Regulating Violence

Is the regulation of violence in video/computer games censorship? Or is it a question of protecting the innocent? Naturally paternalism in all forms includes a “pappa knows best” attitude however there are cases of censorship/control/paternalism which we can accept and other forms which we tend to react against.

The forms of Internet censorship (more here) displayed by states such as China and Saudi Arabia are usually criticized as forms of censorship unacceptable in democratic societies while they themselves argue the need to protect their cultures and citizens against the corrupting influences online. It is, it may seem, a question of perspectives.

Then what of the regulation of violent computer games? Are computer games supposed to be seen as forms of speech to be protected? Or are we on a dangerous slippery slope when we start excluding forms of speech? The New York Times has an article showing that the US courts tend to find laws against computer game unconstitutional.

Considering the US approach to Free Expression this is not surprising. The European approach – in particular the French, German and Scandinavian models could not be as clear cut in this question. This only means that the US is against censorship and feels the cost of this decision is worth it, while many other jurisdictions feel that the damage caused by this extreme acceptance of free expression may cause discomfort and hardship to individuals and groups beyond the eventual benefits of the speech.

The ever eloquent Judge Posner is quoted in the article:

“Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low,” he wrote. “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.”

The problem is that there is often great value (moral rather than economic) in quixotic pursuits and the practice of subjecting people to hardships in order to prepare them for eventual future hardships is really only useful in military training and never a satisfactory way of raising children.

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