Posted on September 19, 2007, Andrew Violent Video Game Ban Part of an Attack on the First Amendment
It’s more than just banning violent video games–it’s an attack on the First Amendment.
At least, that’s according to columnist Judie Hilden on FindLaw.com. Hilden believes that the violent video game ban for minors fits in with a larger push to try and define violence as an exemption to the First Amendment, effectively avoiding one of the basic freedoms of our Constitution all together.
It may make sense to people–sex is considered obscene, so why not violence? In terms of the law, some believe that even the obscenity standard was a step too far.
“The Supreme Court made a serious mistake in deciding that obscenity laws were consistent with the First Amendment. It should not repeat this mistake with respect to violence,” Hilden wrote in a recent column. “The First Amendment’s text lacks exceptions, and so it is very dubious to read large exceptions into it.”
As you may have read, we’ve covered California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failed attempt at establishing a violent video game ban for minors. It isn’t a new phenomenon in America–Judge Ronald Whyte was just one judge in seven different jurisdictions throughout the nation which recently declared similar laws unconstitutional.
The reason why these bans don’t succeed is because they rely on the idea that, over time, video games make us more violent. In all of these cases, there was no direct proof of the psychological effect, apparently, and one might say that this what separates human beings from, say, salivating dogs.
“This kind of “psychological conditioning” argument makes a poor fit with First Amendment law, because it tends to see us not as the First Amendment sees us – as thinkers, deciding through persuasion and discussion what our politics and culture should be like – but as reflexive actors, responding to stimuli without conscious choice or mental mediation,” Hilden writes.
Proponents of these bans, similar to an effort to classify violence as “torture porn,” will take the violence depicted in video games out of context. For video games, a good example has been Jack Thompson declaring Manhunt 2 a “murder training device.” For movies, Hilden writes about movie reviewer Lisa Schwarzbaum, and how the reviewer made the claim that a woman was captured and tortured for ticket sales in the recent movie Captivity.
“Of course, no woman is actually abducted and tortured in “Captivity;” rather, a woman is depicted as being abducted and tortured,” Hilden writes. “Saying these acts occurred “for ticket sales,” as Schwarzbaum does, suggests that there is not much difference between depiction and reality: What is done in the movie, and what the movie does.”
What people like Jack Thompson and Lisa Schwarzbaum seem to do is bring more realism and action into video games than are actually there. The result is an undefined view of what we express as human beings, and what we actually do as human beings.
“Blurring the difference means blurring the difference between speech and action, and thus distorting the boundaries of the First Amendment, in order to allow incursions upon it,” Hilden writes.
Perhaps one day when studies show that video games cause immediate harm to human beings, the ban could be successfully argued. For the time being, video games will continue to exist, as violent as they are, just as every other media in this nation does today.