Final Boss Defeated

June 27, 2011

And by final boss, I mean the Supreme Court has rendered its verdict in Brown v EMA, formerly known as Schwarzenegger v EMA. This was the case where California has been defending its ban of selling M-rated video games to people under 18. It went all the way to the Supreme Court. On November 2, 2010, day of the oral arguments, we NYRAnians rallied in front of the Court in defense of youth rights and free speech. And Usiel gave this amazing speech, of which I totally shot the video! And after that it was just a matter of waiting and seeing…

And today came the verdict at last…

7-2, in favor of EMA. Two dissenters were Stephen Breyer and (surprising absolutely no one) Clarence Thomas.

WE WON!!!!

Check out the official document here!

I’ve been retweeting a lot of remarks and articles today in response to this ruling, so here’s a nice roundup.

Hypervocal says

This marks the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on video games, and now, because of this decision, it seems that video games have earned an equal place at the First Amendment cultural table along with books, music, movies and other entertainment products.

Slashdot notably notes that

Notable in the opinion is a historical review of the condemnation of ‘unworthy’ material that would tend to corrupt children, starting with penny-novels and up through comic books and music lyrics. The opinion is also notable for the odd lineup of Justices that defies normal ideological lines, with one conservative and one liberal jurist dissenting on entirely different grounds.

Good ol’ Reason, complete with a pic of Schwarzenegger signing something behind a Protect Our Children sign, quotes some of Scalia’s great majority opinion and concludes with:

Acknowledging the legitimacy of concerns that some violent entertainment is inappropriate for minors, Scalia nonetheless reminds us that ‘even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply.’

Ars Technica seems just plain sick of this shit and is glad to see the ban failed, saying

The law, as it was written, was bound to fail. Every previous state law that tried to enact some sort of ban has been struck down as unconstitutional. California’s law sought to control the sale of games with “deviant violence” to children, but lacked a clear definition of what deviant violence would entail. While the California law would have added an exception to the first amendment to exclude certain content from protection, in essence saying that video games were not speech, the Supreme Court has decided that video games are in fact expression, and are afforded the same rights and protections as every other art form sold to consumers. With a decision this clear, we’ve hopefully seen the last of state laws attempting to regulate the sale of video games to minors.

GamePolitics shows that butthurt California State Senator Leland Yee, the guy who proposed and has relentlessly pushed for this video game ban and wasted a lot of taxpayer money on it, is butthurt

California State Sen. Leland Yee said that today’s ruling by the Supreme Court “put the interests of corporate America” before the interests of children.

Yee went on to say that the eight years of legislative and legal battles were worth it because it raised the consciousness of this issue for many parents and grandparents, and has “forced the video game industry to do a better job at appropriately rating these games.”

Taxpayers in California probably disagree with Yee, who encouraged the state to spend money to defend a law that was inevitably struck down. The only ones truly enriched by the legal battle and victory was the videogame industry because this ruling has set a precedent that can’t be ignored by lawmakers daring to tackle the subject of violent videogame legislation.

Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress goes in-depth about the opposing arguments between Justices Scalia and Thomas.

Thomas draws a draconian line in the sand, saying that children have no right to read or access any material or speech without obtaining their parents’ approval first: “The historical evidence shows that the founding generation believed parents had absolute authority over their minor children and expected parents to use that authority to direct the proper development of their children. It would be absurd to suggest that such a society understood ‘the freedom of speech’ to include a right to speak to minors (or a corresponding right of minors to access speech) without going through the minors’ parents.”

Yeah, Clarence Thomas is a douche. But then Antonin Scalia rips him apart!

And it’s a delight to see Scalia utterly dismantle his total disregard for the rights of minors in a footnote, saying:

Justice Thomas ignores the holding of Erznoznik, and denies that persons under 18 have any constitutional right to speak or be spoken to without their parents’ consent. He cites no case, state or federal, supporting this view, and to our knowledge there is none. […] It does not follow that the state has the power to prevent children from hearing or saying anything without their parents’ prior consent. The
latter would mean, for example, that it could be made criminal to admit persons under 18 to a political rally without their parents’ prior written consent — even a political rally in support of laws against corporal punishment of children, or laws in favor of greater rights for minors. […] In the absence of any precedent for state control, uninvited by the parents, over a child’s speech and religion (Justice Thomas cites none), and in the absence of any justification for such control that would satisfy strict scrutiny, those laws must be unconstitutional.

In other words: “Jesus Christ, Thomas, STFU already!” But go read that whole piece for the two justices’ opposing recounts of history.

Our good friends National Coalition Against Censorship give NYRA and the ACLU a shoutout in mentioning our joint amicus brief for this case, and say

The impulse to ‘protect’ children by restricting what they can read, see, and hear is pervasive, and the decision issued today makes it clear that vague assertions about harm, or social disapproval of certain kinds of material, do not justify government restrictions. That also applies to books in public schools and libraries, which are of course challenged regularly.

