VA Tech Panel Witness: Violent Games Should Be Banned Like Heroin

May 20, 2007 -
Should violent games be banned like the illegal and addictive narcotic heroin?

That suggestion was made recently to the Virginia Tech Review Panel, an elite commission appointed by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to study the April 16th school shooting rampage committed by madman Cho Seung-Hui.

The panel, composed of a variety of experts and specialists as well as former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, held its first public meeting in Richmond on May 10th. Among those testifying was Don Phau, a member of former fringe presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche's political action committee.

Much has been written about LaRouche and his movement over the years, but little of that material is germane to GamePolitics' editorial focus. Phau's testimony before the VT Review Panel, however, is something that merits a look.

Speaking near the end of the May 10th hearing, Phau began by recounting Miami attorney Jack Thompson's claims that Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui was motivated to commit the killings by playing Counter-strike. Phau also mentioned the Washington Post's initial report that Cho played the game, a reference that was later deleted by the newspaper.

Like Thompson, Phau also cited the 2002 Erfurt school shooting and the killer's play of Counter-strike. In addition, Phau referenced game violence critic David Grossman and his writings about video game violence. In speaking about first-person shooter games, Phau said:
[FPS games] were developed after the Vietnam War... But the video game industry in the year 2000... when we had the Y2K phenomenon, the video game industry decided to make a  lot of money. They developed the first-person shooter games and Counter-strike was developed by Microsoft.

GP: There's a good bit of misinformation packed into that paragraph. It's true that FPS games were developed after the Vietnam War - about 20 years after - with id Software's 1992 release of Wolfenstein 3-D. At the same time Phau seems to be saying that the FPS genre was created in 2000, which is obviously incorrect.

Nor did Microsoft develop Counter-strike, as Phau states, although an Xbox version was published under the MS label in 2003. This misinformation was also put forth by Thompson around the time of the Virginia Tech massacre.

Phau also seems to be drawing on Grossman's frequent assertion that FPS games are used by the military to break down recruits' inhibition to kill. However a recent book by ABC news reporter John Stossel disputes Grossman's claim.

Phau continued:
These games, I propose, should be banned. The same way you cannot buy heroin; the same way you cannot be a 16-year-old and buy pornography.

Phau also incorrectly cites statistics on the ability of underage buyers to purchase M-rated games: 
82% of games rated M... 82% of kids can buy these games. You can go to Wal-mart. You can go to Best Buy and buy them.

Actually, due to increased retail ratings enforcement efforts, the most recent (April, 2007) figure from the Federal Trade Commission is 42%. It was 85% in the year 2000 and 78% in 2001, which is what Phau may be referring to.

GP readers can watch a video of Phau's testimony before the Virginia Tech Review Panel on the C-SPAN website (skip ahead to 3:26:30 for Phau). If you'd just like to hear the audio, GamePolitics has created a six-minute mp3 of Phau's testimony. 

The LaRouche camp touts Phau's appearance before the panel on its website, echoing his call to ban violent games. Among other projects listed on the site is one entitled Destroy Al Gore. Readers will also find The Cheneyites and the Killer-Trainer Lobby, a lengthy article that sees collusion between the government and the video game industry in just about every corner.

In regard to the LaRouche material, it's hard to miss the group's overlap in ideas with those of Jack Thompson. GamePolitics recently asked the anti-game attorney if he was working with the LaRouche team on video game issues. His terse answer:
I have nothing to do with LaRouche's people.

Comments

@ Tommy Westerman

Are you serious?

Another "expert", another day.

Moot point, but Wolfenstein 3D wasn't the first FPS, Marathon for the Mac was. Wolfenstein was just the first major FPS.

well if your serious you can write and overnight the letter you write to the below address and maybe just maybe our voice would be heard. I would write it myself but I would be very sarcastic. If someone wants to write and take comments from us I think that would be better?


