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The empire continues to uphold the sanctity of cruelty.

lizpolaris's picture

Another wrong decision by our courts:
US Supreme court rejects California ban on violent video games

As a parent, I'm astounded by this assertion:

Speaking at the Supreme Court on Monday, Justice Antonin Scalia said: "Our cases hold that minors are entitled to a significant degree of First Amendment protection. Government has no free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which they may be exposed."

Um, Scalia, yes we do!

And in fact we do it all the time. We restrict what books they can read in schools, we restrict access to pornography, sex, nudity of any kind, we restrict what kind of religious and patriotic messages they are exposed to in public schools, we also restrict them from being exposed to their own parents religious beliefs in medical settings (think Jehovah's Witnesses or Christian Scientists who want to refuse treatments).

The government has a responsibility to restrict access by powerful commecial interests to the most vulnerable members of society - our underage children, who are by definition not capable of deciding for themselves. There is nothing sacrosanct about being able to provide messages of violence, cruelty, and horror to children. Showing a woman's boobs or a man's dick on TV is worse than, for instance, showing a graphic depiction of a woman getting beaten and raped in a video game? In what universe?

Value judgments such as this are made all the time. In this case, Scalia and other courts are siding with the values of profit making corporations, not the values of parents. Thus the empire continues to indoctrinate our young that violence is OK, wars and hostility are normal, and cruelty is standard operating procedure.

P.S. Just one more thing - why isn't this up to the states? How does this even get to the US Supreme Court? Shouldn't the California Supreme court be as far as this one goes?

Update: Ah, the Roberts court. I love the smell of judicial activism in the morning.

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scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

we restrict access to pornography, sex, nudity of any kind

Not exactly. It is, in fact, 100% legal for a child to purchase a ticket to an R-rated movie. It's also 100% legal for the movie theater to sell it. Movie ratings and age restrictions are completely voluntary -- albeit created under threats of Congressional intervention.

Video games work the same way. Violent games have mature ratings and any national chain store will refuse to sell violent games to minors. I'm in my 20s but still get carded sometimes.

You clearly want this to work like alcohol, so we can send kids with fake IDs into Best Buy and fine or jail the poor clerk for selling them Mortal Kombat, because that's how these laws are enforced in practice. (Well, that or if a kid ends up drunk and hospitalized, but the fact that you can't OD on video games kinda highlights the absurdity here.) If you go this route you really do have to do the same goddamn thing with movies and comic books, and quite frankly you might as well move to China if you want that.

If you don't like the game your kid is playing then take it away. If you don't know what games they're playing, then you shouldn't expect the law to do your parenting for you. They probably play those games at a friend's house anyway; that's how I evaded the Mortal Kombat ban, 19 years ago (yes, it really has been that long since our children were transformed, Village of the Damned style, into sociopaths.) Never murdered anyone, and I gotta say, no amount of cartoon gore prepared me for the sight and smell of an actual surgery up close, even though I was supposedly desensitized. (I had a similar experience trying to fly a plane even having earned every gold medal in Star Fox 64!)

How do our precious toddlers sneak off to the video game store, anyway?

lizpolaris's picture
Submitted by lizpolaris on

Thus our different perspectives.

Let me make this perfectly clear to you - THERE IS NO WAY PARENTS CAN NEGATE OR PREVENT KIDS FROM ACCESS TO SOCIETAL NORMS. (Even the ones in Amish communities.)

The argument which places 110% of responsibility for keeping kids sheltered from massive amounts of crap on parents is completely specious. It's necessary to reduce the crap.

We, as a society, determine what will be the norms for our kids. We, kimosabe. That means you. If you see my kid screwing up and I'm not around, I have no problem with you asking him about that or even getting on him about it. Please do - and I'll do the same for you. Etc... And I don't have a problem with it even if your values aren't the same as mine. I'll be chatting with him/her about it later anyway.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

A bright vivacious 9 year old, who's TV viewing habits, reading material and video games has never been patrolled outside of the typical "This is what you want?!?!"

