Thursday, April 16, 2009

Media Scapegoat Jackpot

As often as I criticize the wrestling "media," sometimes I forget just how much the legitimate media can suck too. Did you catch this article from the New York Daily News today about a 9-year-old boy who made a parachute out of a plastic bag and string and jumped off the roof of his 10-story apartment building? Sadly, the kid died, and like when any child dies, there has to be a scapegoat, and it's one of the usual suspects, a video game. But wait, not just any video game, a WWE video game! Wrestling and video games? That's winning the scapegoat lottery for a media that understands neither.

According to the report, the boy's 11-year-old friend claimed he was imitating "Jeff Harding" and trying to do a "swan dive," like in his favorite video game Smackdown vs. Raw 2009, or as The Daily News calls it, "Smackdown Raw." When reached for comment, WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman offered the company's condolences, but made it perfectly clear that WWE video games involve no one putting on a parachute or jumping off any rooftops, but that doesn't stop the media from reporting on the assumptions of an 11-year-old child.

This isn't the first time WWE or video games have been blamed in a child's death. In 2007, a Pittsburgh teenager beat a 5-year-old boy to death, claiming he was practicing wrestling moves. According to police, his original statement said the boy had fallen down a set of stairs. And I don't think I even need to offer up any examples of video games being blamed in violent crimes, every school shooting from Columbine to Virginia Tech has had at least one person try to lay the blame on games, even when there's little to no evidence to support such a link.

Video games and wrestling are such easy things to blame whenever a child gets hurt or killed because they're frequently misunderstood by mainstream media. As evidenced by calling it "Smackdown Raw," and the circumstances surrounding the death being nothing you would see in a WWE video game or on WWE television, the writers of the article, Matthew Lysiak and Alison Gendar, clearly had no idea what it is they were writing about. But as we've seen over the years, when it comes to video games and pro wrestling, journalists don't need to know what they're talking about because there are very few legitimate media outlets for either form of entertainment to call out shoddy reporting. If someone said he was imitating something he saw while watching Olympic diving, that tidbit would be brushed off because the Olympic Games don't have the negative stigma attached to them that video games, pro wrestling, comic books or heavy metal music do. Plenty of people watch the Olympics and don't go jumping off their roof, but the media continuously ignores the fact that millions of people play video games and watch wrestling, yet still report on these isolated incidents.

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