Diane Feinstein Threatens Censorship, Misses Point
It probably shouldn’t come as such a shock to find politicians making baseless claims about the effect video games have on violence. Since the new year began, we’ve seen one Connecticut town organize a public drive to collect and destroy violent video games, Oklahoma consider a tax on games rated T and above, President Obama call for (yet another study) on the effects of video game violence, and a sitting US Senator actually argue that video games are a bigger threat to the public than guns.
But shocked I am by statements made Wednesday by Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, which all but outright assign partial responsibility to the gaming industry for massacres like the one last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and openly threatens government censorship.
“[Video Games] play a very negative role for young people, and the industry ought to take note of that,” Feinstein said during a speech on gun violence. She also urged the industry to voluntarily produce games that do not, in her words, ‘glorify’ gun violence, or Congress may be forced to take action on its own. “If the knowledge of these video games [Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza] played doesn’t, then maybe we have to proceed,” she said.
With the tragedy of dozens of children – not to mention the mass shootings that have occurred in the months since Sandy Hook – one would think that someone with Feinstein’s authority would have better solutions to propose. Instead, we have the spectacle of a sitting US Senator openly calling for the censorship of a hugely popular entertainment medium.
It is, of course, highly unlikely congress will be able to successfully censor video gameS. The 2011 Supreme Court verdict in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association closed the door on that line of thought rather decisively. But given recent history – one need only look at laws passed at the height of hysteria over the war on terror, not to mention our drug laws – one can’t help but assume they’ll try. Feinstein’s comments confirm a mindset among at least some of her political class that restricting the behavior of the masses is a reasonable solution to serious societal problems. Her willingness to openly admit it is chilling.
At this point, it feels almost masturbatory to point out that millions of people manage to play incredibly violent video games, watch incredibly violent movies, and read incredibly violent books every day without committing a single violent crime. And having to constantly point out that expert after expert refutes the idea that there’s a link between gaming and violent behavior is a sisyphean nightmare. Earlier this year, our own CJ Miozzi asked if we’ll ever be able to convince people that games aren’t the problem.
Frankly, looks like the answer is ‘no’. At least until young people find some new thing that adults find terrifying.