Supreme Court okays violent video games for minors, but not porn

One of the two dissenters, Clarence Thomas, argued against the decision based on the founding fathers' intent:


"The practices and beliefs of the founding generation establish that 'the freedom of speech,' as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors' parents or guardians."


In his opinion, the full protection of the First Amendment only applies to full citizens of a voting age.


The invention of each new medium always causes an upwelling of change and fear. After the creation of the printing press, many governments banned books for disseminating subversive messages to the impressionable populous. Recently, some have worried that the Internet has become a kind of artificial intelligence that does the critical thinking for the young. Although the mediums have evolved, the fear is the same. Those in power are worried that various sectors of the governed will not be able to think critically about the information they are being fed through this new medium. As a result, lawmakers propose censorship laws to protect us from our own ignorance and incompetence.


Whether you agree with censorship laws or not, the real question is why does our government feel the need to protect young people from graphic images of sex but not violence? Why is it okay for underage gamers to mutilate each other, but illegal for them to have simulated sex with virtual avatars?


Despite the government's bias toward violence, I would argue that as a whole, the bombardment of violent entertainment has had very little effect on the rates of violence in our society. Grisly crimes may be featured on the news more, like the unending Casey Anthony trial, but per capita violent crimes have gone down. If you do not believe me consider this: given the choice between walking alone at night on the streets of any major American city or any major city in Latin America, where the population has extremely limited access to violent video games and movies, which would you choose? Children learn at a very early age how to separate the fantasy of violence on video games and movies from real life.


The same holds true for depictions of sex. The first generation of kids who grew up with a world of online porn at their fingertips has begun seeping into the professional world. These young adults are no more reckless or twisted when it comes to their sex lives than previous generation. They may have more casual sex, but they are also far more versed on how to protect themselves from STDs and unplanned pregnancies. This generation is just as capable of separating the fantasy realm of porn from reality as they are at distinguishing the violence of video games from real life.


Even if violent video games and porn were just as influential on our youth as some people fear, which would be more dangerous to a society: a population that is desensitized to violence or one that is desensitized to sex?


Read the full text of the court's opinions on Brown, Governor of California V. Entertainment Merchants at SupremeCourt.Gov


Follow Alfie on Twitter or Facebook and email him if interested in writing about Sex & Love.

  • Which game would you rather have your child playing?

Upholding the decision of two lower courts, the Supreme Court ruled against a California law that imposed a $1,000 fine on merchants who sold or rented violent video games to anyone under 18. In "Brown, Governor of California V. Entertainment Merchants Association," the court held a 7-2 majority opinion that violent video games are protected under the First Amendment.

"No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm," wrote Justice Scalia in the majority opinion, "but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed."

Scalia went on to write that unlike sexual content, the U.S. has no tradition of banning depictions of violence from children.

"Certainly the books we give children to read - or read to them when they are younger - contain no shortage of gore," Scalia added, pointing to the violence in popular children's fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and Snow White.

This decision raises a number of questions regarding the double standard of censorship that exists in America when it comes to violence and sex. Why does a law intended to shield the young from images of extreme violence violate the First Amendment while laws restricting minors from buying Playboy are commonplace? Why does our culture believe sexual content poses a greater threat to the young than graphic violence?

Scroll to read more Tampa Bay News articles

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.