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The X-Files, the Media and the Blame

By Richard Preece, Rat Tail Productions

I accidentally discovered these articles during one of my long investigations of wading through X-Philes fan sites. I found Mr. Preece's point of view to be reasonable and refreshing, although I am aware that his opinions might raise the hackles of some X-Philes. Using art or a piece of entertainment as a scapegoat for the ills of society is fairly common diversion. Mr. Preece does a very good job in this piece of illustrating just that.

DISCLAIMER: Every effort was made to reach Mr. Preece before publication of this article, but to no avail. The intent of re-printing this article is to continue dialogue as well as to save it for posterity. No copyright infringement is intended, if Mr. Preece discovers the Lexicon and would like to contact us, he is more than welcome to do so.

Earlier this week I discovered an article originally published in The Vancouver Sun entitled The X-Files - The Truth Isn't In There which basically suggested that 'The X-Files' was replacing traditional religious beliefs "...with both bad science and bad religion". To put it mildly, the entire article was incredibly offensive towards fans of the show but the one part of the article that really angered me was a rhetorical question "is it a coincidence that the suicidal members of the Heaven's Gate religion were fans of The X-Files? The techno-obsessed sect ...may be an example of the amorphous emerging pseudo-scientific faith that attempts to replace the gods of tradition with technologically superior aliens."

This apportioning of blame is sadly all too typical of the media and that is really what this discussion is about - the ignorant desire to blame popular culture for the tragedies of our world rather than having to face the fact that ultimately it is the people behind these catastrophes who are at fault.

Basically the crux of this argument can be seen by paraphrasing Mulder's rant in Wetwired. Despite any number of pseudo scientific studies people are simply not "...empty vessels, ready to be filled with any idea or image that's fed to them, like a bunch of Pavlov dogs." Sadly, the media seems to take the view that we are moulded to a dangerous degree by what we see, what we hear and what leisure activities we partake in.

The vast majority of people can distinguish fact from fiction and realise that 'The X-Files' is pure entertainment. Admittedly there is an extremely small minority of people who seem to be unable to realise this and who take the show extremely seriously and believe that Mulder is the Messiah (incidentally if Mulder is Jesus and the Cigarette Smoking Man is his father does that make CSM God?) and don't realise that comments like the above "Is CSM God?" joke are tongue-in-cheek.

The point is that sadly there will always be delusional people, but if 'The X-Files' (or whatever the media's current scapegoat is) didn't exist then they would find something else to be delusional about. Let's take for instance the aforementioned 'Heaven's Gate Cult'. The whole point of a Cult is that it encourages a group mentality and preys upon vulnerable people - in this case by suggesting that a UFO would take them to a better place. This belief has very little to do with 'The X-Files' despite the media blaming the show. Similarly, despite the extraterrestrial ties, the belief had little to do with conventional Ufology and serious Ufologists would not associate with the fringe element (such as 'The Heaven's Gate Cult') which only serves to make a field of research, and its researchers, look completely ridiculous. Basically the form of the belief itself is unimportant compared to the strength of the belief. If there wasn't a resurgence of interest in UFOs in recent years then the members of 'The Heaven's Gate Cult' may have believed that 'Hale-Bopp' heralded a Biblical Apocalypse and that only by killing themselves and denying Satan that they would be saved or any other bizarre belief which would promote mass suicide. The desperation and the delusions would still be there, they would merely take another form, whether that form would be pseudo-Christianity or pseudo-Ufology is immaterial. The desperation and delusions can shape itself into any belief system.

Whatever the media views as the cause for these type of tragedies in reality only supplies the outer trappings; the intent is always there.

Take for instance the recent torture and killing of a boy in England by his 'friends' which was disturbingly similar to a scene in Reservoir Dogs. As usual the media pounced upon violent films as the cause for the deaths. Did those boys kill because they watched a violent film? Of course not, they killed because they were sadistic, evil bastards. If they hadn't seen Reservoir Dogs, they would have still killed their 'friend', only they would have found something else to emulate - or failing that I have no doubt that they would have invented their own twisted ritual to use when torturing and killing.

I'm going to refer to something pretty controversial now - The Columbine massacre. I'm doing this not to be controversial but because I think that it is the best example in favour of my argument and because although I'm English I was in the US at the time of the massacre and I was therefore able to witness the US media circus firsthand. It goes without saying that the Columbine Massacre was a tragedy of the most painful proportions but the response of the media to it was not only inappropriate but also disrespectful to the deceased and their families.

As many of you will remember, immediately after the massacre the US media began a 'witch hunt' against what it believed was responsible for the tragedy. Not against the perpetrators of the act but against popular culture.

The Matrix (which is an excellent film which I urge you all to see if you want a truly intelligent action film) was criticised because it featured people in trench coats with guns while the Columbine killers wore trenchcoats (incidentally and kind of proving my point, trench coats were banned in many stores while Americans battled for their right to bear arms). The killers played a first person shooter game, so violent computer games were immediately blamed as was Rock music and let's not forget the media's old favourite, the big, bad Internet which is responsible for all evil. The killers had Internet access and found out how to build bombs using the 'net and one of the killer's had his own website. Instantly the Internet was heralded as being responsible for the massacre. This suggestion was patently ridiculous. I've been on the Internet for about three years now and it hasn't corrupted me or - let's be honest - anyone else. I along with thousands of others own my own website and I'm not particularly evil. Neither are the majority of other webmasters.

The Internet, Doom and The Matrix were not responsible for the Columbine massacre, I'm not really an advocate of the right to bear arms, but neither were guns responsible although if stricter gun legislation was in place it would be more difficult (but not impossible - someone will always find a way to harm other people) for tragedies like Columbine to occur. The murderers who gunned down their peers were responsible for the massacre and by blaming popular culture we're avoiding the real problem - the evil which people are capable of. Also by blaming popular culture we are also being incredibly insulting to the families of the victims of the massacre by making excuses for the actions of the killers and in a sense exonerating them, suggesting that it wasn't really their fault but the fault of corrupting influences.

I've listened to rock music, surfed the 'net, seen violent films and played violent computer games, yet I haven't committed homicide, and neither have millions of other people. Ultimately everyone is responsible for his or her own actions.

I've wandered off topic here but the basic premise of this argument remains don't assume that television shows such as 'The X-Files' (or any other television shows) are responsible for the problems in our society. Don't believe the media when they sensationally claim that 'The Field Where I Died' was the cause of 'The Heaven's Gate' tragedy. It's a similar situation with people who claim Satan forced them to commit an atrocity. As one of my favourite novels Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman notes "there were people who called themselves Satanists who made Crowley squirm...they'd come up with some stomach-churning idea that no demon could have thought of in a thousand years...then shout 'The Devil Made Me Do It' and get the sympathy of the court when the whole point was that the Devil hardly ever made anyone do anything. He didn't have to. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind."

That quote summarises my entire argument; let's avoid scapegoats and face up to the fact that in the end we can only blame ourselves for our own crimes.

And let's stop blaming television shows for people's maladjusted sense of reality. If a minority of people didn't take 'The X-Files' extremely seriously and to the point of obsession then they would find something else to be equally obsessed about.

Television, music, films and computer games don't make people who they are. People themselves make people the way they are and perhaps it's time to acknowledge that fact once and for all.

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