25 January 2013

A Christian Atheist and a Communist Republican walk into a bar...

Recently, Leland Yee told the San Francisco Chronicle that gamers had absolutely no credibility in any and all discussions regarding the regulation of the sale of videogames. This is akin to saying women have no say in healthcare discussions regarding birth control. As controversial as that statement may be, something a little more absurd came up in the comments to this particular article on Kotaku, from a user by the name of MassIdiocy:

For those who haven't read the gist of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association check it out at oyez.com. To be entirely honest, I sort of agree with Leland Yee and here's why: There's absolutely nothing unconstitutional about banning video games. Allow me to explain.
The 1st Amendment protects people's right to free speech for purposes of political dissent. It doesn't protect "smut" or violent media. For those commentors out their that believe SCotUS is infallible I'd suggest looking at some of their old decisions: What the Court thinks is "Unconsitutional" has been wildly different depending on who was presiding. If we accept that the Court is always right we have to accept decisions like Dredd Scott and Plessy as legitimate in their time, right?
I'm a gamer and ardent libertarian but the decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association doesn't make any sense (I think Thomas' dissent has it right). If we want to say that California has the right to pass legislation legalizing marijuana, it should also have the right to pass legislation to band (sic) the sale of games to minors.
I know that young, digitally-minded types get up-in-arms over content restriction but it is our duty as citizens to also understand the founding principles of our Constitution and apply them consistent with their intent. When Leland Yee says, "gamers have no credibility in this argument" I can't help but wonder if this is what he's talking about.

I may be a political moron, but I have a fairly good idea as to what being a libertarian entails. In broad terms, the party shares a number of core beliefs with the political philosophy of objectivism. I consider myself an objectivist in many ways, namely in my support of artists' rights, including the notion that they be allowed to take as many creative risks as possible, regardless of social norms or arbitrary authorities, allowing the lasseiz faire school of capitalism to leave matters with the power of the consumers and their dollar votes. To that end, the very idea of a game being banned or even restricted outside of a voluntary self-regulating system such as the ESRB, is all but the very definition of unconstitutional.

Mass idiocy is working under the premise that the first amendment ONLY protects political speech. This premise is sound if one has no idea how to interpret conjunctions in a sentence. The first amendment is a list of items, separated by semicolons (to distinguish from the commas in the items in the sequence), wherein each item can stand alone in the absence of others.

Freedom of Religion.
Freedom of Speech.
Freedom of the Press.
Freedom to Peaceably Assemble.
Freedom to Petition the Government.

These are not all the same thing, though they are linked by all having to do with self-expression in a verbal context. To his credit, though, he does bring up a point in one of his replies that the amendments of the constitution neither exist in nor were created in a vacuum. Interpretation of laws often has a lot to do with the political climate and public opinion. Once upon a time, it was the opinion of the people, and by extent those they'd voted into power, that the sale of alcohol should be prohibited. I think we all know how well that ended up. The point is though that laws are generally designed to be vague and open to interpretation, that they might adapt more easily to changing times. The right of people to own guns was meant to empower people to form militias against invading foreign armies back in the early days of the United States, but now can mean protection from any threat to one's home or person, nationality of the assailant notwithstanding.
Similarly, the founding fathers had no concept of the internet, but that doesn't mean the web is an exception anymore than television, radio, motion pictures, or any other form of mass communication that didn't exist in 1792.
This is all old hat and Government 101. The debate about what the government can or cannot do can go on for hours because of several factors. At the end of the day, the biggest issue most people, myself included, are taking with MassIdiocy is that he's saying the government has the right to ban videogames by way of legislation and regulation, all under the banner of him being a libertarian. Libertarians believe people should self-regulate on all but a few matters instead of relying on muscle from the government to protect them. Restricting free trade of items sold to consumers by private enterprises by way of majority votes and court rulings is a complete contradiction to that philosophy, simple as that.
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