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Anti-Game Violence Lawyer Profiled 58

Thanks to Reason Online for their article discussing recurring anti-game violence lawyer Jack Thompson, whom they describe as "nothing if not relentless" for his repeated attempts to sue videogame companies on behalf of violence victims. They also shine a light on his pre-videogame concerns, which include acting as "a primary force behind 2 Live Crew's obscenity woes", and even "peddling some genuinely intriguing claims about Janet Reno's time in Miami." The piece concludes by referencing similar "brainwashing fears" common to Thompson and an earlier crusader, Fredric Wertham, who "was at the forefront of the campaign to stop comic books from rotting the minds of the young with fantastic, colorful tales of violence, horror, and unconventional living arrangements" in the '50s.
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Anti-Game Violence Lawyer Profiled

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  • by TheWanderingHermit ( 513872 ) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @09:40PM (#6927026)
    "nothing if not relentless"

    Isn't that how Geordi described the Pakleds?
  • by swat_r2 ( 586705 )
    How is this different from the times when they used to burn books, and didn't allow women to read because they might start getting "ideas". Let's just shut down the Internet altogether as well! Absolutely scandalous.
  • Solution (Score:5, Funny)

    by the_other_one ( 178565 ) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @09:55PM (#6927104) Homepage

    Lets kill all the anti-violence lawyers.

  • Little known fact.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by \\ ( 118555 )
    Fredric Wertham was a failed comic book writer and/or artist, I can't remember which. After his failure, he decided all of comics were evil, and the industry pretty much still suffers to this day. (Of course, most of the industry pretty much sucks too, but I'm not trying to start a debate on that.)
    • by Snowspinner ( 627098 ) <<philsand> <at> <>> on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @10:06PM (#6927165) Homepage
      There is a reason that this is a little known fact: it's not true.

      Wertham was an accomplished psychiatrist who, noting a rise in juvenlile delinquancy, looked at his own patients, and observed identification with comic book figures in a number of cases. He then drew the connection. If you actually read Seduction of the Innocent, it's mostly not that hysterical - he's mostly reasonably raising the question of whether or not comic books were being sufficiently attentive to the fact that their audience was still psychologically developing, and extremely impressionable.

      Seeing as there was no labeling whatsoever on comic books at the time, this is actually a fairly reasonable concern.

      To say that the hysterical backlash that followed Wertham's book is his fault is not entirely dissimilar to blaming Columbine on id software, really. Wertham had the fortune, or perhaps misfortune, of raising the question of whether comic books were being responsible or not at a time when people were looking for something to blame - Wertham inadvertantly provided it.
      • Wertham isn't quite as bad as he is made out to be. However, he made the same mistake (or perhaps ligical fallacy) that Jack Thompson is making.

        Wertham saw that juvenile delinquents read comics and assumed there was a connection. However, his logic was faulty in that at the time a very large percentage of the entire population read comics. Therefore, if a great number (I've heard as high as 90% of literate Americans, although I can't verify that statistic) read comics, of course a great number of juveni
  • Regarding Wertham (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snowspinner ( 627098 ) <<philsand> <at> <>> on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @10:02PM (#6927141) Homepage
    It's very easy to demonize people who try to look for societal causes for horrible things. Particularly when those societal causes are things like video games, or comic books. And so, in the 50 years since Seduction of the Innocent was published, Wertham has become a figure of comical ridicule - even by people who haven't read anything written by him beyond the oft-quoted paragraph about Batman and Robin.

    The problem with things like that is that only token research paints a far more nuanced picture of Wertham.

    I quote here from Will Brooker's excellent book Batman Unmasked, in which he gives a far more well-researched study of Wertham than most people do. He is reading here a passage in which Wertham talks about homosexuality:

    "We might now quibble with the term 'malorientation', but overall, rather than expressing shock and outrage, Wertham's tone seems one of quite reasonable concern. He does not, in my opinion, come across as 'shrill' or 'anguished'. Rather than advocating a witch-hunt against deviants, he understands that in a climate where homosexuality is a great taboo, gay fantasies might be a source of worry for young men." ...
    "If we learn that Wertham's suspicion of Superman comics was based on his discomfort with all aspects of Fascism and his fear that children might learn to admire both physical force and the domination of 'inferior' peoples, his writing on this subject may also make more sense.

