Since the shell casings cooled in Arizona, all we’ve heard is that talk radio and its incessant violent rhetoric is responsible for the shooting that injured 14, including U.S. Congresswoman Giffords, and killed several others, including a nine year old girl and a federal judge. Sure, the normal pushack to that from our favorite talk radio stars will be to deny that they could have possibly caused some psychopath to pick up a gun and pull the trigger. I agree with that just as I agree with saying that Grand Theft Auto III did not inspire someone to go on a city wide crime spree. But what about the reverse? What if you accept that talk radio inspired this wingnut to fly off the stem?
Well, then he becomes a bit of an oddity.
Think about this formula for a moment. Let’s take a starting date in, oh, say 1960. The population of the United States was 179,323,175 according to the 1960 census results. Roughly 500,000 of those people had mental disorders serious enough to require hospitalization, which would be about 0.2% of the population. Most of the nation was still getting their news from the radio because TV hadn’t quite caught on yet. So we can assume that more people were listening to radio news and commentary than those that had mental illness. Now, in 2010, the population is 308,745,538. According to the surgeon general, the percentage of the population with a serious mental disorder is about 6.0%. More people get their news from the internet than anything else. So we can assume three things: One, that there are more people today; Two, that there are more people, comparatively, with mental illness; Three, talking heads reach much smaller audiences percentage-wise than they did 40 years ago.
See the rub? If there’s more people, more mental illness, and less influence of pundits, why the increase in violence? What made this guy special? How come six percent of the Fox News viewership or Limbaugh’s audience isn’t shooting up their local politician?
The arguement doesn’t make sense. Plain and simple.