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Bryan O'DohertyBryan O'Doherty is an entrepreneur, writer/blogger, husband and father of three. He grew up in Portland Oregon (US) and graduated from Portland State University with degrees in Architecture and Japanese. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. You can read more from him on his blog at


Response to Elliot Benjamin

"Killing Sprees and Media Violence,
A Primary Culprit in an Integral Perspective"

Bryan O'Doherty

I would argue that these forms of "virtual violence" are absolutely vital to the development of any individual.

Note: I am not a psychologist, and do not have the extensive background and experience of Mr. Benjamin. My critique [of "Killing Sprees and Media Violence"] is simply of his analysis of the issue from an AQAL perspective.

First of all I think we can all agree with Mr. Benjamin, that there are no words to describe the horror of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Secondly, I think we can agree with him when he says, "there are a relatively few number of deranged individuals who are exceptionally susceptible to these violent "virtual" influences and may very well eventually act out their violent games in the real world." But as far as I am concerned, that is were our agreement ends. It is clear that Mr. Benjamin gave this issue much thought and brought his considerable knowledge and experience to bear, however I fail to see anything particularly "Integral" about his analysis of the problem, or his proposed solution.

Mr. Benjamin starts by quoting a very pluralistic (communal green) view, i.e. blaming wholly exterior factors on the massacre (easy access to guns, strained mental health system, "culture of violence"), and ignoring the equally important internal factors (psychosis of the individual and his subsequent premeditated action). Let's not forget that it takes a series of conscious premeditated actions to accomplish a massacre on the scale of Sandy Hook.

Mr. Benjamin puts the bulk of the blame for the shooting on lack of gun control on the one hand and media violence on the other. Lets look at each of these briefly in turn.

A gun is a tool, incapable of doing anything without a conscious operator behind it. Obviously a gun is a very dangerous tool that demands a high level of respect, care and responsibility by its user. I am a long time gun owner and I shoot frequently (when I am in the US). I know a lot about guns, specifically how to safely handle them. I have three small children, and part of my responsibility is to properly educate them about firearms, just as I would teach them not to play with the chainsaw, swing the wood axe around, run with scissors, or drink the drain cleaner under the sink. I keep my guns in a location that assures me only those I believe are responsible can access them (i.e. a locked gun safe).

Do all gun owners handle their firearms with the level of care that I do? Doubtful. But then again the same could be said of any number of tools, most deadly of which is the common automobile—a tool used in conjunction with more deaths in the US than firearms. Notice I did not say "responsible" because again, the car is a tool, it cannot be responsible for anything. I wonder why we don't hear demands for "car control" by the media every time a drunk driver plows through a group of children waiting on a street corner.

My point is that you will not avoid these shootings by outlawing the tools used by the shooter. Red will do as Red will do. As Integral thinkers we know what form the "mean" (pathological) expression of red takes. I am somewhat surprised that Benjamin does not take note of this anywhere in his piece. By advocating gun control, Benjamin's response is full on "green," advocating the prohibition of the very tools that Blue uses to curb Red's violence. Blue will follow gun control laws, Red will not.

A real life example will suffice: On December 17th, 2012, mere days after the Sandy Hook shooting, an armed man opened fire inside a San Antonio, Texas restaurant and next door movie theater. The gunfire continued while patrons scrambled for the exits. Two were wounded before an off duty police officer pulled her own weapon and shot the gunman (wounding him and ending the violence). No one was killed. Needless to say the incident was not widely reported in the media.

Notice the difference? In one incident Red was allowed to rampage through a school with its painfully naïve Green gun-free-zone policy. No one there had the tools to stop the killing. The shooting in Texas was stopped because Blue was present with the tools on hand to properly deal with Red. This is textbook integral analysis of the situation that I would expect from someone who professes to have an integral mind, like Mr. Benjamin. I wonder if we would even be having this discussion had even one of the staff at Sandy Hook been armed and trained in the use of firearms. Is it any wonder to Mr. Benjamin that when the mean Red meme expresses itself, it chooses to do so most often in these so called "gun free zones?" Does Mr. Benjamin not recognize that all of this is predicted by integral theory? That Blue's purpose is to overcome Red's mean expression, as Orange's is to Blue, and Green's is to Orange and so on?

Is part of Mr. Benjamin's "Integral" solution really to restrict the tools that Blue has available to counter Red?

Okay, let's now examine Mr. Benjamin's second culprit, and the one which forms the focus of his essay; Media Violence. As a kid, I played video games. In fact I played some of the very games that Mr. Benjamin mentions in relation to violent shootings. Along with those games I watched gruesome action and horror movies. My friends and I would play neighborhood wide games of "war" which involved using toy guns, water guns, and as I got older, paintball guns, to shoot each other. Regular wrestling, general rough-housing and the occasional schoolyard fight rounded out my childhood and probably those of the majority of the boys I grew up with, none of whom (to my knowledge) have been involved in any violent crimes.

I would argue that these forms of "virtual violence" are absolutely vital to the development of any individual, and have been for as long as humans have walked the earth. They are, in my opinion, a healthy expression of the Red level of the spiral. They allow us to go through Red without killing anyone! Benjamin and others commit a classic Cum Hoc fallacy when they assume that because most mass shooters play violent video games and watch violent TV there is some causal relationship. I would venture to guess that most people (especially males) under the age of 40 play(ed) violent videogames and watched violent TV for nearly their whole lives. One might as well argue that comic books and games of cops and robbers were causally related to violent shootings prior to the advent of TV.

Integral theory gives us the tools to see these events through an a-perspectival lens. We can see in the Sandy Hook, Columbine, and similar shootings, Red acting out in a pathological way. And in the wake of every one of these tragedies we can see the media response across all levels of the spectrum of consciousness: Blue; being closest to Red, understands best how to deal with Red's tendency toward violence. Blue advocates conceal carry of firearms by teaching staff and are themselves busy buying firearms as they fear Green might take action to restrict them. Orange; wants Blue to handle Red, but they want to be in control, thus you'll hear Orange argue for "reasonable" gun laws but more police presence. Green; is too far removed from Red to truly understand their motives. Green searches for exterior causes that would explain Red's behavior and tries to address them (i.e. easy access to guns, media violence, inadequate mental health care, etc.).

What does Integral do? Integral should understand Red more clearly than Red does itself, both in its healthy expression and in its pathological one. Integral should honor healthy expressions of Red, and apply Blue strategies to handle Red's pathological outbursts. That is Blue's purpose after all. Integral should be able to see violence in media as a healthy outlet for Red impulses (as opposed to actual rape and murder), and I would suggest that Integral should recognize that pathological expressions of Red are sadly inevitable, and the best we can do for ourselves and our communities is to be prepared for them.

Now if you would excuse me, I have to clean all of my guns before I play Call of Duty on my PS3.[1]


[1] That last line was just a bit irreverent. I don't actually own nor have I ever played Call of Duty.

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