    It would no doubt surprise many of those who caricature him as a bigot to learn that, during the 1920s, Wertham was one of the few psychiatrists who would treat black patients; that he spent the war years campaigning without result and against great hostility to establish a low-cost clinic in Harlem; that his LaFargue Clinic was finally opened on 113th Street in March 1944 with the help of funding from Ralph Ellison and the support of New York's black ministers."

    That is not to say that Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent is a good reading - his look at comic books is selective, and his case studies are limited.

    But simplifying Wertham, or Thompson, for that matter, as an overzealous bigot looking to make a cheap buck off of popular hysteria is falling into the same trap you're accusing them of. As with most things, the issue is a lot more complex and nuanced than that.

    I'm not saying that video games cause violence. But, considering the strong evidence that media does influence the attitudes of the people who consume it, I can see how a reasonable and intelligent person could believe video games to be harmful. /shrug.

    Demonizing things is bad, mmkay?
    • But simplifying Wertham, or Thompson, for that matter, as an overzealous bigot looking to make a cheap buck off of popular hysteria is falling into the same trap you're accusing them of.

      You're right. It would be much more appropriate to simplify Thompson as yet another example of a reactionary who believes that his beliefs are "right" and is willing to fight for them without convincing evidence pointing in any particular direction.

      Demonizing things is bad, mmkay?

      Which is exactly the problem with Thom

    • "I'm not saying that video games cause violence. But, considering the strong evidence that media does influence the attitudes of the people who consume it, I can see how a reasonable and intelligent person could believe video games to be harmful."

      I like to think of myself as reasonable, but I find these constant excuses for a complete lack of moral and personal responsibility to be quite wearing. It's an 18 certificate game. Kids shouldn't have access to it, so where were the parents? Did they educate
    • Oh no it isn't. It isn't complex and nuanced at all. Wertham's work was horrible quackery that came along at the right time. Your assertion that "demonizing things is bad" is more or less the same as saying, "You know, Hitler's ideas about eugenics might not have been all bad. Let's all think about them before coming to snap judgements."

      Besides, "poor" Frederick Wertham was one of American history's most successful demagogues. This is like feeling sorry for the current "demonization" of the appalling

  • How far do we go? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheWanderingHermit ( 513872 ) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @10:03PM (#6927151)
    I've said, in many posts, that there are problems with violent video games and that my experience, when I used to work in social work, is that, no matter what proponents claim, they lead to violent behavior.

    But the idea of banning them is completely wrong.

    On the other hand, if someone makes games that are proven to lead to violent behavior, it seems victims would have as much right to sue the game companies as smokers who can't read warning labels on cigarettes have of suing tobacco companies.

    On the other hand, wouldn't it be really cool if everybody had the backbone to just accept responsibility for their own behavior and stop trying to blame others or big companies for it.
    • I've had a simular problem dealing with kids that play too much Tetris. Every time they see a falling block, they can't resist the urge to spin it around and then drop it onto the lowest spot in a stack...
    • I've said, in many posts, that there are problems with violent video games and that my experience, when I used to work in social work, is that, no matter what proponents claim, they lead to violent behavior.

      Okay so I've read through the posts you mentioned, hoping that perhaps you bothered to include some information backing up your claim. Here is the most substantial thing you've offered from what I have read:

      I worked with kids of all ages, usually in rough situations. I found, over and over, that

      • If you have gone through and read all my posts (and thank you, by the way, for taking the time to explore my comments), then it is likely I made the point in a few of them (although I'll agree I may not have) that we are not the best observers of our own behavior. If you can, go ask Charles Manson if he thinks he's unbalanced. How about Hinckley? Do you think he thought he was mentally ill and that his behavior was extreme or unhealthy when he made plans and shot a President?

        We are definately not the be
        • There is a big difference between observing children and teens professionally for 10 years and saying, "I was a kid or teen for 10 years, so I know everything about it."

