Will The Supreme Court Go Postal?
It’s the same old same old issue. Even if we can agree something is not good for you, who should determine our consumption?
A few days ago, the Supreme Court heard arguments to uphold a 2005 California law, never enforced, to ban the sale of violent video games to those under 18. What are the criteria for “violent?”
1. A reasonable person would find the game appeals to “deviant or morbid” interests.
2. “Patently offensive” to “prevailing community standards” as suited for a minor.
3. Lacks “serious” literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
What does research on the subject of video game violence and children conclude? Take your pick.
California bill sponsor State Senator Leland Yee points to numerous studies showing that interactive video game aggression “increases anti-social behavior and desensitizes players to violence.”
Not so, contends a group of social and medical scientists who have filed a counter brief in the current Supreme Court battle. Most of the pro-ban research is based on “profoundly flawed research.”
The California Attorney General has focused his argument on a first-person shooter game called Postal 2 where, he says, killing and torture “exist for no other reason than to accumulate points in a game.”
It’s not appropriate for kids, the video game industry agrees, which is why we have a labeling system similar to motion pictures, and Postal 2 is registered “Mature.” If you impose a non-voluntary system on us, then why not the movie industry?
Because video games are “uniquely harmful,” California replies. The interactive nature of the media makes it more egregious than movies or comics or literature.
Arguments before the Supreme Court were heard last week. Justices appeared skeptical of allowing a ban. A body of jurisprudence has established that First Amendment rights of minors are not exactly the same as for adults, but this has applied mainly to protection against sexual content, not violence. Justice Ginsberg doubted that violence could be made equivalent to sex under the law. She asked who would make the decision if a video game were sufficiently brutal or lacked redeeming artistic value?Continued on the next page