Deja Vu All Over Again Part 3: Still Fighting the Good Fight & How to Defend Fake "Violent" Video Games
It never fails to annoy & amuse me how after every school shooting(especially after the most recent shooting Jan. 23rd in Denton, Kentucky, over 20 years after the shooting in Paducah, Kentucky), morons rush to attack fake "violent" video games for "causing" the shooting when everyone who understands the idea of personal accountability & personal responsibility knows that the industry had absolutely nothing to do with the shooting.
So, here's a refresher course on the best ways to defend video games, A Greatest Hits package, if you will:--1) The US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. EMA(originally called Schwarzengger v. EMA because then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the court to hear the state's appeal of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that California's law was violated the US Constitution)--
When the US Supreme Court ruled in the video game industry's favor in June 2011 by a 7-2 vote to affirm the Ninth Circuit's ruling, the majority opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia(and joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, & Elena Kagan) pretty much destroyed any attempt by the US government & the states to regulate the fake "violent" content in video games. Justice Samuel Alito admitted as much in his concurring opinion(which Chief Justice John Roberts joined) when Alito wrote that Scalia basically no room for a more narrowly defined law and SCOTUSBlog agreed because the majority ruled that:
-Video games are free speech protected under the First Amendment
-Video games can NOT be treated differently than any other form of entertainment like movies, TV, or music under the Fourteenth Amendment
-Fake "violent" content in all forms of entertainment is exempt from US obscenity laws
-People under 18 have a First Amendment right to view free speech with or without parental permission as long as the material in question is not judged to be obscene
From my LJ post "Five Years After Brown v. EMA Part 2": 1) Because video games cannot be treated differently than other entertainment media like books, movies, television, and music under the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the law, any bill restricting fake "violent" content would have to apply to all forms of entertainment media, not just video games. Which means that either everything in entertainment is OK or nothing is. If it's OK to watch Saving Private Ryan or Scarface in a movie theater or on TV, then it should be OK to play Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto on the video game console of your choice.
2) Even if that bill did try to restrict any depiction of fake "violent" content in all entertainment media, because Scalia said the Supreme Court made it perfectly clear in Winters v. New York that only sexual content or conduct can be considered obscene, fake "violent" content is essentially protected free speech under the First Amendment. Which means that fake "violent" content can not be restricted in the same way that sexual content can be or for any reason.
3) As the Supreme Court said in its holding in Brown v. EMA, "A legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test." Since the Supreme Court says that fake "violent" content is exempt from obscenity laws, that's essentially what any type of legislation against fake "violent" media would be doing.
And even if such a bill is meant to help parents, there's two problems with that. First, such laws do not actually enforce parental authority, but in reality, imposes governmental authority subject only to a parental veto. And second, if fake "violent" video games are really so "dangerous" and so "mind-altering", why would it be OK for a minor to even have or play one even if one of their parents says it's OK for that child to have and play it? It nullifies the whole argument against fake "violent" video games.
And this US Supreme Court decision is the culmination of a roughly twenty year legal battle that saw every attempt to legislate the sales of fake "violent" video games by nine different cities & states(Indianapolis, St. Louis, Washington state, Illinois, Michigan, California, Louisiana, Oklahoma, & Minnesota) ultimately get struck down in the courts as unconstitutional.
Ever since then, no politician has seemed willing to challenge the SCOTUS decision in Brown v. EMA, not even during the last Presidential election. In fact, fake "violent" content in entertainment media has been a dead issue since Sandy Hook. Especially when all of the past critics of the video game industry have virtually disappeared as they either retired, been discredited, or even sent to prison for unrelated reasons in the cases of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and former California state representative/state senator Leland Yee(who authored & sponsored the bill that was ruled unconstitutional by SCOTUS).--2) All the research claiming a link between fake "violent" video games & real world violence or "aggressive behavior" is flawed & biased while also being negated by other research from sources that have more or equal prestige--
Part of the reason why the video game industry basically went undefeated in the courts is that the judges were very unconvinced by the so-called scientific research that claims a link between fake "violent" video games & real world violence or even "aggressive behavior".
The science is still very inconclusive despite people & parent advocacy groups claiming the science is settled on fake "violent" video games(ignoring how science & scientific theory actually works). For each study that claims that a causal link between fake "violent" video games & real world violence/"aggressive behavior" exists, there is another study that suggests that the link does not exist or even has the opposite effect.
In fact, a study done in 2013 by the United States Center for Disease Control at the order of President Barack Obama after the Sandy Hook shooting couldn't find a link. http://www.guns.com/2013/06/27/cdc-releases-study-on-gun-violence-with-shocking-results/
A more recent study by the University of York found no evidence that fake "violent" video games "caused" real world violence. Looks to me like if the science is indeed "settled", it's on the pro-video game side instead of the anti-video game side.
When the US Supreme Court looked at the research, Scalia & the other justices in the majority opinion were left unimpressed. The court noted that California's attorney admitted in the courtroom that the state couldn't prove a direct causal link between fake "violent" video games & real world violence and that the research California entered as evidence did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that violent games caused minors to act aggressively. The court also pointed out that nearly all the research is based on correlation(Correlation does not equal Causation) and most studies suffered from significant, admitted flaws in its methodology, citing Iowa State University professor Craig Anderson's admissions that "effect sizes" of exposure to violent games were "about the same" produced by exposure to television and that the same effects were found after watching Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons, E-rated games like Sonic The Hedgehog, even viewing a picture of a gun.
As I've pointed out in past posts, the research done by Craig Anderson & Brad Bushman in particular have inherent bias to those studies. Anderson told Entertainment Weekly in its December 8th, 2002 issue that he hoped that his research into fake "violent" video games would lead to the video game industry paying monetary damages in civil courts over youth violence. Bushman has also authored research claiming that violent passages in the Bible(Cain killing Abel, the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, the crucifixation of Christ) causes people to exhibit more aggressive behavior, as well as another study into lack of food and finding the same result. It should make a rational thinking person wonder if Bushman thinks that any tangible object causes people to become more aggressive and if Anderson had ulterior motives for his research.
A few years ago, some professors went looking into the office of the late Frederic Wertham, whose book "Seduction of the Innocent" about his research into comic books led to comic books getting neutered for decades(the main reason the video game industry fought back against the state and federal governments' attempts to censor the medium), and found some notes showing that Wertham falsified much of that very research, making comic books look worse than they actually are/were at the time.
Some people, especially conservatives, will try to use David Grossman's research, but his research is considered to be a joke after John Stossel debunked Grossman's false claims that the military uses video games to train soldiers to kill(laughably, Anita Sarkessian's former boytoy Jonathan McIntosh actually plagarized Grossman a couple of years ago).
As I posted in the LJ blog "It's Deja Vu All Over Again": As Stossel recounted in his book "Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity", Stossel called the Marines and asked them if Grossman's claim was true. The Marines told Stossel "No, we only use video games to teach the soldiers about teamwork and to improve their hand/eye coordination." That's it. Stossel then wrote "Get out the shovel", implying that he thought Grossman was full of shit. Which Grossman is.
Grossman also made claims about the 1997 Paducah, Kentucky school shooting that were proven false by Thomas J. Aveni of the Police Policy Studies Council. For example, Grossman claimed that the Paducah shooter had never fired a gun prior to the attack and somehow getting 8 headshots with 8 bullets. It turned out that the shooter had learned how to shoot a gun from his father and at a 4-H camp that summer. And it's kind of easy to shoot 8 people in the head and neck, killing 3, when you're basically standing right next to them in a crowded hallway. Talk about shooting fish in a barrel.
Recently, I realized that Grossman's own military background also discredits his research. By rising up the ranks of the US Army and eventually retiring as a Lt. Colonel, Grossman was in the position of both giving orders as a commanding officer(sometimes working as a drill sargent like Hartman in Full Metal Jacket) and receiving orders. In the military, you're told as a recruit that you have to follow the orders of your commanding officer without question(this doesn't take into account things like immoral orders). Outside of the military, you're essentially your own commanding officer, so you're still responsible for your own actions. And "just following orders" is not considered a vaild excuse for your actions.
Trying to compare fake "violent" entertainment to tobacco & alcohol is also a very weak argument as a tobacco product & alcoholic beverages are not protected by the First Amendment.--3) Violent crime rates in the US have fallen as video games became more popular, more "violent", & more technologically advanced--
Another problem that people ignore when they're falsely blaming fake "violent" video games for society's ills is that according to the FBI, violent crime in the United States has actually fallen by roughly 1/2 since 1991 despite a slight uptick in violent crime in each of the last two years. Yes, the US population has increased since then, but if fake "violent" video games were actually "causing" people to become more violent in the real world, then wouldn't the rate of violent crime have stayed the same or even increased since then?
Also, America shares a lot of its entertainment with the rest of the world, yet violent crime hasn't gone up around the world either. Separate investigations by both the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post after Sandy Hook showed no correlation between sales of video games & violent crime in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia, Japan, China, the Netherlands, France, & South Korea.
Which says a lot. Why is it that Canada has lower crime rates than the United States when we Americans share the same viewing habits with our neighbors to the north and share each other's movies & TV shows?
Why is it that Japan also has much lower crime rates than the United States when Japanese entertainment media has more fake "violence" and the Japanese are much more permissive of nudity and sexuality in entertainment than the US is? In fact, most other countries are much more permissive of nudity and sexuality in entertainment media than the United States. I know that the US was founded by prudes, but it's been long since time that we shed that image.
Not only that, but video games are/were much more closely scruntized than movies, TV shows, & music ever were. The US Federal Trade Commission found in its most recent shopper survey in 2013 that the video game industry's ratings system was better enforced by retailers like Wal-Mart & Target than the movie or music industries. Especially when video games are the most expensive artform. Games still cost upwards of $60+ for a new release and that doesn't take into account downloadable content added to the game later on. What kid has $60 in their pockets?
Not to mention that, according to yearly surveys done by the ESA, the average age of a person playing video games is actually much closer to 40 years old than 20 years old. So it stands to reason that the video game industry is going to cater to an older audience that can afford to buy their products than to teenagers that need an adult to buy the game for them if the game is rated M.
It's no different than the television networks considering 18 to 49 year old adults the target audience of the shows they put on their channels. The reasons they go after that segment of the population is because those adults tend to have more disposable income(more likely to be less frugal, have less loyalty to a specific product, & less likely to buy the cheaper product Wal-Mart or local grocery store offers). The TV networks have their own problems, though, as that audience is leaving TV for the internet because internet service has become cheaper than cable service.--4) Point out the hypocrisy of critiicizing video games for their "violent" content but giving a free pass to movies, TV shows, music, books, & even the NFL--
People somehow think that video games are automatically bad because they're more interactive than the other entertainment media, ignoring that all entertainment is interactive. And when they whine about the fake "violence" in video games, they ignore the fake "violence" in movies, on TV shows, & in books.
In his own autobiography "Total Recall", Arnold Schwarzenegger says that he doesn't believe fake "violent" movies "causes" real world violence, which makes him look like a total self-righteous hypocrite for pushing California's anti-video game law.
People tend to forget that as long as humanity has existed, violence has always been a staple of our entertainment diet whether the violent actions were real or make-believe. In his book "Foley is Good and the Real World is Faker than Wrestling", Mick Foley pointed out the violence in some typical family favorite bedtime stories including:
-The Little Mermaid - amputation of tongue, suicide, impaling
-Jack and the Beanstalk - trespassing, robbery, cannibalism, murder by fall from beanstalk
-Hansel & Gretel - child abuse, child abandonment, trespassing, destruction of property, imprisonment, starvation, attempted cannibalism, murder by boiling in an oven
-The Wizard of Oz - decapitation, chopping off of both arms and both legs, breaking of necks, kidnapping, imprisonment, attempted murder, death by falling house, suggested drug use, contract killing, murder by melting
-Sleeping Beauty - rape, adultery, attempted cannibalism
-Little Red Riding Hood - attempted double homicide by eating, murder by drowning
-The Emperor's New Clothes - full male nudity
Even the Bible doesn't come away unscathed with stories of murder(Cain killing Abel), attempted murder(the Crucifixation & Resurrection of Christ), genocide(Noah's Ark), & destruction of property(Sodom & Gomorrah).
In his majority opinion of Brown v. EMA, Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out other books that minors read or have read to them have some gore in them. Besides citing Hansel and Gretel, Scalia also mentioned the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, The Odyessy, Dante's Inferno, and Lord of the Flies.
While people whined about video games, they also whined about how Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC was too violent for minors to view, yet they ignored that other contact sports like football and hockey are just as violent if not moreso. As I mentioned in my LJ post about the UFC's fight to overturn New York state's ban on MMA(which NY did overturn in 2016), Mick Foley, in his defense of WWE, pointed out that the NFL players themselves admitted how violent the sport of football is:
-"I like to think my best hits border on felonious assaults." - Jack Tatum in his 1979 autobiography "They Call Me Assassin"
-"I could never find a nonviolent way to hit a guy." - Conrad Dobler in his 1988 autobiography "They Call Me Dirty"
-"You hit hard and you hit first, where bashing someone unconscious is a badge of honor, and breaking bones is a treat. You need to be bad on the playing field, vicious and mean, that's part of the game. That is the game." - Tim Green in his book "The Dark Side of the Game"
-"I've always seen football as a sport like boxing where you get all your frustrations out and not be punished for it. We get to hit someone as hard as we want on every play and the man who beats the other man up worse wins. Bottom line." - former NFL player and WWE wrestler Darren Drozdov, who is best known for vomiting on the football between plays during a live broadcast of a preseason game on Monday Night Football, when asked by Mick Foley about the violence in an NFL game for Foley's 2nd autobiography "Foley is Good and the Real World is Faker than Wrestling". It should be noted that Drozdov became a quadrapalegic in 1999 when he was accidentally injured when D-Lo Brown slipped and fell attempting a running power bomb during a TV taping of WWE Smackdown.
-"Yeah, because you're not pulling hits in football. Whether you want to believe it or not, people are trying to hurt each other on every play."- Drozdov, when Foley asked him if the violence in football was worse than in pro wrestling as a follow-up question
To be fair, it's possible that Tatum and Dobler's statements were written by a ghost writer taking creative license even though they were known for being dirty players(Tatum is best known for a hit that left Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley paralyzed and unable to walk ever again, and both Tatum & Dobler were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame), but Green and Foley(whose first two autobiographies hit #1 on the New York Times best seller list) wrote every single word of their own books.
-"What's football? It's chess. Tackle chess. And what's the quarterback? He's the king. Take him out, you win the game. So that was our philosophy. We're going to hit that quarterback ten times. We do that, he's gone. I hit him late? Fine. Penalize me. But it's like those courtroom movies, when the lawyer says the wrong thing and the judge tells the jury to disregard it, but you can't unhear and the quarterback can't be unhit." - Doug Plank(whose jersey number is the name of Buddy Ryan's 46 Defense he developed in 1981 as the Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator from 1976-1985) in an interview with Rich Cohen for Cohen's book "Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football"
-"It's a word we're not allowed to use because of the concussions, but it's violence. Fans love to see the player wounded and even more to see that player get off the turf and stay in the game and strike back. Ben Roethlisberger limping across the end zone, Jack Youngblood playing on a broken leg in the playoffs, Emmitt Smith going on with his busted ribs and bruised lungs to carry the ball thirty times for almost two hundred yards in a big game against the Giants. He's dying, but he's playing. People can connect with that. It's how they want to be." -NFL Films producer Rob Ryan(no relation to Buddy Ryan or his sons Rex & Rob) when asked by Cohen why football became more popular than baseball as a response to then-Bears QB Jay Cutler leaving the 2010 NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers with a knee injury--5) Blaming fake "violent" video games for societal problems is just making excuses for someone's negative behavior--
Exactly as it says, the Blame Game is more popular than Grand Theft Auto or the NFL, simply because it's easier to blame tangible objects like video games or guns than it is to teach the public about how personal responsibility and personal accountability works or even teaching things like conflict resolution. How you act is ultimately your responsibility regardless of what you are exposed to in movies, TV shows, music, or video games. But it's become easier to feel good about yourself when you can divert the blame onto something else.
If fake "violent" video games or guns "cause" real world violence, then a pencil "causes" misspelled words.
It is not Anheuser-Busch's fault if a person abuses alcoholic beverages or drives drunk. It is not Chevrolet's fault if someone purposely breaks the speed limit and crashes their car. It is not Smith & Wesson's fault if someone uses a gun in the commission of a crime. It is not the NFL's fault when a high school football player dies from being tackled in a game.
And it sure as hell isn't the video game industry's fault or Hollywood's fault when a disturbed teenager shoots up their school.
It's not the video game industry's fault that parents today just don't understand that it is their responsibility to teach their child the difference between right and wrong, to monitor and control their child's consumption of entertainment media, and to teach their child that they are the only ones responsible for their behavior regardless of what they were exposed to both in entertainment and in real life.
The entire entertainment industry should not and cannot be held hostage by a small segment of the American public that wants to decide what the rest of us Americans can hear on the radio, watch on the television or in the movie theater, or play on the XBoxes, Playstations, or Nintendos. But what if a child should see, hear, or play something they probably shouldn't? Don't give me that bullshit about how parents can't control their children and can't be expected to monitor their children 24/7. Ultimately, it is the parents' responsibility to control their children's media consumption. The entire nation should not and cannot be held hostage so that everything in the entertainment media is suitable for 9 year olds who are still easily amused by flatulence, defecation, diarrhea, and urination.
It is not and it never was the entertainment industry's fault that the American public is seemingly disinterested in using the various parental control features that have been already offered to them for years whether voluntarily(like the various ratings systems) or involuntarily(the V-chip in TV sets was mandated by federal law in the mid-90s). And if they aren't interested in using those parental controls, it's either because they're comfortable montioring their own kids or they simply don't care. Plus, with the internet at our fingertips thanks to smartphones and tablets, it shouldn't take a parent no more than 5 minutes to do research on a particular game or movie or TV show so they could judge if it's appropriate for their own kids.
Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest each won lawsuits filed against them claiming their music caused people to commit suicide. Oliver Stone won a similiar lawsuit filed against him claiming that a young couple was influenced by the movie “Natural Born Killers” to commit a crime spree spanning three states. Even the video game industry itself has won every lawsuit that was filed against them over the years.
If we're going to expect people to respect personal responsibility, it starts with dismantling the Blame Game mentality, as well as demanding that parents take a more active role in their children's lives.