          Please don't put quotes around that sentence as if that is literally what I said. :)

          I don't question that you know a great deal about kids and I respect your knowledge and experience. Neither do I claim to know more than you about this subject; that's just silly. I just don't think your experience automatically makes you right on thi

          • I'm not trying to convince you, I'm just supporting what I've said. It is clear you are strongly involved with gaming and trying to change the view of an avid gamer is not far from trying to change someone's religion or their political affilation.
            • If I could jump in here...
              It is clear you are strongly involved with gaming and trying to change the view of an avid gamer is not far from trying to change someone's religion or their political affilation.
              It is clear you are strongly involved with anti-video-game-violence advocacy and trying to change the view of an avid anti-video-game-violence advocate is not far from trying to change someone's religion or their political affiliation.
              • Yes and no. I am not as much anti-video-game-violence as I am of the feeling that it should be strongly and effectively kept from children and, yes, even teens. If you're of age and want to spend your time blowing people up, and that's how you blow off steam, go ahead.

                And as to being anti--violence, I am. I wasn't. In school nobody ever picked a 2nd fight with me. I was the small guy everybody thought they could pick on. In PE, when we had wrestling, people were amazed that I always won. Nobody talk
        • The problem is the method, not the skills involved in observation or anything else, really.

          As a social worker, regardless of how many years you spent doing it, there are a number of other conditions that come into play when it comes to you even observing a child in the first place (in a professional manner, that is). The only times I ever saw social workers or psychologists as a child were when I was having problems (namely, the judge ordered myself and my sister to see a social worker when my parents got
    • " matter what proponents claim, they lead to violent behavior."

      Wotta crock. The root of their violent behavior is probably because their parent's (or anyone they have a close connection with) abuse them physically or emotionally creating an unstable individual.

      I know dozens of people that have stable family lives, a good group of friends, and they play violent video games (mostly MOHAA or other war games) and they find games like GTA fun but obviously realize it's only a game and move on.

      I bet mos
    • People should teach there kids respect for other people. you can want to through people in front of trains when they are asses, but that would only hurt yourself, and the people that have to deal with you. If kids think they could be abusive becuase they can in vidio games, or whatever else you want to point your finger at. Somewhere we went wrong. we set a bad example. we should deal with our anger. just some other way. Hell, if we would go to the gym, instead of popping off at someone, there wouldnt be a
    • They lead to violent behaviour?

      That's interesting. I've been playing primarily violent videogames (fighters and shooters) between the levels of regularly and obsessively for ten years. Yet I'll let someone hit me twice without fighting back and I haven't raised a hand in anger in more than 15 years.

      Guess I'm just the lucky exception huh? Or maybe it's not the games, eh? Ever stop to think that violent kids may be attracted to violent games rather than games making kids violent?

      Your experience is limi
  • Is that my spotter calling out a new target? Why yes, yes it is. Just got to shift my sniper scope a little to the left. Not too far, SCO might not be dead yet.
  • In the meantime, should Thompson ever discover hentai games [], he will find that all his deepest worries about sex and violence have already come true--with tentacles.

    Someone please email him this URL :)

    Sure glad there are dickwad's like Thompson trying to protect me, I might do something stupid and like, turn the station if I dont like something.

  • Misplaced priorities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by El ( 94934 ) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @10:55PM (#6927411)
    Television contains hundreds of murders every night (and that's just the news!). Movies contain every more graphic depictions of violence. These reach a much larger audience, but I don't see anybody trying to hold the television of movie industry liable for violence. Better lobbyists? And by the way, the Talmud, Bible, and Koran contain graphic descriptions of adultery, rape and murder... shouldn't they be censored before they give those avid bible-readers any more ideas?
    • It's not that other media have better lobbyists (they do), rather it's because they have both age and previous court decisions and laws supporting them as being protected by the 1st amendment. Because video games (specifically, video games with increasingly realistic depictions) are a relatively new popular phenomenon they're an easier target. People who play video games (apart from solitaire and the like) are still a relatively small percentage of the population and the demographic skews very young - and
    • "the Talmud, Bible, and Koran contain graphic descriptions of adultery, rape and murder"

      I don't know about the Talmud or the Koran, I'm just talking Bible here, but I can't recall any graphic descriptions of adultery or rape. It's mentioned often enough, but "Adam lay with her" is about as graphic as it gets. No, too hot!