Panel Mailing Address:

Virginia Tech Review Panel
P.O. Box 12337
Arlington, VA 22219-2337

The Vietnam comment was hilarious! First Person Shooters were invented after the Veitnam war? No shit sherlock!

Also...did you know that Fighting games were invented after The French Revolution?

look like jt hes just trying to ride this to a paycheck

This is why misinformation can be so amusing. When one massacre chaser spouts something so egregiously wrong, and others repeat the same misinformation, you can easily follow the trail of lies. It is also trivial to ascertain the intelligence and zeal of the individual repeating such facts.

... and coming from someone named "ooftygoofty," that says A LOT!

"I urge the panel to look into these games"

Funny i think you should do the same, and by that matter you should look into the facts of all the words that you just said, since none of them make sence.

I find it funny that even Jack Thompson doesn't want to be involved, or at least is not affiliated with these people.

YAY for them damaging themselfs.

prehaps idiots and vote panderers should be baned to that would really efftct society not pretending playing cops and robbers(imaginary play/video games) make people robbers and cop shooters.

"[FPS games] were developed after the Vietnam War… But the video game industry in the year 2000… when we had the Y2K phenomenon, the video game industry decided to make a lot of money. They developed the first-person shooter games and Counter-strike was developed by Microsoft."

WTF
I can see you bitching about "neo" culture in the Y2K rant however culture evolves and dissmising advancement in media is akin to the whole books are bad of the middle ages.

As for FPSs begin made after Vietnam stop the presses...look at the tech of the time and then tell me THEY COULD MAKE IT....FPS's or FP for that matter didn't really come about till the late 80s and most of that was in arcades ,get your house in order before you gather up info slop it togather and spout nonsense.

Someone needs to go there and give them the facts.

this guy must be as stupid as jack thompson or something,you cant just ban video games, that bastard probably doesnt even know what the first amendment is

If ignorance of this level were only an offense that came with the death penalty, we'd all be much happier.

I have literally no respect for any supporter of Larouche. Have you ever talked to these guys about ANYTHING? They're hardcore conspiracy theorists, and nothing they say or do makes any sense.

@Brother Darqness

these people will never get what they are pushing for. an outright ban of ALL violent games, so even adults cant get them is absolutly insane and as dumb as some politicans are, i doubt any laws that would do that will ever get past or even get considered. as annoying as he is, thompson is more for restricting violent games from minors, which is something i could under stand in *some* cases but its his tactics and behavior i dont like.

this sort of heat has happened to almost ever form of media out there before, music, tv, movies, you name, they probably have been through it. sure there are a few rocky moments but in the end, the 1st amendment beats all. we dont need to fear these people and try and pile them with lawsuits to hurt them back. they are doing the damage to themselves when it is revealed sooner or later than video games are nothing more than entertainment, not "murder simulators".

the 14th amendment will ensure that violent movies, TV shows including news reports, and books including the Bible will also be banned. Either Phau/Faux/Foe fails, or there will be a lot of "population control" due to christians being offended that their sacred book is banned.

@ Voodoo

Yes, but vilolent videogames can't exactly be grown in our garden shed, unfortunately.

@ Brother Darqness

The idea of a class action lawsuit against the anti-gamers was floated beofre in the past, specifically when contemplating one against Thompson. It was a good idea until some people said it would be difficult to bring one unless a clear case of libel or slander could be proven. So any talk of such a suit was abandoned when it looked like we wouldn't have a leg to stand on in court.

If your fiance's family lawyer is aware of some sort of clause that we weren't before, then hey, I'm all for it! There are a lot of people here would would love to do on their own time what the ESA and ESRB so far haven't been either able or willing to do; that is take these bastards to court and publicly discredit them. If it's possible, then I say go for it.

We gamers have to take action now if we wanna change this crap. Besides, banning drugs only made the problem a lot worse, what good do they think banning video games can do?

@jonc2006

In that case, children can sometimes have access to tobacco, alcohol and the keys to their parents cars. All of which are fairly illegal for children to make use of. Guess it's time for the US to outlaw all those, as well!

