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November 26th, 2013
10:38 PM ET

Michael Welner on influential media violence: "Killers used to be presented as monsters, and now they are ... presented as people we can relate to"

On a day which saw President Barack Obama urge Hollywood's film leaders to curb firearm imagery in hopes of lessening gun violence by those influenced through entertainment mediums, on Tuesday night "Piers Morgan Live" invited Dr. Michael Welner to offer his insights:

"Killers used to be presented as monsters, and now they're not only presented as people we can relate to like Tony Soprano, but people – if you look at a series like "Breaking Bad" – that you root for, you root for them to kill," he told Piers Morgan. "You root for them to get away with, and culturally what it does is it engenders an idea that bad is good, and good is bad, and the idea of a banality of killing. Now, when you combine that in the developing adolescent who is saturated with violent and violent imagery and has the escapism of video games ... it's time for a little honesty."

As part of an interview that at times saw the guest dominate the conversation, Welner continued to share his passionate perspective:

"When I have a case, and I work on these cases, and I have to clean up these messes and Hollywood doesn't, when I have a case of an attempted mass killer, who tried to get into the NBC "Today Show" Studios after watching "Natural Born Killers" ten times, do I need a research project to tell me that he's drawing influence," the forensic psychiatrist asked rhetorically. "We are infusing vulnerable people with a culture in which parents are substituted by not just video games, but video games in which people can take a point of view approach to destroying everyone around them."

Watch the clip for more of Morgan's interview with Dr. Michael Welner, and for the next edition of "Piers Morgan Live," watch CNN every night at 9.
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Filed under: Guns in America
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Tanya Gomez

    Hello Piers,I saw your discussion on Adam Lanza tonight, and me being a mother of a 19 year old son with M.H.I.,I know what it's like to care for an individual with this condition. It's not an easy task but if the parent is ensuring that the child is taking the proper medication and having the necessary therapy they can be successful and productive and become great individuals in society. If the appropriate measures are not being taken by the responsible party,it can lead to destructive matters. At any point am I not being insensitive to the death of Adam Lanza's mother, I'm sure this woman did the best she could with him. It's a tragedy her life had to be taken from her own loved one. As a parent I would love for a law to be passed that each child receive a psychiatric evaluation during their elementary school period. I feel this law will eliminate school shootings by a huge percent. My son is in high school and although he face these challenge, he's a remarkable individual that I know will be a great human being to society. I ask Piers, can you help us to put our vision out there for people to hear?

    November 26, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Charlie Rubin

    this guy is stupid, its like comparing the game of pong to murder

    November 27, 2013 at 12:44 am | Report abuse | Reply

      breaking bad is disgusting in all fairness
      it makes drug dealing murderers "fascinating"

      December 26, 2013 at 5:02 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Andrew

    This guy is nuts. His stance on video games and media in general makes me question your ability to choose trustworthy guests on your show. If I wanted to watch fear mongering I'd be watching fox news. Step up your game Piers.

    November 27, 2013 at 12:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Charlie Rubin

    During high school I had times that were hard and the mental illness was present
    but what kind of mental illness makes you shoot kids and teachers in a school, that I dont know

    November 27, 2013 at 12:46 am | Report abuse | Reply

      some kids murders a bunch of people
      we all debate what could have caused this ?
      in the meantime,, Obama murders people with drones

      December 26, 2013 at 5:04 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Charlie Rubin

    To Tanya Gomez, I think you could have a good idea weather your son is homicidal or not. It really comes down to logic with these kids. If you want to blame outside factors then why isnt everyone doing it? It really stems down to the fact that everyone wants to feel accepted and if they dont then what is there to do? A mother showing her son guns sounds like a really messed up situation. However a mother who listens to her son and teaches them right from wrong, while being sensitive to there development sounds like a better idea than allowing them to have assault rifles in there room. Its hard to understand but I think that someone who does these extreme things is really only trying to be heard in the world and they went about the wrong way.

    November 27, 2013 at 12:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Charlie Rubin

    Honestly what this guy is saying is completely crap. If some watches Natural Born Killers 10 Times and commits murders, its not the movie that did anything but the person. Its not that they are dismissed from these crimes because they are the way the are.. Its like a dog that kills kids. Its not exactly their fault but it cannot be tolerated even though the dog has a mother that is loving. And the dog will have to be put down
    They are not meant for this world period.

    November 27, 2013 at 1:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • JFK

      what movie "inspired" Obama to murder people with drones ?

      December 26, 2013 at 5:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Concerned American Citizen

    Mr. Morgan,

    I’ve been watching people argue and debate over the role, if any, video games and movies play in inspiring violence and mass shootings, but I have yet to hear anyone mention one crucial fact that I feel ends that “debate” for good: How does one explain all of the horrible things human beings have been doing to one another over the thousands of years of human history prior to the advent of video games and movies? Video games have only been around since the ‘70s, and movies have only been around for less than one hundred years, so how does someone like Michael Welner explain the Roman Coliseum? The Spanish Inquisition? The Crusades? The Dark Ages? The French Revolution? Slavery in America? The ancient Mayan sacrifices? The Salem Witch Trials? The wild wild west? Jack the Ripper? Caligula? King Henry VIII? Lizzie Borden? Vlad the Impaler? H.H. Holmes? Absolutely none of these people, or societies, had video games or movies to inspire, or “cause”, them to come up with the horrendous things they were doing to each other. If, prior to the advent of video games and movies, no one ever did anything violent to anybody else and then suddenly these two mediums came on the scene and everyone lost their minds, then I would say Michael Welner, and others like him, might have an argument. That’s simply not the case. In fact, I would argue that we are currently living in the least violent times in the history of our species. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Can it be better? Certainly. Is it because of video games and movies? Not at all, but I think video games and movies arrived at a time when our species was evolving and gaining a better understanding of ourselves, our world, and of what is right and what is wrong. I fear that the inability of certain pockets of our society to think outside their own space and time is causing them to lose sight of the real problem: The Human Mind. As long as there are human beings with complex brains, there will always be those members of our species who will have their wires crossed. We could make G-rated movies ‘til the cows come home, do away with video games, destroy every gun on the planet and snuff out every last form of creative expression, and it’s not going to solve the problem. Until we figure out an effective way to identify those members of our society who are mentally disturbed and stop them before they can commit their crimes, we will never see an end to violence – we’ll just be kicking the can further down the road. I wish people like Mr. Welner could see the bigger picture and focus on the root of the problem, not blame inanimate objects and moving pictures.

