Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

February 1, 2011 -

An excellent editorial appearing in the February 2011 issue of Reason Magazine explains quite plainly why it is ridiculous that California is fighting for the 2005 law written by Leland Yee and signed into law by then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Writer Jacob Sullum starts the article by pointing out the irony of Arnold signing into a law a bill that bans violent media.

This from the same guy who starred in movies like Eraser, Commando, Terminator 1 and 2, End of Days, Last Action Hero, Predator, Total Recall, The 6th Day, and many more. Most recently, he did a cameo in The Expendables - an ultra violent action movie starring an all-star cast of aging action stars.

I certainly don't begrudge Arnold for making a living, but the bulk of his career was spent making gratuitously violent movies - some of which spawned video games - and yet he signs into law a bill that punishes other artists.

The article then goes on to discuss why this law is flawed to its core:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in violent movies that have inspired several violent video games, nevertheless argued that the Court should uphold the law (which he proudly signed) by extending the logic of a 1968 decision that allowed states to impose age restrictions on sales of pornography. But that ruling was based on the obscenity doctrine, which holds that certain kinds of sexual material are beyond the scope of the First Amendment even for adults.

The Court has never taken such a position with respect to violence. Furthermore, as two industry groups note in their challenge to California’s law, “Depictions of violence, unlike obscenity, have played a longstanding and celebrated role in expression properly consumed by minors, from Greek myths to the Bible to Star Wars and Harry Potter.”

 

Although California’s law applies only to video games, the principle espoused by its defenders would authorize censorship of other media as well—a point that several justices made in their questions during oral arguments. “Some of the Grimms’ fairy tales are quite grim,” noted Antonin Scalia. “Are you going to ban them too?” Ruth Bader Ginsburg had similar concerns. “What about films?” she asked. “What about comic books?” In light of research indicting cartoon violence, Sonia Sotomayor wondered, “can the legislature…outlaw Bugs Bunny?”

The government's lawyers have always had a difficult time explaining why violence is an exception to this specific medium and not others like books, movies, and even comic books. Are games really more excessively violent than movies like Saw or The Last House on the Left? And hasn't the FTC said that the video game industry has a better record of turning under-age kids away from product, when compared to movies and music?

The article closes with this important gem:

Despite the far-reaching implications of the constitutional license California seeks, it complains that it cannot reasonably be expected to supply “empirical proof of how expressive material impacts such nebulous concepts as one’s ethics or morals.” It could avoid this problem if it stopped using such nebulous concepts to justify censorship.

Truer words have never been spoken. Read the rest here, even if you don't subscribe to Reason's other political views.


Comments

Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

Okay, shut up about Arnold and his violent movie link. It's beating a dead horse to death and is it really helping the situation? We should focus dealing with the situation now, stopping this law from coming into effect. I'm sure a lot of people will jump on me for this, but come on, let's be constructive here.

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Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

I don't know. I think it is a valid issue to bring up. Hollywood itself has made large chunks of its money on the production and sale of violent films. Arnold is really just a poster boy for that ideal.

The question itself is valid, why is it okay for these other industries to produce violent content but not the games industry. You could make a violent movie and not be accused of marketing it to minors. You could make a violent film, toy and comic book tie ins and no one will accuse you of marketing it to children. But if you make a violent game, you are instantly labeled as trying to market it towards children.

I think that is a very valid point to bring up in every discussion about these laws.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

Agree.  But let's ask Arnold before casting judgement - maybe he has had a change of heart in regards to violent movies and regrets making his own violent movies and being a willing participant in said movies?  If so, then the past is in the past and he is living a different life.  Otherwise, he should learn the meaning of hypocrite.

- Left4Dead

Why are zombies always eating brains? I want to see zombies that eat toes for a living. Undead-related pun intended.

- Left4Dead Why are zombies always eating brains? I want to see zombies that eat toes for a living. Undead-related pun intended.

Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

I didn´t watched The Expendables, but I know it is a violent film, and he appeared on it anyways. He is just being a hypocrite.

