Tag Archive: Adam Lanza

Exactly 279 days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre one can still purchase and play the video game, Kindergarten Killers.

Just this week, we learned that DC Navy Shipyard sniper, Aaron Alexis, played Call of Duty and Zombie video games up to 16-hours a day. That fits the classic definition of an obsession.

The media is starting to become vigilant about the impact of particular video games, just as it has frequently critiqued the reported 300 million firearms in this country, suggesting both are the telltale signs of a violent society.

It seems that the right is protecting the $11.7 billion (US) firearms and ammunition industry, and the left is shielding the $68 billion (worldwide) interactive entertainment industry.

One hides behind the Second Amendment (Right to Bear Arms) of the United States Constitution. The other points to the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

The question that needs to be asked as one tragedy follows another horrific event, is this really a mutually exclusive exercise?


Before Almost DailyBrett says anything further on this question, let me first state that I support background checks, limitations on detachable magazines, and registration of any-and-all firearms. I have never cared for guns, and I doubt that I ever will.

When I was the press secretary for former California Governor George Deukmejian, I was proud to be a small, vocal part of the effort that led to California banning assault weapons. As the governor said at the time, he saw absolutely no reason why someone needs an AK-47, AR-10 or M-16 assault weapon to simply go hunting.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) under the direction of Wayne LaPierre vehemently and vocally disagreed with our decision. The NRA was wrong then. It is wrong now.

Let me also go on the record that I rarely play video games, albeit I was attempting to play bass and sing last Saturday night for an after dinner game of Rock Band. When my daughter was young, I would join her for a round of Croc, ending up in the hot lava every time.

More to the point, I am supportive of the First Amendment but recognize there are limits. Yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre is the oft-repeated limitation to the constitutionally guaranteed right of free speech.

Should the government come down on the video game (interactive entertainment) industry to ban violent video games? My libertarian tendencies tend to not want to encourage even more government incursion into free markets.

Having said that, I agree with Ohio State Professor of Communications Brad Bushman when he stated that, “These games aren’t harmless.”

During the course of my career I have served two nationwide trade associations, first as the Vice President of Public Affairs for the American Forest Resource Alliance (AFRA) and later as the Director of Communications for the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

These two trade associations, trees and chips, and many others just like them represent entire industries and the companies that are association members. Most are located in Washington, D.C. and represent (e.g., lobby) the points of view of their members. The NRA is a lobbying organization. Ditto for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) under Michael Gallagher.

The NRA has adopted a stance of precluding any camel from sticking its nose under the gun industry and ammunition tent. It even points to the interactive entertainment industry to deflect blame from guns.

The Entertainment Software Association may actually benefit from having such a high-impact enemy in the form of LaPierre and the NRA, but it still has a problem. Are game developers and manufacturers turning a blind eye on the Adam Lanza’s (Newtown killer) and Aaron Alexis’ of the world, who were obsessed with these games and guns?


What about violent movies? One could reply that movies are passive, while game players are active in their use of simulated weapons. Killing “people” becomes somehow, enjoyable.

The interactive entertainment industry has an ongoing public relations issue that most likely will intensify with each shooting in which the sniper was spurred on by gratuitous violence video games. Yes, there is a correlation and more to the PR point: There is a definitive and growing public perception of these over-the-top violent games.

Will hiding behind the First Amendment solve the problem? After all, the executive branch, Congress and the courts won’t impede the First Amendment rights of those who concoct and develop Kindergarten Killers. Right?

Do they (video game developers) want to wait and find out?

Almost DailyBrett embraces the notion of “Manage or Be Managed.”

It is time for the ESA to set standards for its members about violent content, clearly recognizing when a game goes too far. Merely, putting ratings on the side of the game is obviously not enough. Video games can obviously be addictive. What can be done about that? Is there a role here for social marketing?


The industry needs to take a proactive stance to not only protect its collective livelihood, but also to do the right thing in the face of these senseless killings. Something was clearly wrong with Aaron Alexis as evidenced by him playing video games for 16-hours a clip, and then heading out to the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. heavily armed.

Could video games have contributed to this tragedy? That seems obvious.

