There is, of course, a huge difference in cultural taste from reading Homer to playing "Mortal Kombat," which determines what we think is morally and aesthetically uplifting, but that's not a constitutional issue.
As technology has advanced, violent images of imaginative horrors in comic books, moving pictures, television and now videos have become convenient targets for censorship, which is why they continue to require thoughtful appraisal, not action based on emotional disgust. Without careful deliberation, they could quickly create a slippery slope, allowing the government to limit liberties the Founding Fathers sought to protect with the First Amendment.
Studies that suggested imaginative causes for violence resulting from games, in support of the California statute, were not persuasive. Psychiatry is revealed by history as flawed for predicting behavior, and it wasn't difficult in the 1950s to find an eminent psychiatrist to testify that even Superman comic books were injurious to a young person's moral development, leading to juvenile delinquency.
I know parents who won't allow their sons to play with toy guns, and they're surprised when a twig or a pointed index finger becomes a weapon for fantasy "bang bang." Psychological causes leading to aggressive behavior are difficult to measure. Imaginative violence may even allay fears and offer emotional control.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't worry about the violent saturation children are exposed to in new video games. Parents must be vigilant in deciding what and how much their children watch and play.
Justice Samuel Alito, in a dissenting opinion, cogently argued that society should keep a close eye on the developing technology and its impact on impressionable minors. We shouldn't automatically assume that it is similar in its impact to what has gone before now that the fantasy reality is more realistic and closer to the real world as "victims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire and chopped into little pieces."
The arguments for censorship in California were weak, vague and inadequate, and would have set a dangerous precedent. The justices reminded us how easy it is to be disgusted and want to strike out against what's obviously hideous and outrageous, but necessarily reminded us that the First Amendment wasn't designed to protect Mary Poppins and Harry Potter.
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