The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) sent out an action alert asking its members to tell the United States Senate that it should NOT support S. 134, the "Violent Content Research Act." The legislation was authored by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV.), who also happens to be the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation - a committee that recently fast-tracked the bill out of a mark-up session by a unanimous vote. So what does this bill do? It calls for research to be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences on whether "exposure to violent video games and video programming" has a harmful effect on "children."
On its face it sounds like a good idea, but ECA Advocacy Director Brett Schenker feels that this move towards more research by the government is a "distraction to finding the real causes" of horrific events such as those that happened in Newtown, Connecticut last year. The ECA also questions the motivations of Sen. Rockefeller (a long-time critic of video games and movies) who has publicly stated that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision that video games are protected free speech.
"Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it," he said after the decision by the Supreme Court in Brown v. EMA. "They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons."
It is also unclear who will be advising National Academy of Sciences; when it created its initial report on the need to have more research, one of the names on its advisory board was Ohio State University professor and anti-game researcher Brad Bushman... Also it should be pointed out that this new research is not likely to take into account research that already exists about the positive effects of video games, or research that refutes claims of aggression. In other words, it is likely research that seeks to prove a link to real-world violence or aggression, as opposed to starting out with no expectations of findings.
You can check out the ECA's action alert in its entirety below, or you can jump right to the page to get started.
Tell the United States Senate to NOT Support S. 134
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has recently recommended S. 134 be sent to the floor of the Senate to be voted on. This legislation would instruct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the connection between the “exposure to violent video games and video programming and harmful effects on children.” This comes in the wake of numerous mass shootings across the United States.
The ECA has numerous concerns about this and feels that this is a distraction to finding the real cause of these events. Senator Rockefeller himself, who has championed this legislation, has, on the record, stated that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision that video games are protected free speech. In his remarks on the floor of the US Senate, he said:
“Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it. They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons.”
With all due respect Senator, the highest court of the land has reviewed the scientific research and concluded that video games do not cause violence. The non-scientific personal opinion of the Senator should not get to overturn the Supreme Court ruling.
The legislation also calls on the Centers for Disease Control to conduct research and for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to become involved. Here are the issues with Senator Rockefeller’s legislation:
Violent crime in the United States and across the world has been decreasing since the 1980’s, while video game sales have been increasing. Countries whose video game spending per capita is more than the United States do not see the level of violence - especially gun violence - that we do.
Those two facts alone empirically demonstrate that there’s no connection between video games and real world violence. Here are more reasons this legislation will achieve little:
Researchers on both sides of the subject agree that you can’t study violence, only aggression. So there is no way to really come up with answers to the questions posed.
The charge already has the taint of bias, as the Senator has said he personally believes that there is a connection. Now, no study connected to his worldview will be free of this.
The CDC has had questionable practices in the past when it comes to studies and their conclusions. They have ignored their own data in past studies and have done so regarding past video game studies.
This legislation was proposed without talking to leading experts in the field.
HHS, the FTC and the FCC have been included in this legislation; they have no role in this study and will likely see this as a way to expand their authority, politicizing the issue even more.
The recent shootings that have occurred have not been by children. More recent such incidents have been gentlemen in their 60s or older. An investigation showed there is little evidence recent shooters played video games, and that the claim that they were was a fabrication by the media. There are numerous positive outcomes created by video game play, all of which are ignored by Congress.
The legislation ignores past studies, which show that there is no causation between video games and violence, as well as reports by the FBI and the Secret Service that conclude the same thing.
Congress is ignoring the studies have already been done. Why are we to believe that any conclusion other than what Senator Rockefeller wants will end this subject once and for all?
No matter the outcome, at least one side will not agree with the conclusions drawn by the study. The debate will continue, just as it has after previous studies.
This is a first step by Congress to legislate entertainment content and video games. They have stated that they disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision that video games are protected speech. For that alone, this issue is too politicized and cannot proceed as is.
You can find out more about this action alert here.
[Full disclosure: GamePolitics is an ECA publication.]