She's watched Family Guy, Simpsons, Futurama, played violent games(using Lego Chewbacca to rip the arms off of Stormtroopers is loads of fun), favorite band is Lady Gaga and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and reads Buffy Season 8 comics and manga.

And on top of all this, she's still a good student, who keeps her room moderately clean, treats adults and fellow children with respect, has a gajillion friends, and adores the color pink. She would still rather read Geronimo Stiltson than Harry Potter, and would rather watch Stardust and Princess Bride over Kill Bill. Oh, and she attends a Baptist church, though her parents are pagan and atheist. She paints her nails and still wears footie pajamas.

We don't hide sexuality or nudity in our house, because they are normal and healthy, and we refuse to treat them otherwise. And we have always stressed it's her comfort that's important, not what others expect of her.

The moral panic over video games, reminds me greatly of the moral panic over D&D(something else she does).

I respect my daughter's intelligence, and respect my own parenting enough to trust the values I've instilled in her. I can see the point, that popular culture shapes young minds, but critical thinking protects them, and that IS a parents responsibility to teach their children.

I know plenty of morally compromised adults, never given an opportunity to explore their horizons, who's every decision was made for them, and all their parents time and energy was spent "protecting" them from the evils of pop culture, and well they are still morally compromised adults.

Raising children to have a mind of their own is hard and difficult, and a huge pain in the ass(for the parent). But that's why not everybody should be parents.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

I remember growing up going to a conservative Christian church where listening to "devil music" was evvvvvil. In fact, it was blamed for every ill that happened in the world. We got to watch all sorts of videos documenting such things. Too bad it wasn't really true.

I remember when Bowling for Columbine came out to much fanfare amongst progressives. I'll never forget where they interviewed Marilyn Manson about music and its supposedly violent effect on young people. Its probably worth the video game moral crusaders watching that sequence one more time to keep shit in perspective.

There is real violence in the world that kids are exposed to that no doubt has much more effect on them. I played the original Mortal Kombat when I was young and always understood it was fake and never had any urge to pull out someone's heart after I beat their ass with a flawless victory. Not one single time. Same with my scores of friends who I played it with or against. The "evidence" that video games lead to actual violence is sketchy at best.

On the other hand, we have CONGRESSWOMEN saying that we can tell "illegals" by the color of their skin. To me, that is infinitely scarier than my niece or nephew playing call of duty, particularly as someone who experiences racism not infrequently.

BTW, this was one of the few times that Scalia made a reasonable argument and its worth reading his argument in full. It shocked the heck out of me. I particularly liked his beat down of Thomas's dissent. (here's a discussion. Follow the link to read the full arguments...)

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

Kids who know how to think critically, understand that games and movies are fake, and that you shouldn't take your values from them.

Now, there is a lack of parents teaching their kids critical thinking, but that's not something Congress can legislate, nor the court enforce.

Instead of judging kids for their tastes, I think it's a better effort to get them to think about the things they like.

When my daughter was really young, and my thinking not so coherent, I bought her almost all of the Disney Princess toys that were coming out. This was right before they hit everything you could buy for young girls.

I regret my easily manipulated decisions, but at the same time, she recognizes marketing tie-ins when she sees them, making her a more intelligent and thoughtful consumer. She doesn't get all wrapped up in brands. When all her friends were scrambling for real American Girl dolls, at $100 each, she was satisfied with a $20 knock off. She wanted a DS, instead she got a used Gameboy Advance. And she learned how to take care of it, whereas all her friends demolished theirs. So when she finally earned the DS, she respected it and treated it well. Same thing with the MP3 players, all her friends got Ipods, she got a Cheapo, and when it broke, she appreciated that it had to be taken care of.

Simple measures like that teach kids values, but the ways of instant gratification takes away from it.

Submitted by lambert on

... staffed by a generation of first person shooters can possibly be a coincidence. I freely grant I don't know what the causes are.

