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Book Review - On Killing By Dave Grossman

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Posted On: March 16, 2001          Updated On: March 19, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

On Killing - by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

<Read an In-depth Interview With Dave Grossman>

This book is a "must read" for anyone who is seriously interested in the study violence and violence prevention.  Lt. Col. Grossman does an excellent job of synthesizing the relevant literature related to the psychological effects of learning to kill while under the command of legitimate authority.  He discusses the inherent resistance in most human beings to killing other people.  He then discusses military training methods that have been designed to turn off that "don't kill" instinct in military personnel.  

Grossman also discusses the traumatic stress induced by killing during combat and how the requirement to kill contributes to the psychiatric casualties of war.  He also discusses the various methods of killing as determined by the psychological distance between the "killer" and the person being killed.  He shows how the atrocities such as massacres periodically occur among "civilized" troops, operating under international laws of combat.  He gives a number of case examples to show how the literature on killing actually emerged in real combat situations.

In his final chapter, Grossman describes how we are in fact imposing military type training that desensitizes people to violence and death upon our children in the form of graphically violent films and video games.  

I  strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the dynamics of violence within society.

Terence T. Gorski

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