The industry has the opportunity to self-regulate or manage itself. The NRA is beyond that, and has adopted a confrontational point of no return.

One would think the ESA does not want to follow in the NRA’s footsteps.















Consider the following equation:

A fast-breaking highly charged emotional story.

Plus mistaken identity.

Plus a news media determined to be the first to break the story.

Plus the unprecedented speed and reach of the Internet.

Plus the potential of vigilantes willing to take “justice” into their own hands.

All that equals the potential of some innocent person(s) being seriously hurt or worse.


It could have been Ryan Lanza as a result of the horrific Newtown, Ct. school shootings last Friday. Or it could have been David and Elaine McClain in the Treyvon Martin case this past spring.

For Ryan Lanza, (not to be confused yet again with his killer brother, Adam) Friday was a very bad day.

He found out that his mother is dead. His estranged brother killed 26 innocents, including 20 in a suburban Connecticut kindergarten. And to top it off,  law enforcement fingered the wrong Lanza…Ryan, not Adam.

And that meant the media, including the Associated Press with its international reach, had the wrong Lanza as well. The word spread like bonfire across cyberspace and the airwaves that Ryan Lanza had horrifically killed 27 innocents. In reality, Ryan Lanza was working in the Manhattan office of accounting firm, Ernst & Young, approximately 60 miles from Newtown, Connecticut. He was just doing his job.

Lanza’s social media sites turned ugly, real threatening ugly, real fast. He was forced to leave work out of fear for his well being.

“The Associated Press, relying on a law enforcement official who turned out to be mistaken, initially reported Ryan Lanza was the shooter,” MSN News reported. “Many other media outlets also reported as such, citing law enforcement officials…A friend of Lanza’s, former Jersey Journal newspaper staff writer Brett Wilshe, told the AP he ‘got really scared’ when he began hearing the media reports about Ryan Lanza, and sent him a message on Facebook asking what was going on and if he was OK.”

In defense of the media, it is only as good as the information they are provided. Not being as charitable, the media is always in such a bowels-in-an-uproar tizzy to be the first to break the news. In a fast breaking high-import, emotional story media types, particularly television networks, are often guilty of breaking the wrong news and having to correct the record.

And when that happens in the 21st Century the mistake is instantaneously compounded on social media with its global reach? Are we are running the risk that someone or a modern-day lynch mob will take justice into their own hands, even if the mistake is quickly corrected? Is any innocent person truly safe? Have you ever Googled your own name to check out the affairs of others who have the same name?


Earlier this year, film director/producer Spike Lee tweeted the address of the McClains, a law-abiding couple in their 70s, to his almost 240,000 Twitter followers. He was “relaying” the word that alleged Martin shooter George Zimmerman lived at that address. Wrong. The vigilantes went there seeking “justice.” The McClains were forced into hiding.

Some other questions come to mind: What if the address was correct? What if Zimmerman really lived there? What did Lee want the recipients of his tweets to do with this information?

Lee subsequently apologized to the McClains and he wrote them a big check. He asked everyone to leave this poor couple alone in peace.

For the media, the words of the Wizard of Westwood John Wooden come to mind: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

Certainly, the lawyers for big media with deep pockets (e.g., ABC-Disney; NBC-Comcast/GE; CBS-Viacom; CNN-Time-Warner; Fox-News Corporation) must be concerned about their potential liability in mistaken identity cases. Even though it is difficult to successfully sue these major corporations, juries may not be so accommodating when someone loses their life as a result of the frantic rush to be first with the wrong information.

For public relations professionals, it means that brands and reputations can be quickly besmirched in a case of mistaken identity. Vigilance is now a 24/7/365 undertaking in our digital world.

Maybe, the networks and wire services should be a little less braggadocio when it comes to being first. The reality is that a media outlet will not always be first; some other organization will be first from time-to-time. How about being right? How about being accurate? How about double checking? Heck, how about triple checking?

“Are you sure it was Ryan Lanza?”

“Does George Zimmerman really live here?” (Yes, Spike Lee is not media, but the point about checking still applies)

Just asking an extra question or two or three may preclude someone from going into hiding, from being harassed at work, or even some other unfortunate event that triggers big-time headlines…and even a big-time legal judgment.









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