Training Killers

Author David Grossman has shown that the tactics employed by the military to turn young men into killing machines are prevalent in the entertainment media used by our youth.
By Wayne Jackson | Christian Courier

No narration available

David Grossman is a military psychologist (retired). His business is training young men how to kill other human beings. He coined the word “killology” for the specialized discipline of altering patterns of thought so as to accommodate killing. He made a profession of grooming soldiers, law enforcement personnel, etc., in how to deaden their natural inhibitions against taking human life in the event they feel (for societal reasons) forced to do so. He claims to be “an expert in the field of ‘killology.’”

In late summer of 1998, Grossman’s article, “Trained to Kill,” appeared in the prominent Protestant journal, Christianity Today (August 10). In this fascinating essay, Lt. Col. Grossman argued, from his own vantage point, what rational people have known for millennia—namely, that there is a natural resistance within the soul against the extinction of a fellow human’s life.

There is a moral “ought not-ness” in those who are fashioned in the very image of God (Genesis 1:26). This sensitivity cries out with the message that we are not autonomous creatures who have the right to arbitrarily choose to destroy the physical lives of others. Grossman’s thesis is this: innate reticence must be gradually eroded if man is to become a killing machine.

Col. Grossman points out, for example, that studies during World War II revealed the shocking fact that only about fifteen to twenty percent of the military’s riflemen could bring themselves to fire at a living target. Military officials began working on the problem with a brainwashing program.

By the time of the Korean war, fifty-five percent of the soldiers were willing to kill. In the Vietnam conflict, the rate climbed to ninety percent. But this turn-around was not without its problems. There were numerous cases where soldiers virtually went berserk, killing old people, women, and small children. Moreover, there has been considerable postwar trauma of an unusual sort.

But the main thesis of Grossman’s article is this: the psychological tactics that he employed for many years in achieving his goals with young men who are conditioned to kill are now incorporated into the video games that youngsters play. Too, many of the entertainment outlets (TV, movies) to which they are exposed have the same deleterious effect, so that more and more kids are becoming killers—and at incredibly tender ages.

Grossman begins his case by directing attention to what he calls the “virus of violence.” Murders and attempted murders have skyrocketed since the FBI began recording statistics in 1957. The per-capita murder rate doubled between 1957 and 1992, and even the rate of attempted murders (aggravated assault) exploded. The nation’s prisons are bulging with men and women who have no regard for the sanctity of human life, and this calloused disposition has filtered down to many of our preteen youngsters.

Col. Grossman then turns his attention to the methodology utilized to break down moral restraint. He mentions, for example, brutalization. This is the treatment to which the soldier is subjected the moment he enters boot camp—namely, a barrage of physical and verbal abuses designed to destroy personal values and replace them with new, dehumanized codes of conduct.

Grossman observes that this is precisely the effect that constant exposure to violence on television and in video games (not to mention the violence many children see among their own family members) is having upon our youth. A plethora of fights, rapes, murders, screaming profanities, etc., do something to a child’s mind (anyone’s mind thus exposed, for that matter). The gentleman cites data from the Journal of the American Medical Association to document the devastating impact that media violence has had and is producing among the youth of our nation.

Isn’t it about time that we wake up to the emotional and spiritual damage that television and video entertainment are wreaking within our families? Yes, television is a valuable medium; but it is extremely dangerous as well. A child’s viewing time needs to be severely limited and strictly monitored.

Parents must take their child-rearing responsibility more seriously!