Lol, I love how in the picture the guy sitting behind Phau is going /faceinpalm.

Ok everyone...this is information I just got from my fiance's family lawyer. We 'gamers' actually have the right to have a class action lawsuit against the lies and slander of the facts. The point of the news media and the "experts" is the give us the cold hard facts with no spin and no taking sides. With people that Phau saying what they say and having it recorded means we may have something.

This is something I haven't thought of before honestly but while griping to him about the crap video games are getting and even more the people that play and make them he suggested that. If this is true someone let me know.

I'm sick of the crap we're getting.

Wow... Now the Larouche nutjobs are in on this.

"I have nothing to do with LaRouche’s people."

That's the smartest thing you've said in a while Jack. Believe it or not, but I thik the Larouche people are crazier than Thompson. Distancing himself from them is smart. I do think it's funny that these crazy people really happen to like Jack's ideas. Why does it always seem like Jack gets the most support from people who don't know what they're talking about?

Scientology, Larouche people, Jack, all of this country's nonsense seems to be floating to the top because of v-tech. I wish we could just skip this.

LaRoucebags are really annoying, they are basically a cult that brainwashes people. It is impossible to have a reasonable discussion with these people.

This guy is a bunghole.

Ya know, eventually someons going to have to stand up to these people and give them the SWIFT KICK of TRUTH!

...seriously.

@daniel.

yeah. even adults. he wants violent games to be illegal and wiped from existance.

Wow, another person completely out of his element runs his mouth about something he knows absolutely nothing about.

It does get really annoying and boring saying the same thing over and over again.

Don Faux is an idiot, plain and simple.

So does he want violent games banned from everyone even adults?

Wow I just don't even know where to begin. From Vietnam to the year 2000 in what not even a full sentence?

He should be removed from the proceedings for incompetence and whoever decided that he should be allowed to speak should also be removed on the same grounds.

@neolight

hell.

The guy used horrificly poor information and didn't use facts earlier than 2001. How the heck did Phau get appointed to this job? He's clearly getting paid too much.

This is probably the most aggrivating article i've ever read. Where do these people come from?

Why are they calling LaRouche's looneys to testify? There are several other errors no one has pointed out yet. One is we didn't have the Y2K phenomenon in 2000. That was 1999. On January 1st when the lights stayed on, people realized it was mostly hype.

Two: Full Spectrum Command is not a 1st-person shooter. You could respond that it's a 3rd-person shooter and the difference isn't really important for these purposes, but that would also be incorrect. You do not have direct controller over a character. You do not shoot anyone. You give orders to AI-controlled soldiers. It is, after all, meant to train people for command, not for shooting people. It's a real-time strategy game.

ohh for those who want to debate Don:

CONTACT DON PHAU-- CALL 703 771-8490

not sure if it works but it was on the net

This is coming from this guy who

"years imprisonment in 1988 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations, but continued his political activities from behind bars until his release in 1994 on parole."

and you want to say games are bad....looks like money is on your mind

"Those for forget their history are doomed to repeat it."

And honestly, these, ahem, "gentleman" have forgotten Columbine and the Robida cases a long time ago as well as the cases against rock and roll and rap, as this is the same crap as before.

@BlueWolf72: Hilarity ensues!

i dont think jack has anything to do with this nutcase either, both have different ideas about what to do. this guy wants to outright ban violent games altogether, even adults would not be able to play them. jack on the other hand seems to want much tougher laws that to keep violent games being sold and out of reach from minors, and is constantly pushing retailers to enforce the rating system.

i know jack tried to stop the sale of bully and so forth but that was just one game, he hasnt tried to ban every FPS out there unlike what this guy is ranting about. im not supporting or defending thompson in any way, but i see a clear difference between their thinking.

ok, so i flipped around the VTRP website and saw they had a comment portion. i listened to Phau's insanity and felt the need to add a comment.

if you agree with what i say, i urge you to cut/paste, modify, write your own comments to the VTRP.

