Column: Thomson: Censor at law

By Eric Naing

Miami attorney Jack Thompson is on a moral crusade to destroy all video games. There is something to be said about a man who proudly proclaims that he was named a top ten censor by the ACLU, but – unfortunately – editorial standards forbid me to say what that something is.

Thompson, who once alleged that Janet Reno was a mentally challenged lesbian who was controlled by the mob, has made a career out of censorship. He came to prominence in 1986, when he represented Ileana Flores in a highly publicized divorce case. Riding a wave of legal superstardom, Mr. Thompson turned his attention to first amendment issues dealing with sexually violent material. Incidentally, or ominously, the Florida Supreme Court actually ordered him to undergo a psychiatric test for this.

His first big score for censorship was against the 2 Live Crew, when he led a campaign against their 1989 album, “As Nasty as They Wanna Be.” His actions led to the arrest of a record retailer and several members of the Crew. It is currently unknown how Thompson feels about 2 Live Crew’s 1994 album, “Back at Your Ass for the Nine-4.”

Thompson also successfully got Time-Warner to drop then-genre defining rapper and current star of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” Ice-T from their record label for his song “Cop Killer.” In 2003, he was involved in getting Clear Channel Communications to drop Howard Stern from several stations. If only my efforts to rid the airwaves of Kelly Clarkson were as successful…

Having conquered the worlds of rap and shock radio, Jack Thompson turned his attention to video games, the greatest evil this world has ever known. In 1999, he filed a $33 million lawsuit against companies such as New Line Cinema, Nintendo of America and Sega of America claiming their material had a part in the 1997 Paducah school shootings.

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He also has tried to link the Columbine shootings with first-person shooter games such as “Doom,” instances of murder with the “Grand Theft Auto” games, the Washington sniper case with the “Halo” and the rise of Italian fascism with “Super Mario.” Okay, maybe not the last one, but he actually did compare Doug Lowenstein of the Entertainment Software Association to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein, which is baseless on several grounds including moustache style. Recently, Thompson has specifically attacked video game such as “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” “The Sims 2,” “Bully and The Warriors”(the last two have not even been released yet).

Thompson’s “piece de resistance,” though, is his proposal, aptly called “A Modest Video Game Proposal.” In it, Thompson promises to donate $10,000 to charity if anyone can “create, manufacture, distribute, and sell a video game in 2006” based on a scenario in which a father of a murder victim murders several prominent members of the video game industry and assaults a video game expo. Maybe a more appropriate game would be a Mortal Kombat style fighting game where Thompson faces off against the likes of Ice-T and Janet Reno. As a result of this offer, Thompson was disavowed by the National Institute on Media and the Family.

Jack Thompson, Hillary Clinton and Pat Robertson are all representative of the anti-video game fundamentalists. They demonize video games only to make a name for themselves all while demonstrating a deep ignorance of what they attack. Video games can be violent and sexual, but they also can be epic, educational and can foster values such as honor, loyalty and perseverance. For every Mortal Kombat released, there is also a Nintendogs or a Math Blaster – games that Thompson seems to completely ignore.

Yes, violent and sexually explicit content has an effect on society. But attacking video games solves nothing. “Grand Theft Auto” is no more inappropriate than the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” or the book “The Red Badge of Courage,” or the Clint Black song “Iraq & Roll.” Censorship of video games, or any media, only fosters ignorance.

Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. His column appears every Monday. He can be reached at [email protected].