What I don't like about Scalia's decision, and not for the first time, is cui bono. Doesn't this decision really make it open season on kids for corporations? As if it weren't already? For example, what would be wrong with corporate advertising in the schools? What would be wrong with corporations sponsoring classes in "citizenship"?

NOTE I don't regard any decision by the court since the first personnel change after Bush v. Gore as legitimate. Scalia stole that election to pack the court his way. So the legal aspects of the case don't greatly interest me.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

The concept of automated war has been around since before video games, so I don't think you can lay that at the feet of Atari.

Also, corporations already advertise in schools. My high school(15 years ago) was chock full of soda machines, lunches were provided by Subway, Chik-Fil-A, Arby's. The school athletic fields and arenas were littered with signs of sponsors. That ship has sailed.

I do totally agree with your NOTE though. All those decisions are illegitimate, unfortunately our dysfunction persists, and people continue to act as if they are, like my school district, who recently spent millions of dollars revamping of school assignment plan to equalize opportunity in our greatly segregated district, and may hire a superintendent more focused on "ensuring diversity" than ensuring kids are educated.

zot23's picture
Submitted by zot23 on


Because there really is no solid connection between the two, at least not that science has discovered. This is like the church blaming the rise of gay couples for the rise in divorces. Sure, you can make a chart and overlay them to make a causation seem rational, but it just isn't there. At best, the technology for video games led to the technical ability to run remote drones. Had our pilots in WWII had access to the tech, they would have lined up around the block to deliver their bombs remotely. They never played an FPS in their entire lives.

People were willing to kill others before drones, people are willing to kill others with drones, people also play video games. The link beyond that is fairly specious, the connection based on most studies just isn't there.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

(and, BTW I totally believe that the cause for global warming is the decrease in numbers of Pirates)...because I've been touched by the Noodley Appendage. :-)

Submitted by lambert on

My track record of unbroken analytical success -- broken!

What gives me the creeps about drones is the remoteness and detachment of it all. It's not the butchery of The Iliad, which is at least a human relation of a sort. The killing is done from a screen with keyboards and joysticks by people who don't risk a thing; rather like banksters, if it come to that. It's not even the remoteness of dropping bombs over Dresden; those crews at least risked flak and mechanical failure in exchange for what they dealt out, even if they were flying high enough to avoid the fighters. Science? Probably not, though I'd want to do my own research.

Zeitgeist? A cultural moment? You betcha.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

But the desire to remove the (agressor's)human risk from war has been around a long time. Probably since the Iliad, where instead of having to armies battle it out, two champions could determine the outcome instead.

I can see that it's easy to make the connection, that the widespread growth and development of video games, coincided with with the growth and development of unmanned vehicles, so they could be connected.

Yet, the same technology that made video games and drones possible, is why the Mars rovers ran months beyond their planned capabilities, and why we were able to repair them from millions of miles away.

So if you are going to ascribe the bad to the technology, you gott ascribe the good as well.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

corporate personhood, no. We don't need to conflate the two.

Plus, SS-star is right, in practice, this would come down to sting operations where the clerk at Walmart pays with their livelihood.

I have an 8-year old. It upsets me what is available to him on YouTube.....

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Although that probably isn't how Jefferson meant it.....

Submitted by libbyliberal on

People who won't let their kids play with toy guns and never bought them for them as kids but now don't give a sh*t that they are massively exterminating onscreen visually ... a bit of a disconnect there I would say though adolescents need to separate from parents and bond against the status quo and violent video games shock value may be doing that for them. Oy vey. But it promotes incremental desensitization. Psychodramatic practice for putting empathy on the shelf for sure. Convenient for corporate culture exploitation for trigger happy soldier fodder and/or membership into the elite club of high functioning sociopaths running the world. Titillation of violence. Our culture can't get enough of it and promotes children to get addicted to it. The over-sensory anti-feeling/thinking new world order. Corporate consumerism on peer pressure v. parental oversight. No contest. What is a culture to do as it becomes de-cultured?

"sanctity of cruelty" so well put!