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Supreme Court OK With Violent Video Games; Porn Still Illegal (for Minors)

Is it hypocritical of the Supreme Court to allow violent video games to be sold to minors, while continuing to ban depictions of sex?

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“Violent videogames may have made us capable of killing -- under a very specific set of circumstances -- but they haven't conditioned us to be killers. It would be more accurate to say we have been psychologically enabled to use deadly force in a combat situation, whereas before we were not.”

Months ago, the New York Times 's Seth Schiesel, discussing this case on GRITtv with Laura Flanders, noted that the military does use video-game-style simulation technologies to train its soldiers. At the same time, when the first WikiLeaks video hit, many commentators noted the reaction of the soldiers shooting Iraqis from a helicopter sounded like teenagers playing a video game. And with the changes in military technology, so that someone in the US can now remotely control a predator drone that takes real lives, military technology is becoming closer to video games.

“It really does raise questions about how we condition our warriors, who we want to protect us, but also to have an empathy and understanding of what it means to take a human life,” Schiesel said.

Breyer goes on to argue that leaving aside an arguably beneficial aspect to the use of even violent video games, it's ridiculous not to apply a standard to violence in media similar to the standard for obscenity, which Scalia points out “does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of 'sexual conduct.'"

He asks: "What kind of First Amendment would permit the government to protect children by restricting sales of that extremely violent video game only when the woman—bound, gagged, tortured, and killed—is also topless?"

 Adam Serwer at the American Prospect replies: “Answer: The First Amendment as read by gun-toting prudes.”

Serwer's point returns once again to the larger question of violence in our society. Michael Moore tackled the question in Bowling for Columbine, asking,  “Are we a nation of gun nuts, or are we just nuts?” Moore also brought up the hypocrisy of blaming the Columbine shootings on the violent video games played by a couple of teenagers, while ignoring the bombs dropped that week, month and year.

Sex is, of course, part of nearly everyone's life. It's required for the continuation of the species. Violence, on the other hand, is usually considered to be antisocial—unless it's taking place in the military, in which case, Breyer says, “When the military uses video games to help soldiers train for missions, it is using this medium for a beneficial purpose.”

So why, then, if this is true, does Breyer mind the idea of a generation of children raised with virtual military experience?

The justices cite plenty of studies on the possible harmful effects of violent video games. Of course, they don't cite any studies on the harmful effects of a society engaged in four concurrent wars, that finds nothing wrong with the military recruiting high school students or advertising on television. There are no studies cited that explain why it makes sense to consider sex inherently more threatening to American youth than violence.

Clarence Thomas, of course, embodies the remaining Puritanism in the American psyche that leads us to have such conflicted views on sex and sexuality. Ever the strict constructionalist, he assumes that since the founding fathers were probably strict fathers, children these days still have no free speech rights. I'll refrain from pointing out who else the founding fathers didn't think had rights and belonged under the complete control of white men, but maybe Clarence Thomas would find no problem with a law that banned women's access to video games or porn?

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