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Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

No, he's not.  Making a cameo in a violent action film and then signing a law that says minors can't buy violent video games is not a hypocritical action.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

 Unless he's also for limiting that self same movie, yeah, it is.

 

Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

No, it's not because California is claiming that the interactive nature of video games make them harmful to minors and that's why sales of those, not movies, need to be regulated.

Schwarzenegger may be a hypocrite about some things but participating in a violent movie after signing a law that prevents kids from buying violent video games is not one of them.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

^Exactly.

Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra. Hell will stay frozen over for quite a while since the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Pelicans. Solidarity for the Saints = No retreat, no surrender. 2013 = Saints' revenge on the NFL. Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always.

Re: Editorial: The Terminator vs. the Constitution

I actually wonder if we might see the overturning of the obscenity doctrine in our lifetime... it looks increasingly silly as time goes on.

Then again, PA only overturned its blasphemy law in 2010.. so we might have a serious wait.

 
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Matthew Wilsonthe issue is when is doesn't work it can screw over millions in new york city's case. more often than not it is better to let the free market run its course without market distortion.04/16/2014 - 9:36am
NeenekoTrue, and overdone stagnation is a problem. It is a tricky balance. It does not help that when it does work, no one notices. Most people here have benifited from rent controls and not even realized it.04/16/2014 - 9:23am
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/04/15/riaa_files_civil_suit_against_megaupload04/16/2014 - 8:48am
ZippyDSMleeEither way you get stagnation as people can not afford the prices they set.04/16/2014 - 8:47am
Neenekowell, specifically it helps people already living there and hurts people who want to live there instead. As for 'way more hurt', majorities generally need less legal protection. yes it hurt more people then it helped, it was written for a minority04/16/2014 - 8:30am
MaskedPixelantehttp://torrentfreak.com/square-enix-drm-boosts-profits-and-its-here-to-stay-140415/ Square proves how incredibly out of touch they are by saying that DRM is the way of the future, and is here to stay.04/16/2014 - 8:29am
james_fudgeUnwinnable Weekly Telethon playing Metal Gear http://www.twitch.tv/rainydayletsplay04/16/2014 - 8:06am
ConsterTo be fair, there's so little left of the middle class that those numbers are skewing.04/16/2014 - 7:42am
Matthew Wilsonyes it help a sub section of the poor, but hurt both the middle and upper class. in the end way more people were hurt than helped. also, it hurt most poor people as well.04/16/2014 - 12:13am
SeanBJust goes to show what I have said for years. Your ability to have sex does not qualify you for parenthood.04/15/2014 - 9:21pm
NeenekoSo "worked" vs "failed" really comes down to who you think is more important and deserving04/15/2014 - 7:04pm
NeenekoThough I am also not sure we can say NYC failed. Rent control helped the people it was intended for and is considered a failure by the people it was designed to protect them from.04/15/2014 - 7:04pm
NeenekoIf they change the rules, demand will plummet. Though yeah, rent control probably would not help much in the SF case. I doubt anything will.04/15/2014 - 1:35pm
TheSmokeyOnline gamer accused of murdering son to keep playing - http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Crime/2014/04/15/21604921.html04/15/2014 - 11:50am
Matthew Wilsonyup, but curent city rules do not allow for that.04/15/2014 - 11:00am
ZippyDSMleeIf SF dose not start building upwards then they will price people out of the aera.04/15/2014 - 10:59am
Matthew Wilsonthe issue rent control has it reduces supply, and in SF case they already has a supply problem. rent control ofen puts rent below cost, or below profit of selling it. rent control would not fix this issue.04/15/2014 - 10:56am
NeenekoRent control is useful in moderation, NYC took it way to far and tends to be held up as an example of them not working, but in most cases they are more subtle and positive.04/15/2014 - 10:24am
PHX CorpBeating Cancer with Video Games http://mashable.com/2014/04/14/steven-gonzalez-survivor-games/04/15/2014 - 9:21am
Matthew Wilsonwhat are you saying SF should do rent control, that has never worked every time it has been tried. the issue here is a self inflicted supply problem imposed by stupid laws.04/15/2014 - 8:52am
 

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