Friday, March 20, 2009

Violent Video Redux...

An earlier post by yours truly chided well-meaning but misinformed American (ah, but I repeat myself) parents who allowed their children to play violent video games as long as they followed the "laws of war."

Now, a German retail giant has gone a laudable step further, as this article in Der Spiegel explains. Following a high-school killing spree that left 15 people dead, it was discovered that the shooter had spent the previous night virtual opponents in much the same manner that he would slaughter his classmates a few hours later. Galeria Kaufhof has now pulled all copies of such first-person shooters from its shelves and vowed not to distribute ultra-violent games.

The German government is also considering banning these types of games outright; said Joachim Hermann, the Bavarian interior minister "We must finally muster the courage to ban the most brutal games... It's not a question of media and artistic freedom anymore."

Bravo, Herr Hermann! Anyone who doubts the farsightedness of this policy should definitely read Chapter 7 of Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman's book "On Combat", some highlights of which include:

Through violent programming on television and in movies, and through interactive point-and-shoot video games, modern nations are indiscriminately introducing to their children the same weapons technology that major armies and law enforcement agencies around the world use to “turn off” the midbrain “safety catch” that Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall discovered in World War II. In terms of combat evolution, this indiscriminate use of combat conditioning techniques on children is the moral equivalent of giving an assault weapon to every child in every industrialized nation in the world.

It remains to be seen if Germany will succeed in making Galeria Kaufhof's corporate policy of sacrificing the profitable sale of an addictive and dangerous "virtual substance" to increase public safety a national policy, or if it will succumb to the pressures to prostitute the public welfare to those who would rather make bloody lucre from the wholesale export of virtual violence as "good, clean fun" for der kinder, while hiding behind the myth that companies and citizens have an inherent "freedom of expression" and "artistic license" that transcends the common good.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Misrule of Law

I can't think of anything dumber than the sentencing of Muntadhar al-Zeidi to three years in Iraq prison for throwing a shoe at President Bush during an unannounced visit to the country. Not that the punishment isn't justified - though the defense argues shoe-throwing is an exercise of free speech, I think it's fair to consider it an assault on a foreign leader. But that's not the point. This will only exacerbate al-Zeidi's role as a focal point for anti-occupation sentiment, and increase instability in Iraq. The court could have made its point while slapping him on the wrist and punishing him with the time he's already served.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

13-Year Old Vows to Honor Geneva Convention in World War Two

Despite the minor fact that the majority of the Geneva Conventions did not exist in World War II, a chubby 13-year-old has convinced his parents to allow him to play "Call of Duty" on the conditions that he honors the guidance contained in the 1949 agreements.

This kid's parents think they're being responsible; in fact, they're merely showcasing their ignorance. It's quite impossible to break any Geneva Conventions in the game; characters have no chance to torture, execute prisoners, or launch attacks against civilian populations, although they get to witness those acts in graphic cinematic sequences.

The scoundrel's only possible chance to tread a fine line is to fire a finishing shot into an already mortally wounded opponent; and this would probably be justified by the fact that many of those opponents will planning to make a "last stand" attack where they draw a pistol and blaze away until they run out of ammunition, or until they get shot again.

Still, gory and realistic though this game is, it's hardly an educational training ground for learning the nuances of International Humanitarian Law. What it really represents is an opportunity for out-of-shape American youth to exercise their bloodlust without endangering themselves.

If young Evan Spencer really wants to learn something about war, there's plenty of hot-spots in the world where another teenage meat-puppet could make themselves useful as a bullet sponge.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Is ol' Cleitus being too hard on today's callow youth? Is it in fact, the reverse - not that we have too many gratuitously violent games and movies here, but not enough over there? Would Chechens and Russians, Azeris and Armenians, Serbs and Kosovars, Israelis and Palestinians be less likely to fight if they could just sit down around an X-Box and kill electronic simulcrums of each other?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Once more into the breach...

Kudos to my distinguished colleague Diodotus for having largely shouldered the burden of running this humble discussion for the last several months.

I further applaud the resolution to spend less time writing, and more time in action; as James, brother of Jesus wrote in 49 AD, "Faith without action is as dead as a body without a soul."

However, wicked pagan that I am, I shall for my part follow the advice of the Japanese sage Miyamoto Musashi's instead, and since he preached that the way of the warrior is the two-fold art of pen and sword, I shall apply myself a little more to the former, and a little less to the latter, in order to make up for what one can only hope is the temporary absence of the esteemed Diodotus.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Diodotus is Largely on Hiatus.

In case you hadn't noticed. Might as well make it official.

This is due to a number of factors, including family, tenure pressures, and generally being spread too thin. But the final straw was Obama's election and inauguration speech, which inspired me to do less pontificating and more service for the nation. While this blog has been entertaining and intellectually useful for me, I can't help but think the amount of energy I put into it over the last year couldn't be more productively spent in a way that would yield more concrete dividends for my community, my country and the planet.

So while I may occasionally post random musings, and will probably pop in with Friday Star Trek blogging from time to time, I'm going to let my co-bloggers Cleitus the Black and Empedocles run the ship for awhile. I look forward to reading and continuing to comment on their posts.


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