Sunday, March 30, 2008

How Jack Thompson Gives Christians a Bad Name

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.”

...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.
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.

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:

He Deceives

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):

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.

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.


(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.


Lee Jones said...

I detest the way Jack Thompson is slinging mud in Jesus' Name. Argh; I hope they disbar him, the sooner the better.

That said, if some particular group of people DOES want to legislate morality, let this group of people all move to the same state (say, Utah) and vote it into law. Then it will be a law for them; they will just have to understand that people who don't choose to live there will likely disagree with them.

Stuart Hannig said...

bah he's not the only one, I'm afraid of Christians over any other religion.

As an atheist, you guys scare me, no other religion is so in your face and brazen about condemning us. I've lived in various countries including Saudi Arabia, America, Romania, Poland, India, China, Nigeria and Egypt. I don't want to condemn all Christians as this, as I've met some very awesome Christians - but of the ones that were scarily religious - you guys always take the cake.

There's a huge population of Christians that share this weird mentality in similarity to Thompson - it's not just about video games - but that anything non-Christian is inherently bad. So if it doesn't have a picture of Jesus or the cross on it, you better avoid it (in their philosophy). What really scares me is some of the things these people believe, including that atheists are the minions of the devil, pain as a cleanser (Mother Theresa believed in this), and then theirs the fringe groups that believe everything is the work of the devil - some Christians loosely use the word 'demons' to refer to troubles or vices, but this fringe literally means demons that are sent by hell or wherever to jump into 'Christians' and make them do bad things.

Granted they're a fringe group - the one thing I can't get over is how many Christians look out over the world (regardless of whether they're in Asia, Africa or America) and still think that everyone's out to get them. The fact that you guys and gals worship an instrument of torture is also something to be alarmed about. It's like me worshipping an guillotine, because my 'saviour' was beheaded on it.

I wonder if this will get posted.

Kurtis said...

Stuart Hannig,
You seem like a smart person, and I think a smart person would be able to understand that no Christian worships an "instrument of torture." So perhaps you've just never had it explained to you. Have you ever cracked open a Bible or talked with a good Christian Clergy? I think that either of those could explain to you why Christians definitively do no worship an instrument of torture.