      Now violence, violence I'll give you. Gotta love the sword being swallowed by the fat man's gut in Judges. Adultery is mentioned quite a bit, rape less so, but neither are particularly
      • Rated M for Moses (Score:3, Informative)

        by CdotZinger ( 86269 )

        The Talmud contains a lot of strange, "dirty," and bloody stories. There are some which now would be called "horror" stories, with G-d as the "bad guy" (some of which are actually scary, in a startling, slasher-movie way). But since almost no one outside of rabbinical schools reads it, no one gets too worked up about it. You could make a pretty faithful religious-educational survival-horror/"Grand Theft Torah" game starring Akiba (though if you did, the ADL would undoubtedly spend millions to ruin your life
    • Good point -- maybe Movies and TV need better violence and 'sexually explicit' warnings and policing.
      Can't argue with that. I'm all for better censorship across the board. Standards ahve gotten a little too low for my liking.

      On the Bible/Talmud/Koran depicting murder, rape and adultery. 'Tis true, BUT calling it graphic is a stretch... The Bible never tries to 'tabboo' a subject.. it speaks of things openly and God is always interested in showing the reader the right way to do things..

      wouldn't work too we
  • Every video game should come with a simple picture, doesn't have to be too large, of some breasts. Like this one []. Doesn't have to be too racy, but it should be prominent on the front and back cover of the box, and on the startup screen for the game.

    That ought to make it crystal clear to everyone concerned that SOME GAMES ARE NOT FOR KIDS. And if you're a parent who would give a game to your kid with a photograph of a nude woman right on the box, then you're a sucky parent who doesn't have the right to sue
  • What do you call 15,000 anti-games lawyers in the bottom of the ocean?

    A good start.
  • Because they're full of frothy, liquid shit...that's why. And this guy is no different, I'm sure.

    I really want to know when this whole idea started that the government (in particular, the federal government) is responsible for your personal well-being? When the US was founded, the whole idea was to keep the government weak so that individuals could live as they please, and you wouldn't have lawyers and politicians running the show behind the scenes. That's why the Bill of Rights is a list of things the gov
    • Interesting, but part of the foundation of the government is promote the welfare of it's people and defend them.

      How aggressive should it be in achieving these goals? That's a matter for interpretation. The government has always been involved in your personal well being.

      And no, the point wasn't to keep the government super weak. A key observation is that the Bill of Rights was a compromise. Some thought the constitution didn't explicitly protect enough rights. In order to get the const. ratified, founders
  • They think taking away kids violent games is gonna help? More likley it will just make them more angry they dont have their games and they will take it out on other people... YEAH!!! Thats the solution! Go buy a shotgun and blow up some people instead of playing quake... Wonderful....
  • ...!= real life violence. frankly i have more concern over those kids who start paintballing at -+10 than those who start playing Quake at the same age. Simple reasoning, if a kid handles a gun, he will naturally become adept as using said weapon, and it would nly take a momentray lapse in judgement for said kid to point a loaded paintball gun not at a player wearing protective gear to an unprotcted bystander's cranium at near point-blank. The quake junkie, on the other hand, will have lightning quick ref
  • Jack Thompson is right. All killing sprees are caused by video games. Therefore Lizzie Borden must've either traveled in time or had a time traveller visit her so that she could log in 200 to 400 hours on Quake to numb her ethical reasoning power. Then, because she was exposed to so much on-screen violence, she killed her parents. I have to find this time traveler so we can introduce video games to the Spaniards before the inquisition.
  • Honestly. Trying to sue a game company for something like that is like accusing a mother for the murder of her teenage daughter who commited suicide right after she got mad at her for doing some little thing that she [her daughter] did all the time. I hate it when people try to slander videogames when someone does something stupid after playing them.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle