The decision compared violent video games to classic works of literature such as "The Odyssey," "The Divine Comedy" and "War and Peace." There is a distinct difference between sympathizing with the perpetrator of violence and being the perpetrator of violence, but that difference was apparently lost on the court.
In a case involving a video game that shows teenagers how to kill policemen, federal district court Judge Robert S. Lasnik permanently enjoined Washington State from restricting the distribution of violent video games to minors. In Video Software Dealers Association v. Maleng, he quoted the Interactive Digital Software decision in ruling that "guided by the First Amendment, we are obliged to recognize that they are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature."
These decisions ignore the way violent video games encourage role-playing, making the child the perpetrator of violence in a manner that no book or movie can. It does not require a leap in imagination to see the risk of immature players transferring violent role-playing to real life.
Legitimate free speech expresses violence in a rational context, rather than displaying it graphically to evoke an immediate emotional reaction. It is not a First Amendment right to cause panic on an airplane by shouting that someone has a bomb; nor is it legitimate free speech to evoke violent reactions in children through graphic video games.
A teenager who learns how to murder and mutilate human beings in video games is desensitized to commit heinous crimes against his neighbors. Nothing in the First Amendment should prevent regulations to stop this, supremacist judges to the contrary notwithstanding.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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