Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Lies, Damned Lies, and Confirmed Kill Counts

Here's the thing. I believe strongly that most people are not inclined towards evil. But I think a lot of people are weak, and with proper motivation, are easily pushed towards bad things. And in the end, we all are ultimately responsible for our own actions - a person's original motivations in life mean very little when they kill a person in the process of mugging them.

One of the weaknesses most of us share is a fascination with the darker things in life. Almost everyone I know (including myself) has had a true crime phase that started when they were a young teenager. You know what I'm talking about - you start feeling more grown up, and you want to explore subjects that feel forbidden. So you gorge yourself on a dozen serial killer biographies until you feel sick.

As grown-ups most of us aren't much different from that. Just look at the news.

(are you kidding me?!)
You hear people complain about it all the time ("I hate the news, it's so depressing") but why do these businesses sell us these stories? Because it's what we buy.

Literally - there's an entire "Kill Count Memoir" genre now (that I won't link to), where ex-soldiers claim higher and higher "confirmed kill counts" under titles like Carnivore. Books and movies like this glamorize the bloody confusion of war into scalp-hunting.

And these books only exist because consumers demand them. Were any buyer to spend more than two seconds thinking about "confirmed kill counts", they would realize that the public is choosing to trick themselves. Confirmed kill counts do not exist. Why would the military care about the number of people one individual killed? And even if they did, how exactly would you confirm the results of a shot taken from a distance, likely through foliage or buildings and in the middle of other action? The whole idea is absurd.

And guess what, even the guys who write these memoirs say their probable numbers are wildly inflated by publishers. Wow, it's almost like these books are fiction made up in order to please the public.

And of course, even the less
violence-obsessed side of news
is often tawdry. "These photos are
so disturbing that we must SHARE
Like I said, I really don't think that people tend towards evil. But when we see the words "sex scandal" or "most killed" or "which star is looking chubby", it's so easy to click a link out of morbid curiosity.

Morbid curiosity isn't always wrong. There's some value in understanding what life is like inside a prison, or about the psychology of a serial killer. But I think there's a thin, clear line between attempting to understand a taboo subject and wallowing in violence and sleaze.

We can't overhaul the news, publishing, and Hollywood all in one day. But we can consistently make better choices that are in line with our beliefs. We can choose to click links that don't prey on cheap sensationalism. We can choose to buy thoughtful non-fiction. We can choose to shape the world in a better image, one small act at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment