Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Supremely Disgusting Court

Yesterday (June 28, 2011), the U.S Supreme Court struck down a California law that restricted sales of violent video games to people 18 and over by placing hefty fines on the sale of such items to those under that age. See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/28/us/28scotus.html . The law was clearly intended to attempt to resist the rising glorification of violence in our society, something that this blogger has often reflected on. The Court found that the principle of "free speech," as manifested in allowing children to play games in which they fantasize perpetrating all manner of ultra-violent acts on an endless series of victims, outweighed the possible ill effects of young people immersing themselves in endless hours of gruesomely violent fantasy play. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia reasoned that there was no tradition in the USA of censoring portrayals of violence. He rejected the proposition that restrictions on video violence were comparable to restrictions on pornography.

I am saddened and disgusted by this turn of events. It is such a pathetic verification of the old criticism of American culture as a twisted world in which violence is valued and sexuality is repressed. Your kid spends his free time in games in which he can kill ten thousand people an hour, hack them to pieces, set them on fire, run them over with tanks? Perfectly fine. Show one woman's naked breast or vagina to a thirteen year old? Criminal act. Backwards priorities, to my thinking. The hippie saying, "Make love, not war," may have originated in America but it never reflected the majority mindset, and still does not today.

Again, I hope that all branches of Paganism will not side with the dominant trend in America toward glorification of violence. We are going down a very dark road, I fear. A culture that values sadism, cruelty and brute force over all else cannot have a very bright future. Worse still, the evolution of our military is toward the use of remote controlled drones that are operated very much like video games.
See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/world/20drones.html. So, the young kids who grow up on violent video games will be perfectly suited to be the conscienceless, long-distance video game soldiers of the future. Perhaps the final result will be for the some video game corporation, say Hyperviolence Inc,,to take over the US military and run it as a subsidiary, feeding the live footage of people being shot or blown up by our brave drones in places like Pakistan and Yemen back into the games for every patriotic citizen to enjoy, the younger the better. Why not do the same with police and security services, and have the whole country under a brave new regime of video violence: pay-per-view law and order.

At least there was good news in New York about gays and lesbians getting the right to marry.

11 comments:

Mike said...

It clearly violated the first amendment. It should be up to the individual what media they partake of and should never be legislated by the state. I'm not interested in living in a police state.

Maelstrom said...

But wouldn't some restriction along the lines of pornography or access to alcohol or driving be sensible without creating a "police state?"

Mike said...

Sure. Restricting to adults is perfectly fine but this is not what they tried to do. They tried to completely ban violent games. They already restrict them heavily to those under 18.

Maelstrom said...

Mike, I think you may be wrong on your reading of the law. The California law does not completely ban violent video games. From the info in the the NYT article, it seems that the law restricts the right to purchase such games to those 18+ and puts $1000 fines on those who sell to the under-18 population. It does not ban the games outright. So the law may be more in line what you would seem to find acceptable after all.

Mike said...

You're right but I'm wondering why they have duplicate laws on the books then. I was thinking of another law that they are trying to pass. I still agree with the court. The reasoning makes perfect sense.


California's argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children's access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read--or read to them when they are younger--contain no shortage of gore. Grimm's Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed. As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers "till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy." The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales 198 (2006 ed.). Cinderella's evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves. Id., at 95. And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven. Id., at 54.

High-school reading lists are full of similar fare. Homer's Odysseus blinds Polyphemus the Cyclops by grinding out his eye with a heated stake. The Odyssey of Homer, Book IX, p. 125 (S. Butcher & A. Lang transls.1909) ("Even so did we seize the fiery-pointed brand and whirled it round in his eye, and the blood flowed about the heated bar. And the breath of the flame singed his eyelids and brows all about, as the ball of the eye burnt away, and the roots thereof crackled in the flame"). In the Inferno, Dante and Virgil watch corrupt politicians struggle to stay submerged beneath a lake of boiling pitch, lest they be skewered by devils above the surface. Canto XXI, pp.187–189 (A. Mandelbaum transl. Bantam Classic ed.1982). And Golding’s Lord of the Flies recounts how a schoolboy called Piggy is savagely murdered by other children while marooned on an island.

Maelstrom said...

Mike, we clearly differ on this matter in a fundamental way. Do you really see no difference between reading fiction about violent acts and playing video games in which you get to experience, and indeed practice,killing and dismembering people? Consider too that the games strive for realism. They are designed to feel as close to the real thing as possible. Thus I think they do condition young people to accept, enjoy and glory in violence and killing, and are therefore psychologically, culturally and socially detrimental.

Mike said...

A video game is no different than a movie. Movies also strive for realism just like books strive for realistic plots. For the same reasons that Mein Kompf has not been banned these video games should not be banned either. There is no evidence that violent movies or video games increase the likelihood of violence in people. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean that the state should be banning them.

Gaarik Daruth said...

I personally feel that it's sad that these laws even need to be implemented in the first place. If I were playing a violent video game in my childhood, my father would watch and see how violent it was. If it was too gory, I wasn't allowed to play it, even if I'd bought it myself. Right up to age 16.

I think parents should be the final say on these games (and porn, for that matter), not the government, but that's just me. Unfortunately, seems parents nowadays can't be bothered.

-C

Seeing Eye Chick said...

When you are 18 you can play whatever game you want, watch whatever movie you want. But when you are a minor, parents are supposed to have the authority to determine what kind of media you come in contact with. Now, no doubt some here matured early and were fully capable of contextualizing graphically violent video games {oh wait we didn't have those 25 years ago--not this real} but some children do not make that cognitive leap until much later, some people never make that leap at all. So by saying that these bloody, gory violent first person shooter games and other games that use various implements of war, conventional and otherwise, or even cars, buses etc., to do catastrophic and graphic violence to their opponents that is made to look more realistic and 3 dimensional with each generation of software--is shocking. So what's next? XXX movies for children too? Isn't that also the first amendment. I am sure that children can contextualize that porn--like violent, graphic video games are just fantasy and that one should not act out the scenes on one's playmates? Rated R movies? Explicit periodicals? Seriously, what is the point of being 7 without your stash of chunkey ass and soldier of fortune under the bed? One one hand we remove children that are exposed to domestic violence in the home because that is harmful to their development, but on the other we allow them access to explicit material that encourages violence in the extreme.


This is sick stuff. And it paves the way for other restrictions being removed. Tobacco adds? Liquor? Pornography? etc.,

Adults know the difference between fantasy and reality for the most part. Children have a harder time making those distinctions.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Well that is why we banned the sale of tobacco to minors. A lot of parents did not allow their minor children to smoke. But while mom and dad are at work--that was pretty difficult to enforce. Same thing with liquor and beer, perscription medications. There are laws about the age of consent for sexual activity as well which is why we have legalities like Statutory Rape. Our corporatized, time-impoverished adult world that ensures most couples have to be dual income often precludes the parent's ability to enforce the rules of the home. So certain items that are known to be harmful to minors are restricted by law in an attempt to reduce harm inflicted on that demographic, but also to help busy parents enforce those rules like no smoking, like no drinking before one is of age, etc., You cannot entire blame parents for a dynamic that they didn't help create. This is a much larger social issue that our society refuses to acknowledge. And the issue with these video games and accessibility and parental authority is simply a symptom of that larger problem.

Ananta Androscoggin said...

If they outlawed selling such games to kids, that would include the Left Behind series of indoctrination video games put out by the guy from the "Purpose Drive Life" megachurch.

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