Glenn Reynolds, aka The Instapundit, has a great piece on the Clinton/Lieberman/Bayh legislation that would codify the ratings assigned to video games. While IANAL, Reynolds is, so when he says this law would be unconstitutional, I would have to agree. He makes some great points, including the fact that this is blatant posturing by Clinton to position herself with parents for the upcoming 2008 election. A couple choice quotes:
Politicians — and, for that matter, journalists — tend to think there’s a difference, because a lot more of them read books than play computer games. But that’s more a reflection on how behind the times they are
We’ve said something along these lines many times before here, but it bears repeating. It’s the rock-and-roll analogy. Our grandparents didn’t like that our parents were listening to Elvis Presley because it was foreign to them and that made them resist it. This is very similar.
And since it’s hard for me to believe that a rating system for books would pass constitutional muster, I have considerable doubt that it will do so here.
This is another point. Where does the rating of the media (and our hobbies/past times) end? Everyone already ignores movie ratings (including the theaters), the Parental Advisor sticker on a CD case is the path to instant success with teenagers, and supposedly no one understands the video game rating system. Rating systems work if they’re actually meaningful, not just empty gestures with “the Children” in mind. So far they all seem to be just that.
Needless to say, go read the whole thing.
I’ve bookmarked the opinion Reynolds references for future referencing. It’s a good read (if you can navigate the legalese) and it seems at least judge Posner “gets it”:
Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it.
Maybe video games are different. They are, after all, interactive. But this point is superficial, in fact erroneous. All literature (here broadly defined to include movies, television, and the other photographic media, and popular as well as highbrow literature) is interactive; the better it is, the more interactive. Literature when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader’s own.
(thanks to Bobster for the link)