Netherlands Minister Proposes Ban on Violent Imagery (Update)

GP denizen PHX Corp pointed us towards a Netherlands petition started in reaction to positioning from the Dutch Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin (pictured), which indicated that Ballin is seeking criminal prohibition of extremely violent imagery, including videogames.

Ballin seemed to specifically focus on games in his proposed banning, according to an article from Dutch gaming site Bashers (translated). In a letter to the house, Ballin, who intimated that banning violent games would be easier—and draw less resistance— than banning violent movies, wrote (bad translation, sorry):

As in games, unlike movies, no possibilities to identify with other than the aggressor, the player often continuously involved in the violent action and some games more realistic and detailed in the portrayal of violence, lies in the speech any criminal prohibition on the dissemination of certain forms of harm to children confined to these images to computer and video games.

There’s one problem though. According to the site Control (translated), many of Ballin’s ideas in his letter were based on a 2007 book called Media Violence and Children from author Peter Nikken. Nikken told the publication that he found it “strange” that the Minister would say that “games would be worse than movies.” He accused Ballin of using some of his book’s quotes for impact, while shedding other “nuances.”

Nikken added:

I see no salvation in the banning of games. We already have laws which prohibit child pornography and inciting hatred There is no need for additional legislation. I believe there is no reason why games harder to tackle than films is currently in the Netherlands Online films and PEGI.

Gamers appear to have a friend in MP Tofik Dibi, who posed some challenging written questions for Ballin, which also appeared in a Control article (translated). Among his inquiries to the Minister of Justice were:

Is not it a much better idea for your efforts to stop yet another ban and your efforts to focus on empowering children and young people through media education?

What exactly do you mean by your statement that "less resistance" would be against banning a game than against a ban on extremely violent movies?

At the time this article was written, the Stop the Burning Book 2.0 petition (translated) had garnered 2,301 signatures.

Update: We always worry that something gets lost in translation when it comes to foreign stories.

A Dutch reader wrote in to say that our article was not correct and that Ballin wants a ban to apply to games “which are completely or mostly extremely violent" and which "glamorize" or "injure human dignity.”

As the reader noted, this would not ban all violent games across the board, but would be subjective, and result in only a small handful of games being banned, much like what was being proposed in Switzerland recently.

Sorry, but we happen to think that there’s no such a thing as "a little" censorship.

In better news, the Dutch reader also said such legislation would never pass, citing a Socialist Party member as telling him directly that “I wouldn’t be worried about it. A ban is not going to happen.”

Our friend reassured us that, “all in all, no reason to be worried.”

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  1. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    Yes. Pim Fortuyn got a pie tossed in his face after all. No way the ‘politically correct’ CDA party would let such imagery slide, they’d hate to be labelled as murderers.

  2. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    Hirch Ballin is a part of the ‘Christian Democratic Appeal’, a party that heavily lost seats at the last elections after 8 years of delivering the same Prime Minister (whose 3 governments all fell). With just 21 seats left of their original 41, they themselves have little influence over getting such a law approved. They’d need to get quite a bit of support for it, so chances this gets through is pretty minimalistic.

  3. 0
    Bennett Beeny says:

    I wonder if they’ll go after TV news organizations too? After all, that’s really where the most realistic violent imagery is seen (except in the US, where it’s mostly filtered out).

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