-------------------------------------
VTRP,

it has recently come to my attention that you allowed Don Phau to "testify" before you. while Mr. Phau's commentary might be shocking, you NEED to know that it was also full of inconsistancies, untruths, incorrect "facts," and what may even be outright lies.

We do not need to further slip into an authoritarian state that blindly blames what it does not understand. We do not need to sully the Constitution. Mr. Phau, Jack Thompson, and David Grossman want to scare you. They want to frighten you into giving up civil liberties in order to be "safe."

What they don't want is for the perpetrators of heinous acts to be held responsible for their own actions. What they don't want is for you to know the truth. Do not let them blind you, please.
-------------------------------------

I don't believe that Jack's got anything to do with this. I think he's still licking the wounds inflicted by Chris Matthews. He's also contending with lawsuits from the Florida Bar, and he also faces possible disbarment so I think he's going to lay low for a while.

Other than that, Don Phau is poor man's Jack Thompson. It almost seems like he tried to copy Thompson and Grossman word for word, and he can't even do that. (1) Phau sounds a little like Rep. Roy Burrell during the hearing in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Phau seems incapable of speaking clearly and efficiently. His speech reminds me of Woody Allen actually. Unfortunately for Phau, he doesn't seem to have a future in comedy. Phau also seems unable (or simply does not know) to pronounce the shooter's name. It's Cho Seung-Hui, not Sing-Hui. I also find it comedic that his only relevant link is that Cho used a Glock which is also available for use on Counter-Strike. I wonder how many hundreds of movies and books have used Glock (really quite a popular pistol actually). I don't think Phau presents a danger because his facts and links are laughable at best.

I would also like to mention that the only "training program" given to soldiers was "Full Spectrum Command". Not only that, but "Full Spectrum Command" was only test-run by a select group of officers at Fort Benning in order to the test the tactical proficiency that could be gained by introducing a modern training program. "Full Spectrum Command" was designed by the Institute of Creative Technologies in order to teach strategy, not desensitization.
To sum things up, "Full Spectrum Command" does not destroy inhibitions towards killing, it was never intended or provided to ground infantry, and was never released on a large scale to the military.

If you guys ever run into some trouble about this BS notion that the military uses games to "deactivate" violence inhibitions, there's your lifeline.

(1) If you listen to the MP3 file (3:25), Phau states that that "killing simulators" were developed after the Vietnam War. Grossman/Thompson usually state that more violent training methods were developed during the Korean War.

Heh. Ironically, I wrote an article last night that coincides with my opinion on this.

http://www.kobrasrealm.net/kobra/misc/game-critics.php if you're interested.

Perhaps Mr. Gallagher can be the game industry's Dee Snider.

That being said, these commies don't stand a chance.

I'll bet that Kaine and the others were wondering the same thing I was: "Who let this guy in the room and how did he manage to get an invitation?"

Why would they allow someone who is part of what is at best considered a fringe political movement and at worst a cult, and allow them to speak which would in effect give them an air of legitimacy I have no idea.

"[FPS games] were developed after the Vietnam War… But the video game industry in the year 2000… when we had the Y2K phenomenon, the video game industry decided to make a lot of money. They developed the first-person shooter games and Counter-strike was developed by Microsoft."

Wow. That reads like spam generated using Markov chaining from a Jack Thomspon rpess relase. I bet if you click it you'll be taken to a site where you can buy counterfeit Cialis.

It is a shame that some people continue to take advantage of the massacre to push their personal and political agendas, even when it is proven that Cho did not have videogames in his dorm. I hope that somebody will be able to expose their remorseless opportunism.

This really bothers me. A lot. I wish there was some way to have a fact checker present when these people testify. HE'S ON C-SPAN. It absolutely sickens me that people are allowed to testify before a government body and just spray lies and distorted truths out of their heads the whole time. I think there should be a version of perjury for legislators and people who testify before legislative committees.
 
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