    Concerned American Citizen

    November 27, 2013 at 3:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sherry

    I just want to say this I was bullied in school for a number if years and I enjoy watching movies with a lot of violence like NBK and play violent videogames . This doesnt mean I'll want to go and kill the guys who bullied me or kill my parents. It all depends on your menntal health

    November 27, 2013 at 3:29 am | Report abuse | Reply

      @ SHERRY

      mental health has fu** all to do with it
      a person believes what they are told growing up full stop
      it is the parents responsibility
      and their fault

      December 26, 2013 at 5:10 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. brasstacs

    This Welner guy is way over the top...He's more interested in promoting himself then the truth...For everything this guy has said there are many who are as or even more qualified who would disagree..And when will CNN get rid of the sleazy snooty tabloid gossipmonger Piers Morgan ??

    November 27, 2013 at 8:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Robin

    Michael Welner: Thank you for having the courage to stand up and discuss frankly what Hollywood and those video and violent movie makers are doing to our youth. Never has there been as much violence as there is now. It is sad that consumers and producers alike are not taking responsibility and doing something about it. Keep up the good work and hopefully one day change will occur.

    November 27, 2013 at 8:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • crashing this plane,,,

      i went to see the dark knight rises
      it was incredibly disturbing
      and i am 27 years old
      imagine what it could /will do to young people thoughts ?
      bane breaking a characters back
      is that what people pay to see/ look forward to ?

      December 26, 2013 at 5:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mike

    As a social worker and former psychotherapist, I was very appreciative of Michael Welner's comments. I believe his views are very valid and our society should be just as concerned as he is.

    November 27, 2013 at 9:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Joso

    How a out teaching youngsters the value of life . Now a days kids are not taught how to value life ! Lets also not glorify guns so dam much ! Growing up I grew up with vigilante movies but not once did I want to go shoot someone because I was taught the value of life !!!!

    November 27, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. brasstacs

    Many of us were raised watching Roy Rogers and Gene Autry movies plus 100's of of TV westerns were there were a lot of 'shoot em up" action..And if anything these movies and shows taught us the difference between right and wrong..The good and the bad..where "good" always prevailed..there were no mass shootings then,and yes there were street gangs..but nothing like it is these days, We need to get back to family values,decency,morals and faith....With all the degrees and knowledge it is staggering how these so called experts just glance over these important values...and there must be a political agenda involved here.

    November 27, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mark G.

    Movies and TV influence the style of clothes and accessories and the way we groom ourselves and the way we talk. They inspire people and shape how we look at the world and at each other. Obviously, they also influence how we behave. This mindless and self indulgent violence we see on the screen affects some people in a negative way. Michael Landon tried to buck this trend with his drama "Highway to heaven". He was scoffed at and criticized and made fun of. But it really was a great series that showed people being nice to each other and helping each other out. Wouldn`t it be better for us all if we were influenced that way instead?

    November 27, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Barbara

    Bravo Dr. Welner! You speak the truth! Hollywood and the game creators should be ashamed for their horrific violence all in the name of entertainment and $$$$! I can't even imagine how the killing of little children cannot be the final wakeup call!

    November 27, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  16. devovit

    I would be interested to know how Dr Welner accounts for US youth crime currently being at a 32 year-low and the steady decline of violent crime in general over the past few decades, what with these new-fangled video games and antiheroes on TV corrupting everyone's minds. Because right now the correlative data would suggest that, if anything, they're making people less violent.

    November 27, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      @ devovit

      the US murdered the native americans
      they murdered the Vietnamese
      they murdered the afghan and the Iraqi people
      do you really expect
      anybody in their right mind to feel one ounce of pity for you when get a taste of your own medicine ?

      December 26, 2013 at 5:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Armstrong

    Dr Welner sounds like a racist quack. I would like to know where in the USA that a random mass school shooting could happen and not get national media coverage whether in a black community or otherwise. Dr Welner has his own personal agenda. And, he's not telling the truth by constantly misdirecting the real issue with his generalizing rhetoric. We're well aware of the violence in black communities but, the FACT that he won't admit is that all random mass school shootings have happened in our white communities. This was the point of Piers' questions but, this Dr deflected that point with an outright LIE. I challenge the mighty Dr to present even one real story a random mass school shooting that took place in a black community. Furthermore, he preferences his statement by saying, "if you ask the black community..." I don't believe he's ever asked the black community anything nor would he; so, don't sit on TV as if you could possibly be a spokesperson for the black community telling your lies. This Dr is no expert at all. And, CNN should not have these type of "expert" guest. He promotes lies and misconceptions to the viewing public which are only his opinion. And, for that Dr Michael Welner is an idiot.

    December 17, 2013 at 4:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
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