Sen. Yee: “Gamers Need to Quiet Down;” A Rebuttal
Last week, California State Senator Leland Yee said that violence-craving gamers have no credibility in the debate concerning children and video games because they are protecting their own interests, and that they should remain silent on the subject.
Speaking with the San Francisco Chronicle, Yee said:
“Gamers have got to just quiet down. Gamers have no credibility in this argument. This is all about their lust for violence and the industry’s lust for money. This is a billion-dollar industry. This is about their self-interest.”
Yee has a history of opposing the exposure of children to violent video games — and a history of being opposed by gamers. Of note, in 2005, Yee chartered a bill which banned the sale of violent video games to children, and while the bill passed, it was shortly thereafter ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In 2009, Yee supported Governor Schwarzenegger’s appeal to the ruling, which was met with criticism that he was wasting taxpayer money on a law already judged unconstitutional.
This latest comment from Yee is just another arrow fired in his ongoing crusade against violent games, and while his message is short, it says a great deal in a few words. Fortunately, most of what he says can be easily rebutted.
Let’s start with the one point Yee makes about gamers that isn’t completely objectionable: we have no credibility in this debate. Superficially, that’s a sound argument: we’re biased. You wouldn’t ask an alcoholic for his opinion on prohibition, right? But here’s where Yee’s argument falls apart — gamers aren’t alcoholics. Alcoholics have a problem — a dependance on alcohol that negatively impacts their life. They are addicted to alcohol and will not behave rationally if its taken away from them. Gamers are just people who play video games, no different than people who listen to music or watch movies. If some motion were being made against music, would you say that music lovers have no credibility in the debate? Besides, who else will speak out on behalf of games other than gamers? I don’t see people with no interest in video games stepping up to the plate any time soon.
Also, Senator Yee might not realize it, but that sword he’s waving can cut both ways. If parties with a vested interest in video games are not credible, than what about parties that are willfully ignorant on the subject? Yee is far from some uneducated yahoo; he has a Ph.D. in Child Psychology from the University of Hawaii and was formerly President of the San Francisco School Board. Despite this, he ignores the fact that, after numerous studies conducted by experts in the field, no correlation has been found between video games and aggression in children. And yet Yee continues to push for legislation against games year after year. Who, then, is less credible? Someone with bias, or someone who stubbornly holds to beliefs that fly in the face of years of evidence?
But Yee didn’t just say that the opinions of gamers should be taken with a grain of salt due to bias; no, he felt the need to antagonize them with aggressive statements. His categorization of gamers as deviants when he claims we are motivated by our “lust for violence” suggests we regularly fantasize about bloodshed and that it’s all we can do to get through a day without going on a killing spree. With those three words, Yee has reduced gamers to a caricature of raging, pubescent FPS players who erupt in berserk rages. If such people even do exist, which I won’t deny as a possibility, they are a minority in what is an otherwise psychologically well-adjusted population. You see, gamers aren’t part of some crazed cult living on the fringes of society; they’re as diverse and widespread as music or movie lovers, and they resent being labeled just as much as anyone else.
Regardless of who gamers are, most alarming is the violation of our political right to freedom of speech when Yee demands that gamers “quiet down.” This, coming from an individual who received numerous journalistic awards and in 2006 chaptered a bill into law which aimed to protect student free speech and prohibit school administrators from censoring school newspapers and broadcast journalism. When an apparent champion of journalism and free speech decides that a large segment of the population should be censored because its opinion is biased, alarm bells should be ringing. But maybe I just missed the clause that states that people with dissenting opinions have the right to sit down and shut up. Well, sorry, Yee; we won’t roll over at your command.
Ultimately, Senator Yee’s words do little more than further alienate a segment of the voting population. He can don his armor and keep trying to rally troops for his misguided crusade all he wants; the war is over. The Supreme Court made its ruling. No amount of necromancy will bring that bill, or any similar, back from the grave. Yee can try to devalue our opinion, he can try to demonize us, and he can try to get us to quiet down, but all that’s doing is keeping his attention focused on a scapegoat and away from the numerous studies that disprove his beliefs.