Some early morning anti-censorship ramblings.

30 November, 2008

Well I’m stuck doing a graveyard shift here at Hofstra with a little over two hours to go and a streaming copy of The Warriors loading at a snail’s pace. In the meantime I’ve been browsing YouTube clips of — as Penn Jillette (and Teller, in a way) — this asshole, Jack Thompson.

First of all, I think it’s insulting to bring up any notions of legislation in the wake of a personal tragedy like Virginia Tech unless there is a direct and undisputed link. Whether it’s Billo The Clown invoking illegal immigration when innocent people are killed by a drunk driver who happened to be Mexican or Michael Moore harping on about gun control when the Columbine massacre was committed by illegally-obtained arms, it’s downright distasteful and disingenuous.

But this is the bigger point: Unlike most people, I don’t doubt Mr. Thompson’s sincerity. The desire to keep children out of harm’s way is a noble one, no matter what anyone says. However, his leaps in logic scare me. He has never been able to fully distinguish between the effects of children watching Looney Toons — Do they still, by the way? I certainly hope so. Contemporary kids shows kill me inside a little. — and the effects of children playing violent video games. After all, it’s the same old song we’ve been hearing for over 50 years. Also, while he endlessly fires shots at Rockstar Games for corrupting the minds of kids nationwide, he never acknowledges the staggering success of games like Super Mario Galaxy which sold brilliantly to both kids and adults.

Mr. Thompson would do well to read up on Occam’s Razor which posits that the simplest explanation is likely the correct one. Cho Seung-Hui was crazy. Cho Seung-Hui killed 34 innocent people. Cho Seung-Hui killed 34 people because he was crazy. Was he influenced by Counter-Strike? Possibly. But I can often be found in my room killing time by indulging in a few rounds of Hitman: Blood Money. Have I murdered anyone? Not that you know of. After all, the game does encourage silent and traceless killings with the fibre-wire as the weapon of choice and the staged accident the greatest tactic of all. So actually this game probably has affected my capacity to murder without conscience or inner tension. But that’s not the point.

The point is that these cases are few and far between and can easily be applied to every art form in existence. Should we ban The Catcher in the Rye because of the killing of John Lennon? Should we ban Taxi Driver because of the near-assassination of President Reagan? What if the next crazed murderer in the news turns out to be a die-hard fan of The Jonas Brothers? Is that reason enough to ban them from making music? Well actually now that I mention it…

Of course, there’s a lot of garbage trafficking in gratuitous violence just like all the appalling shock humor I’m constantly bitching about on this blog, but hey, nothing in life is without its drawbacks, and the pros of free expression far outweigh these cons. This is a fucked-up world and people like Mr. Thompson, no matter what they think, are only fucking it up more with their absurd notions about the dangers of art, be it literature or video games.

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