the cracks. No one wants to admit that society has problems. It’s easier to have a target and pretend society is perfectly okay just the way it is. To admit society is the problem implies society must change, and change is scary. We need to pay attention to our children, which is demanding. We need to be involved in our community, which means opening up to others and getting off Facebook to see people in person. It’s hard for most people to accept that. It’s easier to blame some game they don’t listen to, or a style of music they don’t like than to be a part of the solution themselves.

  5. I grew up with the stooges and I’m not a felon. As for violence, have you ever watched a Mighty Mouse cartoon? He makes Tom and Jerry look like pussy cats (well, one of them anyway). It seems that nowadays if you’re caught doing anything wrong, all you’ve got to do is say you were bullied or abused. Or even better, admit publicly that you did wrong, apologize profusely, and do a token act of contriction (again, very publicly).
    As for blame, I once had a client who wrote and told me ‘Everyone uses me for a scrape goat’. I did not commit a misspelling. He was a scrape goat.

  6. I’d be blaming both the gunman and the gun. And I’d be blaming the culture and the law that makes firearms available to every person who wants it, even people like Aaron Alexis who was suffering from severe mental disorders.. I grew up with the three stooges and all the cartoons that you describe. I never found them funny. But everyone, including me, is capable of a red unreasoning rage or fear given the right circumstances. I believe that the outcome is pretty much set in stone if you have a gun handy while you’re in that state of mind.

    1. Or a knife. Or a bat. Or a crowbar. Interesting to see some of the FBI stats on murder implements. 😉

      In all seriousness, we want everyone to feel free to express themselves and their perspectives here. We truly set out to create a “bar” atmosphere where, regardless of personal ideology, we are all here to enjoy a drink and the conversation. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Hi Alan, Sorry if you felt I sounded too serious about a serious issue. I thought that despite the mention of the three stooges, your article was pretty serious, too. It didn’t read like the sort of banter that is tossed back and forth at a bar. But hey, it’s your blog and your call.
        Do the FBI statistics you speak of refer to the victims or the perpetrators? I’m just wondering how close a person can get if the burglar, for example, has a gun? And even if the situation was right, and that person was close enough, I can’t imagine the law abiding next door neighbours standing face to face with the aggressor and stabbing another human being through flesh and bone. On the other hand, (I imagine) guns would be only a matter of pressing the trigger from a distance. Any child can do it, and, some, I believe, have done it.

      2. I was simply stating that there are many different ways to murder an individual and though handguns are by far in the highest category, it’s funny how politicians want to go after assault rifles, which counted for 323 murders in 2011. By way of comparison, 1,694 were committed using a knife, 496 with a blunt instrument or hammer and 728 by hands/feet/fists. Handguns, an item never mentioned on the evening news or in the political sound bites of the anti-second amendment crowd, accounted for 6,220.

        But, this is all academic. These are just numbers in a table from the FBI. The issue remains, did any of these guns levitate, point itself in midair at a random person, pull it’s own trigger and then set itself down? In any of these cases? I’m guessing not.

        And…the fact we are having the dialog is, at least in the circles I frequent when enjoying a pint, exactly what happens at the bar. Cheers!

    2. Mary, thanks for injecting some sanity into this conversation. Who cares what games Aaron Alexis played and what he watched on TV? He was mentally ill and had easy access to a gun. So Alan Sanders is glad Alexis was able to buy the shotgun? Because he and some of his commenters are tired of the wussification of America. Wow. Not getting enough violence in your diets? Really? Seems like the rule, not the exception, in the United States circa 2013.
      “We definitely live in a time where playing the victim gives you all the cards,” Alan Sanders wrote.
      Hard to believe, in a post about the Navy Ship Yard shooting. I wouldn’t say they had all the cards.

      1. Thank you for takin the time to not only read our recently featured blog, but also commenting. It’s the conversation following that is often more important than the initial story. If I may offer one thought: the story is about looking for blame anywhere other than with the individual. It never mentioned anyone being glad that someone suffering from severe mental illness could buy any kind of weapon. In fact, the subtext of every example is to point our that the media and many others in society are always looking to place the blame in something bigger so as to tie it to a different agenda.

        If you see this piece as pro-gun, it may come across that way if someone is equally anti-second amendment. And, therein may lie the perceived shift in message. I truly meant only to point out that the individual is rarely the blame for their own actions, regardless of the outcome of those actions.

        Again, though, thank you for dropping by and participating. We hope it won’t be your last visit.

  7. Violence is one of those let’s hurry up and cash in on this (insert violent incident here) while it’s fresh in everyone’s mind. I’ve been a police officer in an unfairly labeled “violent” city for 15 years. Not once have I ever looked a teen suspect in the face and wondered what video game or music group caused him to do this. As you mentioned, I can see by the confession he writes that his education has failed him. I know by his phone call to his grandmother that he has no mom or dad available to him for support, I also know by his flat out telling me that he had nothing to lose by trying to rob somebody that he had already lost hope. I don’t purport to have the answers to violence, but until the powers that be pull their heads out of their asses and address the real causes, we’ll all just continue to spin in the same circles until we finally vomit.

    1. Certainly, the answer does not lie in the blame of inanimate objects or the products of the entertainment industry. Personally, I believe the issue starts much closer to home. Thanks for reading and for taking time to comment.

  8. Interesting, so I must reblog. Especially, since I just blogged about ‘saving the 300.’

    Personal responsibility is absent in America.


  9. Reblogged this on luvsiesous and commented:

    I wanted to agree with the author all the way through his post.

    But, I was troubled with some of what he wrote. He held depression responsible instead of the blaming the person taking their life. Then he wanted to hold the parent responsible, instead of blaming the bully ….

    Personal responsibility starts with the individual.

    The individual who thinks their right to play a violent video game must take responsibility for their personal expression of violence ….

    The same is true for the kids acting like the three stooges and kill their kid brothers and sisters ….

    Maybe instead of championing ‘freedom,’ we should champion responsibility and freedom?

    I wonder if personal freedoms have gone to far? Have we, the US in USA, forgotten what it means to be a society? Or, will we really continue to kill each other until we blow ourselves back to the stone age?


    1. Wayne, we may be arguing two sides of the same coin. I do believe that ultimately, the blame for our individual actions belongs solely with the individual. I was making the statement that many would choose to blame anyone other than the individual. There is always something else — some focus other than internally — to remove personal responsibility from the equation. I wasn’t raised that way and I’m doing my best to make sure my girls are not raised to believe they are victims while simultaneously being owed (entitled) to something they never earned.

      Ultimately, if my message was muddied, it was the fault of me and me alone. But, I am trying my best to say what so many are afraid to. Thanks for stopping by, taking time to comment and for reblogging. We really appreciate it.

  10. I find it ironic that in the midst of claiming we shouldn’t use scapegoats, you use the classic “mental illness” excuse when only 5% of crimes are committed by the mentally ill.

    And as for the “guns don’t kill” argument, what purpose does a gun serve then?

    1. Note that in the blog, the only person that was listed as having mental illness is the recent Navy Yard shooter who, incidentally, has mental illness. Also note that we noticed the mainstream media did not spend time reporting that, focusing, instead on how to make the shooting a bigger, social issue requiring additional government involvment to prevent another incident.

      A gun, like any other weapon, is both a deterent and a means of protection. The end result of its use is not the fault of the inanimate object, anymore then the tree is responsible for the death of the driver of the car who crashes into it.

      1. A tree exists to provide food and shelter to living beings, and your comparison is a red herring since the automobile fatality was self-inflicted while gun deaths are inflicted on others. Martial arts fulfill a defensive role without fatally wounding the aggressor. I still do not see any purpose other than causing severe injury and the fact that one must resort to that as “protection” reflects badly on the culture.

  11. the three stooges are tame and yes we knew they were buffoons. Yes the blame and the repsonsability is shared, the culture is totally messed up, based on commodifying everything, the ego, manipulating the sheeple, keeping them chained to paying taxes, manipulating with the lowest animal instincts- sex and survival. Yes we have to see how messed up this Patriarchal greedy ego trap is and we also have to take individual responsability. Living in Canada where huns are NOT part of our culture and never were, I still feel having a gun worshipping culture makes it easy for people with mental problems to go over the edge and murder many innocent people. From birth, education, food, culture, broken homes, poverty, pollution, sex,the medication which causes these types of violent outbursts -all of these topics and more play a direct part in why the violence is there. Yes we all have an aggressive aspect of ourselves, it is there to help us survive if necessary.Most people are not violent but in a pretty insane world many people feel helpless and it doesn’t take much to push them over the edge. Ultimately we are also responsible. Why is it so hard or scary to look around and go this is a total mess. The way women are treated as sex objects world wide,child abuse,no spiritual as opposed to church guidance and no ethical sense of right or wrong or conscience being taught any more. But some are waking up.

    1. Some good thoughts. We want to thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on our site. The whole point behind our site is to get the conversation going, regardless of each participants starting point-of-view.

  12. With the release of Grand Theft Auto V the media has been saying that crime will go up, etc.. It is funny how 3rd world countries have a lot more violence in their society but not a lot of people playing battlefield in the 3rd world.
    I would say EDUCATION might be the key here..
    Great post.

  13. A brilliant piece beautifully written. Nicely done my friend. I too was a big fan of the Threesom you wrote about. I watched TV like the rest of the country growing up here. If it had an effect on me it was a little different as I became a police officer not a criminal. I can only imagine by the way you write that the other endeavors of your life are excellent as well. It was a pleasure reading your blog. Please by all means continue to write as you are gifted and have gained another reader in me. Thank you for the quality work.

    1. Thanks, Bill, I really appreciate it. Check out some of the other pieces written here, too. I think you will find we strive to be both thought-provoking and rooted in liberty. And, thank you for taking time to comment.

  14. “We were raised to know better.” That’s the bottom line. Kids today are not “raised.” They are kept company by parents who want to be their “friends,” who don’t teach right from wrong, and never dole out consequences.
    Congrats on FP !!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. Several of the blog posts here deal with our entitlement-minded youth and how parenting (such that it is) has become so different from the Gen-X’ers to this new Gen-Web generation. I guess, part of why we started this blog site was to try to get people to think a little more about their actions and beliefs before blindly reacting or, worse, not acting at all.

  15. There are, in modern western society, some serious problems with child rearing (some of which we might put on the growing requirement for all parents to work full-time+ to get enough money to keep the kids fed and housed), and you’re quite right about the frequency of mis-placed blame for some of the horrors we’re seeing in the news. For my part, I will blame the gunman AND those who put it in his power to get ahold of guns. In some events, the person who runs amok gives no previous sign, and then the blame vests more in them, and following your thrust about child-rearing those who had a direct role in the making of their internal state. However, in the case you site regarding the Alexis, he was a known looney and yet he still got his hands on plenty of guns; I don’t blame those guns, but I certainly blame the environment that saw them into that guy’s hands. Without the guns, he may well have gone on a rampage with axe, knife, or baseball bat, but it would have been a less efficient rampage, more easily evaded and ended, and anyone who defends the right of a roaring lunatic to have guns must, as you point out in your item, bear their share of the blame.

    Looking in from the outside (Canada, where we have a pretty good view through your picture window), the brush of blame for this sort of thing tars a rather large crowd. The man himself, the various people of authority in the diverse jurisdictions where he committed his lesser outrages, those who arranged for the strange division of uncommunicative jurisdictions in the US (we, where all crime is a federal matter, are a rather baffled by this), the selfish and fearful gun-owners who won’t admit any limits on guns lest they lose some of theirs, the gun-lobby shouting “the answer is MORE GUNS!” and the gun-makers who support the lobby as a means to ensure profit. There may even be a little to spare for the parents, even if it’s just a matter of their particular genetic contributions to a brain that didn’t work so well. Bugs Bunny is in the clear.

  16. I don’t know if this has been said already in the comments, but another thing you will find is that no kind of media blames itself. You can find the radio blaming television, television blaming videogames and so on, but you never see anybody on tv saying that tv makes people violent. Kind of strange how they all do this to eachother. Just another reason why it’s not very accurate.

    1. It goes right along with our current culture of blame-everyone-else-and-play-the-victim-card. Good insight! Thanks for taking the time to not only read our recent blog post, but also for commenting on it.

  17. An amazing and extremely well written article! You’ve taken my exact same thoughts and put them into words in a way I couldn’t do myself. Well done! Definitely time for me to check out your other articles after enjoying this one so much.

  18. The problem with this so called violence epidemic, is that society has legislated the violent nature out of us. Life is about balance. You shouldn’t get banned from working from simple assault. You shouldn’t expel kids from fighting in school, atleast not for the first offense. Too much Nanny-state bs going on.

    1. There is, without a doubt, the continued wussification of Americans. The cradle-to-grave mentality erodes self-respect and individual responsibility. When we abdicate our freedoms and liberty for the promise of perpetual care from an overriding government, we have lost what it is to BE Americans.

  19. The tendency to lay blame on any and every external source is a societal pandemic. For every problem there are three knee-jerk responses: raise awareness, ban something, and create new laws. About a year ago I did a brief, but I think effective analysis of the correlation between gun laws and gun violence. If you’re interested you can read it here:

  20. Alan, you had me for a while, then you conflated guns with “the media.” Like you, I was never induced to kill or harm anyone because of confusion about TV or movies or video games. But crazy people need guns (or bombs) to kill 12 co-workers in a matter of seconds. If only victims had access to more guns, the NRA says, they could have protected themselves. Oops. Aaron Alexis took a Glock off one of the victims to finish off the others. (No wonder you can’t buy bombs at a flea market.) I realize you only had two sentences about guns in your essay, a couple of throwaway lines that you hadn’t really thought through. Oh well.

  21. In college, one of my friends on the rowing team was Bob Coble, who was largely responsible for the old shootout game you show above. He developed it while in high school, and added the little dirge and the loser’s eyeballs popping out. Interesting character. I never once saw him wear shorts. He always wore green army pants, even when we were on the water.

  22. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. An individual makes the choice to carry out a violent act. There can be circumstances that create a trigger which can make a person more likely to hurt others and be violent, such as mental health, an addiction or dependency on harmful substances, but it does not create that behaviour. Neither does media, computer games or television. The responsibility lies with the abuser let’s no longer listen to the excuses that are made.

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