Gamepolitics recently ran a series on the trial of Jack Thompson, in which they excerpted parts of the courtroom transcript for public consumption. For legal junkies such as myself, this offered a fascinating way to get a look at the (in)famous man leading the anti-videogame industry.
Thompson's inflammatory writing has always contained religious overtones, but it wasn't until I read his closing statement that I was struck with the immutable and troubling fact: Thompson is, in fact, explicitly doing this all in the name of God. Check out the following quotes:
I’m simply making the argument, Judge, that my motivations - which I have tried to make clear, maybe to the point of nausea - are religious and that my efforts against the distribution of adult material, pornographic material, violent material, adult rated material to children is violative of the law as well as violative of Scripture. I quoted the biblical passage where Jesus says, reportedly: “If any one of you should cause one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better that a millstone be tied around your neck and that you be cast in the uttermost depths of the sea.”It makes me shudder to hear Jack Thompson quoting scripture. As a progressive Christian, let me just tell everyone who's reading this right now: This man does not represent my people, or at least, not most of them. Here are just a few reasons why.
...As I recounted in my book… they found that Jack Thompson is perfectly sane… He doesn’t have brain damage and, in fact, he’s a Christian acting out his faith in this fashion. So they’re stuck with a formal document that they generated to the humiliation of me in my community that I’m simply a Christian acting out my faith when I do these things.
He Wants To Legislate Morality
Thompson's world is one in which the government controls what you and your kids see, play, and watch. Although some believe that games rating system is broken, few people have a problem with games ratings categorically. But like the movie industry, we should try and let the games industry police itself (with hopefully more transparency than the MPAA uses).
Government legislation is not going to solve most of the issues that Thompson decries. It has to be done from the ground up, with parents getting more involved with their kids lives' and making sure they don't buy their 9-year old Grand Theft Auto IV when it comes out on April 29 (which by the way, I can't wait for. That doesn't mean that I'm going to let my kids play it though). Moral laws are necessary to keep our society functioning, but every theocracy in human history has ended in tragedy. The more Christians try to get the government to do what they think is God's will, the worse off it looks for all Christians, and the worse off we'll be as a society.
He Seeks To Divide, Not Unite
Thompson is opportunistic to a fault. There are ways to make the world change, but trotting yourself onto TV whenever there's a school shooting to blame videogames for all the world's ills is not one of them. Thompson consistently uses inflammatory language that's meant to polarize and divide, not to unite. He recently suggested that Destructoid should "molest a child directly, rather than through Rockstar." While sarcasm is fine if you're a blogger, it's a little bit unbecoming in this case, when you're a lawyer striving to be taken seriously regarding his Christian values. And when you're already not known for being very reasonable, it makes you into a pontificating and dismissive bastard.
He Uses Bad Science
Videogames certainly don't prevent violence but the evidence that they cause it is murky at best. There are plenty of other factors that might play into why a kid who is in a situation where he spends 6 hours on Doom or Counterstrike per day might want to shoot up a school. And that's assuming he even plays videogames at all (see the point below).
Christians already have a bad enough reputation regarding their relationship to science. We don't need another. But don't take my word for it. Check out the argument captured here:
To watch Thompson's performance in an interview with Chris Matthews is to see a deceiver exposed for what he really is (i.e. a man who grossly distorts the truth to prove his misguide point):
See Chris Matthews take on Jack Thompson by clicking here.
You can also see him blame the sniper attacks on Halo below:
But half-truths are only part of the problem. EA's withering statement of Thompson after he offered them his help with the Take-Two acquisition tells a whole other part of the story (i.e. the part where Thompson fabricates lies wholesale):
If you're going to take on a controversial cause in the name of God, at least have the decency to ground your work on facts, please.
We have received your letter to EA's shareholder site. In response to your offer to assist in the proposed acquisition of Take-Two, we would strongly prefer that you not get involved in this matter. EA is a strong supporter of creative freedom for game developers. We feel that your past statements - including false claims about content
in our games - make any collaboration with you impossible.
(For a pretty good list documenting the rest of Thompson's antics, see his Wikipedia page.)
The Christian message is about peace, unity, and love. Videogames can sometimes run counter to this message. There are bad videogames out there, games that may have a negative impact on how you perceive the world, games that make you think sad or violent thoughts. And this is not to mention how games can arguably cause you to be disengaged from the reality around you to begin with. But the way Christians should address these issues is not be standing on a soapbox, armed with a J.D., and trying to make it illegal. It should be to build relationships with those around us, trying our best to love them and address their needs.
So parents, pay attention to your kids and what they're playing with. And as for you, Thompson, here's hoping that your day is over soon.