Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Missing The Point

"The Supreme Court says that 'Graphic violence and sex is appropriate for children'."

It was the lead story on yesterday's newscast and it was certainly was an attention-getting headline; too bad that it completely missed the mark as far as what the ruling actually said.

In a vote that was not even close (7-2) the US Supreme Court voted Monday to strike down a California law that prohibited the sale or rental of graphically sexual or violent video games to minors. The majority opinion was that while the state did have the right and responsibility to protect its children from harm, they didn't have the power to pass legislation restricting their access to ideas that some may find inappropriate.

The majority decision pointed-out how graphic the violence in many popular children's stories is; everybody knows that the witch in Hansel and Gretel gets her comeuppance when the children shove her into her own oven and bake her alive. Equally graphic are the endings to such popular children's stories as Cinderella, and Snow White.

The dissent included the opinion that the Founding Fathers didn't intend the first amendment to protect the rights of people to deliver ideas and information to children in opposition to a parent's desires, or of the children to seek-out opinions that their parents do not want them to have access to. Rearing a child is the responsibility of the parent.

Personally, I am torn on this. Having been in the broadcasting industry (and its affiliated support industries) for so long it is almost impulse to object to anything that even looks like censorship. So, the majority opinion, on its face, appears to be one I could support.

But then I think: it is true that violence in children's stories tends to be pretty graphic, but there is widespread censorship in the very stories that the majority selects. I have to admit that I had to go to the library for a copy of The Brothers Grimm to check-out the graphic violence that the majority quoted in their opinion.

Did you remember that Cinderella's sisters had their eyes picked-out by doves? Did you know that Snow White's evil stepmother was forced to wear red-hot slippers and dance herself to death? My point is here that we're already getting the sterilized versions of these stories already. Is this not the same sort of censorship the court struck down? Disney is not known for its accurate depiction of the material it makes children's movies out of, and the versions of these stories that my parents read me were based on the Disney cartoons.

There is plenty of anecdotal (and some actual) evidence that violent video games promote violent behavior in children, so I am torn between my dislike of censorship and my honest desire to allow the state to help parents protect their children from this dangerous drivel. Perhaps California will go back to the drawing board and come up with a way to help protect children without running afoul of the first amendment. I sincerely hope so and shall be pulling for them!

Wherever you are today, I hope that you will have an excellent (and non-violent) day!

Don Bergquist – June 29, 2011 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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