Call it a media Jacklash.
Perhaps surprisingly, mainstream media outlets are pushing back against game-hatin' attorney Jack Thompson's claims that a video game provoked Monday's horrific Virginia Tech rampage.
GamePolitics readers may recall that the gruesome task of counting the VTU dead wasn't even complete on Monday before Thompson began pushing his usual agenda: violent video games were behind the massacre.
Here at GamePolitics we received an e-mail from Thompson at 12:32 P.M. that said, "gamer, obviously." That's not unusal. We've gotten a number of such messages from the controversial attorney in relation to acts of violence, often as they are unfolding.
By 3:00 P.M. on Monday Thompson had managed to get air time on Fox News. Anchorman Bill Hemmer referred to Thompson several times as a "school shooting expert," let him go on at length about his video game theories as though they were fact, and posed no challenging questions.
A Washington Post article which appeared on Tuesday reported that Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung Hui was a fan of violent games, Counter-strike in particular. Thompson, who had predicted that the killer "likely rehearsed on mass murder video games," had specified Counter-strike in his Fox appearance. He immediately seized on the Post story, citing it in an accusatory e-mail directed to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and circulated to media outlets.
But the wheels started coming off Thompson's agenda-driven bus on Wednesday afternoon. That's when Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball program basically shut Thompson down, telling him on national T.V. that his video game claims were nothing more than theory, and not well-supported theory at that.
By Friday, Thompson was noticing what game sites like Kotaku had already picked up on: that the Washington Post had pulled the Counter-strike reference from its profile of the killer. Thompson immediately accused the Post of a cover-up, despite ombudsman Barbara Howell's explanation, which we received from Thompson via e-mail:
Mr. Thompson, what you saw was an early version of a story. It was replaced later by more reporting. Several reporters did look at the video game part and concluded that it wasn't important enough in the whole thing to include.
What the Post saw as good journalistic practice, Thompson painted as a vast liberal conspiracy:
The news media are increasingly owned by entertainment companies. Liberals who infest both worlds don’t want you to think that adult-rated entertainment, containing violence and sex, has any behavioral consequences...
But the Washington Post is not owned by an entertainment company. It is owned by the Washington Post Company, which describes itself as a "diversified media and education company." Its subsidiaries are neither video game nor entertainment companies.
And then on Friday, a lengthy article on MSNBC probed Thompson's claims in some detail:
Video games. They were to blame for the dozens dead and wounded. They were behind the bloodiest massacre in U.S. history.
Or so Jack Thompson told Fox News and, in the days that followed, would continue to tell anyone who'd listen.
Reporter Winda Benedetti, who wrote the MSNBC piece, got reaction to the idea that games provoked the massacre from Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA):
It's so sad. These massacre chasers — they're worse than ambulance chasers — they're waiting for these things to happen so they can jump on their soapbox.