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.

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