The U.S. Supreme Court got it wrong in Brown v. Entertainment Merchant Association. This wasn't a First Amendment case, it was a parents' rights case -- and only Justice Clarence Thomas understood that.
The issue was a California law that would prohibit the $60 billion-a-year video game industry from selling hideously violent games to children without parental consent. Numerous other states and cities had unsuccessfully passed similar laws against selling violent video games to children, and now these games are wrapped nationwide by this recent Supreme Court ruling in the embrace of the Constitution.
The California law did not prohibit the video game industry from producing and selling these realistically violent games, and didn't stop parents from buying or allowing their kids to buy them. The law said that merchants could not bypass parents and sell directly to children without parental approval.
As Justice Thomas explained in his eloquent dissent, it is "absurd" to suggest that the First Amendment's "freedom of speech"' includes a right to speak to minors without going through the minors' parents. His dissent gives us a history lesson showing that the First Amendment was written in a society that assumed parents had absolute authority over the upbringing of their children, "including control over the books that children read."
The Court's majority couldn't see any difference between "The Divine Comedy" (assuming minors are capable of reading classic works of literature), or "Grimms' Fairy Tales," and teaching kids to role-play criminal acts such as torture and murder acted out on the screen in vivid color. Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts pointed out that the court's decision now allows the industry to sell minors "games" that show victims "dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire and chopped into little pieces. ... Blood gushes, spatters, and pools."
Justices Alito and Roberts also stated, "There are games in which a player can take on the identity and re-enact the killings carried out by the perpetrators of the murders at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. ... There is a game in which players engage in 'ethnic cleansing' and can choose to gun down African-Americans, Latinos, or Jews."
There is a big difference between reading the printed page and role-playing criminal acts. Reading a book takes the words only as far as the reader's own imagination.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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