creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion General Opinion
Brent Bozell
L. Brent Bozell
29 Aug 2014
Exploiting the 'Sex Box'

We recently came across a rather new TV network, Me-TV. It's great stuff for old fogies (like one of us) &#… Read More.

27 Aug 2014
Obama Spurns the 'Optics' Police

In some prominent corners of the liberal media, the grousing has begun about President Obama's habit of … Read More.

22 Aug 2014
Obama Satire? Still Objectionable

The amount of mockery presidents endure usually corresponds with their polling. It applies to Republicans (Nixon,… Read More.

Games Judges Don't Play

Comment

The video-game industry has won again in court, insisting on their right to make the most debased gaming experience imaginable and market it to children with little commercial restraint. On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 against California's law mandating that children are not allowed to purchase "Mature" video games without a parent.

The political elites are celebrating the ruling as a victory for a vibrant First Amendment, rejecting the very notion of social responsibility on the part of the video-game makers and their often-twisted concept of what constitutes "fun" for children.

Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent asked what should be the definitive question at issue.

"What sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman," Breyer asked, "while protecting the sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her?"

In an opinion concurring with the "free expression" majority, Justice Samuel Alito at least seemed troubled regarding the content of some of the "M" games in question, that "victims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces."

Alito also could have considered the promotional videos for "God of War 3," for the PlayStation 3, where the protagonist, Kratos (the main interactive character manipulated by gamers), graphically, slowly, realistically tears the head off Helios, the sun god. And still he'd suggest the "right" to sell this to children? Which sick CEO sits in a boardroom and says "yes" to ultraviolent scenes like this, knowing children will play these games?

Justice Scalia thought it irrelevant. He replied that Alito "recounts all these disgusting video games to disgust us — but disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression." Yes, freedom of speech means allowing the freedom of repulsive ideas. But that doesn't have to extend to shopping your repulsive ideas to grade schoolers. Why is freedom grievously curtailed when parents have the right to "restrict expression" to their children by having the video-game retailers only sell the "adult" games with parental approval?

If that's an untenable violation of the First Amendment, would Scalia rule that it's unconstitutional for movie theater owners to prevent minors from walking into movies rated R? An "R" rating requires that an adult accompany the child — the very principle behind California's law, just a small parental hurdle in children's access to disturbing content.

If it's OK to allow them into R-rated movies, why not NC-17? Why not X?

In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas rightly argued, "The freedom of speech as originally understood does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right to minors to access speech) without going through the minors' parents or guardians." When the Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights, they were not advocating that parents shouldn't have authority in the upbringing of their children.

That parental-discretion principle ought to be more revered by judges and politicians alike.

In other cases, where the First Amendment isn't being extended to grant children's rights, parents are still in control. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law in 2004 making it illegal for anyone under 14 years old to tan indoors under any circumstances. No one sued to stop him. (Children from 14 to 18 can tan — with parental consent.) Some 32 states are inhibiting the freedom of minors to tan, and no one objects. In his dissent, Thomas mentioned that minors cannot unilaterally consent to most medical procedures. "Free speech" — or the freedom of entertainment conglomerates — isn't the principle, so there is no court case.

Conservatives and libertarians who would easily line up with Scalia on this decision should at least ponder whether they want the federal government to decide how and when individual states have the 10th Amendment power to make their own decisions about how to protect minors from harm.

Advocates for parents in this case certainly don't expect that every parent is a vigilant watchdog over video-game content. In fact, some are enthusiastic purchasers of whatever the hot game of the moment is. Parent advocates aren't arguing that little Johnny will be inevitably turned into a vicious assassin by playing violent video games. Most 20-something and 30-something gamers, introduced to this gaming genre in their teens, are nonviolent, responsible adults.

But to think the idea that merchants ought to respect parents in restricting access to M-rated games is rejected because of some lofty First Amendment principle is absurd. All that matters are sales and profits, and free speech is a most convenient argument for them. This country needs more social pressure on the entertainment merchants to have decency in their boardroom decisions rather than falling back on courtroom decisions.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. To find out more about Brent Bozell III, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM



Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
L. Brent Bozell and Tim Graham
Aug. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Walter Williams
Walter E. WilliamsUpdated 3 Sep 2014
Patrick Buchanan
Pat BuchananUpdated 2 Sep 2014
Dennis Prager
Dennis PragerUpdated 2 Sep 2014

3 Apr 2013 Conservatives Shouldn't Own Newspapers?

9 May 2007 Spoiled Democrats and Debates

3 Apr 2009 Why Recycle The Osbournes?