The Court also rejected the claim that “the state has the power to prevent children from hearing or saying anything without their parents’ prior consent.” The decision thus leaves it up to individual families to set their own rules, without officials saying “what the State thinks parents ought to” do.

Whether it’s video games, movie, comic books, or music, parents and youth have a legitimate interest in making choices about what is appropirate without unwanted and unwarranted state interference.

And there’s Mother Jones in all its glory, promising that

To the nation’s young gamers—

I know you are no longer satisfied by the rantings of Cave Johnson, the eccentric dead billionaire in Portal 2. I’m aware you cannot countenance another 30 levels of Angry Birds. I sense that, just for once, you want to see something hemorrhage like the old days. Well know this: the judicial branch has not forgotten about you.

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court on Monday put an end to a long-stalled California law that would have prohibited the rental or sale of violent games to minors.

That articles also points out…

There are of course more extreme cases of double standards and slippery slopes. With all the demands to have video games like the Grand Theft Auto series (content includes gang warfare, indiscriminate violence, colorful language, and some tongue-in-cheek depictions of sex) kept out of reach of children, an impressionable youngster can still stroll into any Barnes & Noble and pick up a copy of Justine by Marquis de Sade (content includes sado-masochistic Christian monks, orgiastic rape, mass murder by arson, and rampant torture).

It’s not a stretch to claim the latter would be more damaging to your average fifth grader.

Reminds me of a guy at our rally who brought with him a comic book or something, whose video game version was M-rated and would have been banned, while that comic book would be perfectly okay for anyone to buy.

Unfortunately, there was the annoying one from Scientific American, harping on that Leland Yee is a child psychologist and therefore knows best what’s good for children

Yee’s stance on whether to let children under the age of 18 play video games depicting violent scenarios—murder, car jackings and the like—is that such games cause “an increase in aggressive behavior, physiological desensitization to violence, and decrease [in] pro-social behavior,” according to an earlier statement on Yee’s site. His position lines up with those of the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Among other supporters of Yee’s position is a group of psychologists and social researchers led by Craig Anderson, director of Iowa State University’s Center for the Study of Violence, who last year authored a paper that pointed to “clear and convincing” evidence that “media violence is one of the causal factors of real-life violence and aggression.” The study, entitled “The Influence of Media Violence on Youth” and published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, concluded that “research on violent television and films, video games, and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts.”

Somewhere I think Tipper Gore had an orgasm.

SciAm does throw a bone to the opposing side. Uhhh, sort of.

The other side of the violent video games disagreement claims that violent crimes among juveniles are declining even as video games have gotten more violent and that it is difficult to establish a causal relationship between any one medium and a group’s behavior, let alone the actions of an individual.

In a June 2010 Scientific American article social psychologist Dara Greenwood evaluated arguments on both side of the debate. Whereas research by Cheryl Olson, a public health specialist at Harvard, found that children’s reported motivations for video game playing and found that their top rated choices were to have fun, to compete well with others, and to be challenged. Olson also elaborated on the psychological benefits such play might afford, describing how video games facilitate self-expression, role play, creative problem-solving, cognitive mastery, positive social interactions and leadership.

Greenwood acknowledged that “no media psychologists worth their salt would conclude that violent video games will turn your children into gun-toting sociopaths.” Still, she concluded that violent media, including video games, may affect people in “countless subtle ways, increasing hostility and apathy to those around us.”

That’s… something? Maybe?

Well, then there’s this at the end…

California’s loss in the Supreme Court has a greater impact than simply scuttling that state’s attempt to limit children’s access to violent video games. The 11 other states—Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia—that submitted an amicus brief in support of California’s law now find their options likewise limited.

OMG like oh noes! You mean states who want to infringe on the free speech rights of young people and game sellers are finding their options limited? Oh, we must feel so sorry for them! How dare they be blocked from violating their young citizens’ basic liberties based on not-very-conclusive “science”?

Yeah, go to hell, Scientific American. I am disappoint.

Hate to end on that note. So here’s one more bit of awesomeness from Mother Jones on the Scalia versus Thomas battle! 😀

So it’s a good day for free speech and youth rights! My beloved organization NYRA was closely involved in this case, signing onto the amicus brief and holding that kickass RALLY late last year, and today all of our work has come to fruition, and justice has been served! Even just the tiniest victories take enormous work and dedication, but we’re on our way to a world where rights of youth are actually respected. It may seem a video game issue is trivial, but it’s not, it’s sooo not. Because when something turns discriminatory and could mean criminal penalties, especially for no real compelling purpose, it gets real.

In closing, here’s Eric’s review of the case on the NYRA blog. 🙂

This has been Day 35 of the 100 Days of Summer, Round 11.

4 thoughts on “Final Boss Defeated”

Comments are closed.