August 6, 2005

How To Handle Jack Thompson

No matter if the film is banned, the most important thing is believing in it.
-Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong-born Chinese film director (source)
Every new media over the ages has had their share of critics. Video games are no exception.

We happen to have an extremely vocal critic, Jack Thompson. Mr. Thompson has a record of trying to blame nearly everything that he can on video games.

I don't know what his motives are. It could be that he believes that video games are for children only, and he does not really believe that adults play them. It could be that he believes that since the military uses video games as training for soldiers, that it "proves" that video games train children to be violent and gives them no choice but to be violent criminals, even though that belief flies against evidence from the United States Government (link to UK document referencing US statistics). Even judges don't buy that one.

Regardless, his recent success with "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" has emboldened him. Admittedly, Rockstar created the content and accidentally left it on the media, and Take 2 Interactive and modders are the big losers in the end, but his drive brought the issue to the public eye and we all have to suffer for it.

Since then, he's made even more wild accusations, among them claiming that there are hidden sex scenes in "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" (they aren't hidden, they are part of the storyline), and that there are anatomically correct models underneath the blurs in "The Sims 2" (of course, they're just like Barbie in that respect...neither have genitals).

Now GameSpot is reporting that he is getting death threats. As much as I wish I could consider this to be more of his idiocy, I believe that he really is getting death threats. After all, I've gotten death threats in the past because a person's newspaper was twelve minutes late (no joke). He's threatening people's recreation, people's jobs and to be dead honest, his points of view are leading to a McCarthyist rally against video games.

A few of you may have heard something about this little document called "The Bill of Rights." It's a set of ten amendments to the United States Constitution that give all American citizens a certain set of rights. The First Amendment is fairly simple.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It's pretty straight forward. Over the years, the courts have whittled away at this amendment, however. For example, in 1896 the Supreme Court decided to restrict speech that was deemed obscene.

Even with those restrictions, the Courts generally try to allow us to express ourselves freely. And I'm sure that most Americans would recognize that I may not agree or approve of Jack Thompson's points of view, I must defend his right to express them as an American citizen. (Apologies to Voltaire's paraphraser...)

Likewise, I'm free to express my opinion that the man is generally full of shit. The man usually refers to studies that have been debunked and/or discredited by the scientific community and to studies that have been found by courts to lack sufficient evidence to back them. He participates in personal attacks on individuals who express themselves rather than try to debate arguments on their merits. (Remember kids, an ad hominem attack is about as effective as TK'ing your team in Counter-Strike.) He even threatens cartoonists who do unflattering portrayals of him. (Personally, I think Hillary has a much better case than he does...)

Regardless of his logical or moral failings, threatening to kill him is not the proper way to handle this crackpot. All it does is lend credence to his opinions. Threatening to kill him has the same effect that Microsoft bombing a Linux convention would makes him stronger. So if you want to counter Jack Thompson, the best way to handle it is to beat him at his own game, so to speak.

To start, use proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and capitalization in your sentences. Given the quality of his E-mails sent to Scott Ramsoomair, it's already a step in the right direction.

Second, think for a second about what you want to say and how you are going to say it rather than posting the first thought that comes to your mind like the average Slashdot poster. You need to think out logical arguments. Find evidence and link to it.

Third, write to your representatives and senators. Show them that they have constituants who are gamers and voters. If you don't stand up for your rights, he's already won.

You may have noticed that there isn't much fun in the above, and it's true. Standing up for your rights is rarely fun, but often rewarding.

Look at it this way. To defend our games, we must set down our game controllers and go back to the written word. So let our words be our weapons and let's Zork this son of a bitch.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Figured you'd find this interesting from