He wasn't on hand to testify and his name wasn't mentioned, but the influence of disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson was apparent in yesterday's meeting of the Business and Labor Committee of the Utah House of Representatives.
By a 10-3 vote, committee members approved H.B. 353, a bill drafted by Thompson and sponsored by Rep. Mike Morley. The measure targets the video game and film industries by amending Utah's current Truth in Advertising law. Retailers and movie theaters which advertise that they don't sell M-rated games or R-rated movie tickets to underage buyers and then do so would be liable for fines of $2,000 per incident.
Those testifying on behalf of the bill included Alan Osmond, the most senior of the Osmond Brothers vocal group and Gayle Ruzicka, the politically powerful head of the ultra-conservative Utah Eagle Forum.
For his part, Osmond, read into the record verbatim passages from an e-mail circulated earlier yesterday by Thompson. Osmond, however, did not identify Thompson as the author:
This link shows a montage of sex scenes from the Grand Theft Auto IV game which has been sold and is presently being sold at BestBuy.com, WalMart.com, Target.com, GameStop.com, and at other retailers’ sites, with no age verification whatsoever.
As you can see, there are graphically depicted lap dances in a “gentleman’s club” in this game, including simulation of oral/anal sexual intercourse between women. The hero in the game then has intercourse, clearly depicted... The hero then kills the woman by gunfire and running her over with his car.
Now that’s entertainment...
Utah must do something about these major retailers who are flat-out lying to the public when they assert they are not selling this and other similar pornographic “games” to kids when in fact they are...
Conservative power broker Gayle Ruzicka also testified on behalf of the bill with a Thompson-esque flavor, mentioning Devin Moore, the GTA-playing Alabama teen who murdered three police officers in 2004. Thompson, representing the officers' families, subsequently brought suit against Rockstar Games, Sony and others before being thrown off the case by an Alabama judge for professional conduct violations in November, 2005.
For those familiar with Thompson's anti-GTA crusade, Ruzicka's testimony had a familiar tone:
These [games] are the kind of things that are training our children. This is the vile stuff. The Grand Theft Auto games are cop-killing murder simulators. And when [Devin Moore] was faced with being arrested he knew exactly what to do. He knew how to aim... at the head and each time killed these [officers]. We don't want this for our children. Not at all. Please, please vote yes today on this bill.
Anything we can do to protect our children from the violence, from the filthy pornography that the only way they can get into the pornography is being good at the game. They work hard and get to certain levels and when they get to the high enough levels then they get into the pornography - filthy, vile stuff that you would be appalled and never want your children to see. And then as a reward, they get to kill the women...
Dick Cornell of the Utah Association of Theater Owners was among those who testified against the bill:
Theater owners have taken pride in enforcing [MPAA] ratings... There isn't any forgiveness in this [bill] for an intent by someone else to deceive us, so we would be penalized for that...
One thing that we're very susceptible for in this legislation is that we would be penalized if there was a ticket purchase over... online or on the ticket kiosk. Because as soon as that purchase was made... we would be in violation of this law... We know of some theaters here in Utah that 40% of the ticket sales are done through a kiosk or online purchases... We have theaters that will on the weekend pull in 10,000 people of a Saturday. The chances of exceeding this [bill's] limit, it's possible, even though our intent to keep the kids out.
This bill really discourages compliance with our voluntary system. The only protection that we would have if this passes is to not follow the enforcement rules... And we don't want to do that...
Oddly enough, Rep. Morley said that it was not his intent to have the proposal apply to movie tickets, although the language of the measure would seem to encompass theaters.
HB 353 will now move on to the full Utah House for consideration.
AUDIO FILE: Listen as the committee considers the bill (53mb, 58 mins, mp3).