US Supreme Courts come and go – some take on names: the
Warren Court; the Burger Court; some are remembered for their role in the 2000
election, some for their more recent role in the Citizens United case, which cleared the way for infinite amounts of
corporate and union money to find its way into political coffers, both large
and small.  Anybody who says they know
where and how all of the loose ends of that last one will tie up, is kidding
you . . .

But, we learned last week, in the process of the Supremes’
announced June decisions – I call them the Supremes with no disrespect
intended; Motown hits still play in my head decades after Diana Ross and the
Girls’ heyday; nor did I make up the name – that the First Amendment has a few
new twists and turns that nobody in particular really contemplated. 

Or, perhaps it is me who was caught napping. 

In reversing a healthy percentage of the Federal Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decisions (something over 70% this year;
nothing special, really), the Supremes reminded us all who it is that has the
last word. Including in the reversals was California’s criminal law against
peddling violent and gory video games to children (the under-eighteen crowd).

Yes, we learned in last week’s jurisprudence lesson from the
Supremes that we need to shield children from sex in all the wrong places,
including in video games. However, the same shielding of our children is not
necessary when it comes to just good ‘ol blood & guts, gore, and
meaningless violence, splashed endlessly across your kids’ video screens.  I’m not worried because my two kids are 25
and 28, with their childhoods now rapidly receding in the rear view
mirror;  but, for those of you with kids
under 18 who might enjoy a video game or two, First Amendment protections, of
course, notwithstanding, you may see this differently.

Justice Scalia obviously had fun writing his opinion, as one
suspects that he usually does. 
Violence?  Our kids are exposed to
all kinds of mindless and meaningless violence, said he, in everything from
Dante’s Inferno to the old Nursery Rhymes that we all enjoyed.  You know the ones, about baking people inside
great pies, knocking giant eggs off their perches, and wolves dressed up as all
kinds of things.  Just good old family
mayhem – bear families, eating porridge, and the like.

Back in the sixties, Lenny Bruce asked why it was OK for
kids to be able to go to the movies and see violence, but not sex?  In an NY Times
nearly 50 years later last February, "The Closing of the American
Erotic," the author, a critic, noted that there are far more movies rated for
violence in today’s world than for sex: 
"More than half
of the mostly American titles that received R ratings last year contained some
kind of violence (as in strong, bloody and ‘grisly bloody violence and
torture’) while only a third had sexual content."

with younger children than mine, let’s do a quick thought exercise here: would
you rather that your children, when they grown up, have satisfying sex lives or
that they become great warriors, excelling in over the top violence? 


question?  Yes, it is.  We can all agree without much thought that a
good healthy sex life should be a goal for any normally inclined child’s adult
life.  But, how much real violence would
we like our children to have to live through in their adult lives?  I’m almost 62, and I have yet to kill
anybody. However, I played my part in helping make two great, grown-up adults!

this duality, which the Supremes have now injected in the name of the First
Amendment to somehow justify de-criminalizing transactions in seriously violent
and gory video games, make you uncomfortable when you stop and think about it?


you have never played the really gory, violent video games, the ones where you
can literally chop people, or zombies, or Angry Birds, into smithereens, then
you are reading this at a considerable handicap. 

don’t get me wrong, as I have said here before, you would have to look far and
wide to find a greater proponent of First Amendment Free Speech than yours truly,
your humble author.  I don’t believe in
censorship, plain and simple, but, I believe that ‘yelling fire in a crowded
theater’ is not an exercise of free speech, but rather, one of violence – get

actually make that distinction in the jurisprudence, which has developed around
what is, and what is not, free speech. When an act of communication becomes an
act of violence, we must ask how far communication can stretch before it
becomes violence.  That is why there are
laws against Hate Speech, burning crosses on lawns, carving Swastika’s on
synagogues, that sort of thing.

is even more confusing though because now we have re-drawn one line to protect
children from adult depictions of sex until they too are adults. I won’t even
comment on how the parents who lock up their computers so their pre-teen sons
won’t find out how much porn there is in cyberspace usually drive their
pre-teens to find friends with more liberal parents and unlocked computers;
that is for them to find out. 

now, we have another line, which is inconsistent with the first line we drew,
when it comes to whether or not you want your 10-year old to work out his
frustrations up in his room after school slaughtering humans, zombies, birds,
whatever, right there on their computer screen – hundreds of them; even though
this is not exactly the kind of adult-life-training you had in mind for them.

games sell more billions of copies than music and movies combined.  Kids play them for hours and hours and hours
– some of the really involved ones can literally play on levels for 10’s and
20’s of hours.  And, unless your kid is
going to be a jet fighter pilot when he or she grows up, the extensive video
training they get blowing up, slashing, and exploding, won’t be much good for
much of anything in adult life.  I hope.