Dear readers, I’ve returned. Let’s Netflix and cry, friends.
You know how the media likes to jumps on gamer who also carry out crimes? The media gets all uppity about how video games cause violence because we all know that’s true (insert sarcastic response). I’m sure you can name a handful people of people from the top of your head who were found to be gamers, and thus the media jumped all over a “gamers are evil” craze. Adam Lanza? Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold? James Holmes? Jared Lee Loughner? The second they found some form of video game had been in their possession, that was suddenly something that motivated them.
But what about the people who’ve carried out crimes due to something they read in a book? Can you name any of them? You can likely name one or two because those were pretty big events. The list of people you could put down isn’t nearly as long as that of the names the media has crammed down your throat when it comes to supposed gaming related violence. Don’t get me wrong, these people were wrong in what they did no matter the motivation, and these killings can never be excused. But how are the things you see in books and video games any different from each other?
Ok, I have got to calm down here. Let’s just take a look at some crimes carried out by book readers.
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
This is a popular one, and probably the first (and maybe only) book related killing most can think of.
The Catcher in the Rye is about a young man named Holden Caulfield who is in a mental institute in the 1950s. He is writing about his life experiences from when he was 16 years old to explain his spiral downward as he avoided growing up — essentially.
Here’s a name you’ll probably recognize. Mark David Chapman. He was the man who shot ex‐Beatles member John Lennon, and was suffering from multiple mental disorders that were unmedicated. He picked up The Catcher in the Rye, and convinced himself he was the main character of the book. He felt the character resonated with him, way more than he should’ve, and thus became obsessed with reading it.
He was also obsessed with protecting the innocence of children, as he loved them as much as Holden Caulfield did. Before shooting Lennon, Chapman bought a copy of the book and wrote in it “This is my statement,” and signed his own name as Holden Caulfield. After pulling the trigger, Chapman sat and red The Catcher in the Rye till the cops showed up.
Rage by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)
This title was a rather violent book about a young man who shoots up his school, and kills staff. Somewhere down the line he takes other students hostage, and they develop Stockholm’s Syndrome and bond over this… somehow.
It’s said that the Columbine shooters read this, and it can be attributed to the massacre at that school. But the events I wanted to bring up are two cases of high schoolers explicitly acting out what they’ve read in this book.
The first is Jeffrey Lyne Cox, a high school senior from a troubled home who read Rage and felt it resonated with him. He decided to hold his Humanities class hostage on April 26th, 1988. He demanded a million dollars and a ticket to Brazil. His plot hinged on the other students acting the way those in Rage did, but he was wrong. He took his eyes off of his rifle for a moment, and another student wrestled it away from him. The authorities were able to apprehend Cox, and he was given 10 years in prison.
A 15 year old named Barry Loukaitis opened fire on his school on February the 2nd, 1996. He was inspired by Rage to shoot his Algebra teacher to death, and two other 14 year old students, wounding one other. He’s currently serving two life sentences, and an extra 205 years — if it wasn’t already overkill.
Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
This book is about vampires, and not the shit kind. In it, the vampire Lestat becomes a rock star, and pisses off vampire society big time by getting famous and being open about his vampirism.
In 2003 a 22 year old Allan Menzies believed he was visited by the character Akasha from Queen of the Damned, and she told him to kill and she would turn him into a vampire. So he killed a friend, drank his blood, and enlisted his father and another friend to get rid of the body afterwards. He was soon arrested for murder, but killed himself in his cell.
These people, for the most part, came from broken families and had untreated mental illnesses. Just like the majority of people who just happen to play video games and go on to kill people. Mentally healthy people can read books and be just fine. The same goes for video games.
Normally, people would just call these novel copycats just some crazy people who took a book too far. Some more extremist types may actually blame the books and try to ban them, but not as many people jump on the “BOOKS ARE EVIL AND A BAD INFLUENCE!” bandwagon as they do the video game one, that’s for sure.
This is just a look at some of the things that make me want to go watch Netflix and cry.