Editorial and Comment by Zac “AGhostInTheSnow” Papantoniou
“Just when the decency police and moral values group have been all but defeated in the courts–both of law and public opinion–a new threat has emerged from our left flank: political correctness . . . The leftist thought police are now wanting to impose their view of propriety on modern cultural discourse.” – Lawrence Walters
If you love video games as much as I do, you should ingrain the name Lawrence Walters into your brain.
Walters, who has been described by some as “the Anti-Jack Thompson,” is a distinguished First-Amendment attorney and Managing Partner at the law firm of, “Weston, Garrou, Walters and Mooney”; he recently spoke at the “2009 Game Developers Conference” in a session titled, “Silencing the Censors.” (Disclaimer, Walters is Randazza’s law partner).
During the session, Walters forewarned game developers of a looming threat to the video-game industry, censorship in the name of “political correctness.” Walters cited pending legislation, in the state of New York, that aims to prohibit sales of games to minors, that have various degrees of profanity, racist stereotypes, derogatory language, and/or actions toward a specific group of persons.
The law would require New York retailers to apply warning labels to any game that contained such subject matter and would require retailers to keep all such games in a “sealed and locked container” inaccessible to customers. Non-compliant retailers – or “non-custodial” adults who purchase regulated games for minors – would be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
I have some major points of contention with legislation such as this. First, the video-game industry voluntarily set up a self-regulating body (the ESRB), over 15 years ago, to independently rate and label the content of every game sold in North America. Attempting to enact such legislation is a waste of precious tax-payer dollars; dollars, that could be better spent on a multitude of various state needs, such as . . . oh, I don’t know, maybe . . . education?! Second, legislation based on political correctness, which would impose a $1,000 fine on an offender is both excessive and (should be) a shock to one’s conscience; especially considering the way such legislation binds the hands of parents when it comes to child-rearing. Last, but certainly not least, such legislation is an affront to one’s rational ability to use common sense, not to mention, the basic freedoms afforded by the First Amendment of the Constitution! As Walters pointed out in his session:
“Think about that for a minute. Would we ever in a million years tolerate the government passing a law that movies cannot have profanity, racial jokes, or derogatory language? That would eliminate practically every movie made,” he said.
“Now we can debate all day long whether racist stereotypes or derogatory language is even appropriate in video games, but that’s for us to debate, and not for the government to decide.”
This type of “thought policing,” as of late, has generally come from those leaning to the right of the political spectrum; but Walters warns that with the new change in the political landscape, it is ever increasingly coming from those on the left as well. We’ve seen this before, I mean, who grew up in the 80’s and doesn’t remember Tipper Gore’s “War on the Music Industry?”
This type of thinking will do us in people! Parents must be free to make decisions as to their children’s best interests; video-game developers must be free to create products and retailers must be free to sell those products as they see fit, without having to worry that they’ll be fined a grand if a minor gets their hands on a video game with mature content in it. You and I, must be free to express thoughts, ideas, expressions and creations, without having to constantly look over our shoulders, wondering if we’ll be the target of a politician’s next attempt to stifle something they find “controversial.” Because it starts here, with you and I; and if we don’t speak up for ourselves, we’ll have to then wonder, will there be anyone left to speak up for us, once the thought police come to stifle our fundamental freedoms?
I’ll leave you with something Ben Franklin once said:
“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”