played any part in the shooting. Carneal then said that he only brought up the movie because they asked him whether he had seen or read anything like what he had done. He volunteered that although he had seen it several years before, it had not made much of an impression on him. He added that, “it makes me mad” that people are trying to explain his actions in terms of a movie.16 Carneal had not heard of the shooting earlier that fall in Pearl, Mississippi.
While there is clearly no one-to-one correspondence between exposure to violent video games and behavior,17 we agree with one of his psychiatrists that “Michael’s exposure to media violence can be regarded as a factor which contributed to the attitudes, perceptions, and judgment which led to his violent behavior.”18 One of his teachers recalled that Carneal’s solutions to hypothetical problems often involved “shooting someone with a bazooka.” Carneal and his friends discussed a number of violent fantasies that were in part based on things that they had seen. His email handle was “Loco,” which he said was based on a character in a movie. Thus while it would be far too simplistic to say that Carneal’s actions were caused by the movies that he saw, it does seem likely that Carneal’s thinking was more generally shaped by these influences and thus could be considered a contributing factor to the shooting.
Finally, while this is difficult to establish with certainty, as in most communities, it seems there is a profound disconnect between the experiences of adults and a small minority of disaffected teens in the Heath community. While separation from and conflict with adults is and always has been an important part of adolescence, living in a sports-oriented, tightly knit religious community could have seemed particularly constraining to a boy like Michael Carneal. For instance, he wrote in an email to an Internet friend from California the year of the shooting, “Our town really SUCK [sic]. Every year we have this big QUILT FESTIVAL where about an estimated 50,000 old bags in snitty cars that drive about 10 to an amazing 20 miles per hour come to town for a week and we all go [to] town and freak out the old lady quilters…. Okay, my point is that there is nothing here.” A point of pride and celebration among adults, the quilting festival seemed like an anachronism to a disaffected teen. Carneal was sent to 4-H camp, like many other youngsters in the community, but rejected the discipline and authority that came with it. He went to church and was confirmed, but he had on his computer a downloaded document called “Bible Inconsistencies” which discussed how different passages of the Bible contradicted one another.