Scary Words: Boston Mayor Wants to Lay Down the (Video Game) Law

April 5, 2008 -
Boston news radio station WBZ-1030 has a disturbing interview with Mayor Thomas Menino (left) conducted by on-air personality Laurie Kirby (GP: I can't refer to her as a "reporter" based on the softballs she's tossing to Menino here).

The interview took place on March 17th on the eve of the Massachusetts Legislature's consideration of HB1423. The measure, a video game bill based on the Jack Thompson-authored Louisiana legislation which failed so miserably in federal court in 2006 (see: Judge Trashes Louisiana Government Over Failed Jack Thompson Law, Orders State to Pay Legal Fees), would seek to classify violent video games as "harmful to minors" in the same legal sense as pornography.

Here's the text of the interview (as transcribed by GP). Note that Menino speaks of the proposed law as a "ban" throughout the interview and, amazingly, expresses a desire to enforce a lifestyle change on game players.

He also seems to be bothered by the image of kids playing handheld systems, as he references it at several different points in the interview:

Mayor Menino: ...these video games and violence. And uh, ya know, kids - they play with them, they see them on TV all the times. You know, we gotta take some measures to restrict access to this violence. And everybody's well, the First Amendment, uh, you can't do it because this.

We always can't do something. My measure, let's do something to restrict young people from glorify- from being glorified with this violence. As I look at this, I watch little kids out there with these little video games. There's shootings, there's killings and all that. We've got to do something. Everybody says we can't. I'm saying we can and let's start now. Because there's too much violence on the streets of America, presently, to uh, that is happening.

And so, as Mayor, I just want to put something out there, and let's have a discussion about this. Everybody has a responsibility. I'm taking some of that responsibility, I know it's controversial. But you gotta do something about banning the violence that young people are accustomed to today. And it's a tough battle because they say, it's a First Amendment. But we also have... rights in America to have a safe neighborhoods, safe streets, and safe world. And that's what my discussion will be about - is about safety in our homes, safety in our streets, safety in our worlds.

Announcer: Well it's interesting, because they are bringing up the First Amendment issue here, but what about pornography? I mean there are some - obviously, minors can't buy pornography, so it's not as if there aren't some restrictions  already in place.

Menino: That's right. They put pornography in the back of a room or someplace. Kids can't buy it readily. But you can buy those video games right off the counter without showing any identification at all. And that's part of our efforts is to try to restrict the access to these video games.

Announcer: So... what are you going to do, exactly here, and what woud the language be? You would ask for all Boston stores...?

Menino: Well I have a piece of legislation that will be heard up in the legislature tomorrow. My staff will be testifying on the ban and asking the legislature to put restrictions on the availability of these games and other activities that may enhance a young person's ability to see these, uh, this violence and put it in their hands with the little video games they have there's violence always happening. And it has to be restricted. I mean it's just another way of saying, hey, we all have a responsibility and the video game industry also has a responsibility.

Announcer: Okay, so you would ban the outright sale of any kind of violent video game to what - anybody under the age of 17, or what?

Menino:  18. I'd restrict the sale of video games to anyone under the age of 18.

Announcer: So the store could still sell them, you're just trying to protect the kids.

Menino: That's right. I mean, you start early on. Kids start at 5, 6, 7 years old watching those video games. They think it's a way of life and I'm trying to make them understand there's a different way of life (emphasis GP's) and, uh, as you go about your daily chores, you'll see these kids with the video games in their hands. They'll see it on the TV, see it everyplace you go, there's violence that's out there. If you watched one of our major sporting events last year, every video that was on there, every advertisement had violence in it. Our life is full of violence.

Announcer: You're absolutely right. Now what would the penalty be for a store that didn't card a kid and sold a kid a game?

Menino: We haven't determined what the violence would be, I mean the penalty would be, but we're looking at some serious, serious restriction on the sale of these video games.

Original WBZ audio here: (you'll need to scroll down a bit for the March 17th interview).

Comments

wow, I just listened to the Audio, he sounds smashed...

It seriously took some effort to get past that first bit. Gah.

"But we also have… rights in America to have a safe neighborhoods, safe streets, and safe world. And that’s what my discussion will be about - is about safety in our homes, safety in our streets, safety in our worlds."

Seriously. It's like namedropping to attempt to prove that you're "in the know, one of the guys." Part of the Safety Blanket.

@Pinworm

Umm, Moonite Menino here hates guns just as much as video games. So much so that he had plans to send police around to do illegal, citywide door-to-door searches for guns. But, hey, don't let facts get in the way of a your wide brush. :p

Anyhow, someone should really show this chart to the Mayor before he mumbles about games causing violence to go up again..

So this idiot would ban sales of E rated games to kids under 18? Yet another one of America's assholes using games as a scapegoat.

I have no idea I managed to not become a killer since I trained with the Nintendo Light Gun when I was only 6 years old. Leading ducks as I shot them sure trained me to be a killer.

"we haven't determined what the violence would be" aaaaaand
--que godwin's law--
Maybe some clubbings, kickings, break the store windows a little? I dunno. We're not sure how much violence there will be.

ok, lemme just make a few statements before it gets busy around here again.

1. Merino or whatever his name is, He's a freaking idiot. End of story on that one.

2. Ther reporter is a hack and clearly has a disabling bias.

3. For you anti gun people, I live in Arizona, which has Legal concelled weapons. Guess what? Crime went DOWN when those laws went into affect allowing people to be armed. Why? Cause crooks didn't wanna screw with people that might be armed.

Guns, games, and media violence aren't the problem. Poverty, society, and government are.

Just listened to the audio

does he ever move his F***ing lips? god it sounds like he just injected himself in the front of his mouth with 100cc's of novacain

Hi everyone. Sorry for posting this here, it doesn't deal directly with the interview with Mayor Thomas Menino.

I'm not an US citizen, so there may be some cultural differences that I'm unaware of and that make this question stupid, but here goes: Would it really be so bad if some games were available only to people 18 and up? I don't believe games cause violence anymore than you guys do. I've blown up my fair share of heads in Counter-Strike and I still haven't killed anyone in real life.

I also believe that the responsibility of keeping nasty stuff from kids should belong to the parents, not the law. On the other hand, there is a rating system for movies and certain movies can not be seen by under 18's (if that system works or not, is another question). Maybe making sure that kids can't get to some violent games would be a good thing...

Just my 2 cents, and I'd like to hear from you guys about my opinion :)

The issue isn't whether kids should be allowed to play violent games. The issue is that it isn't the government's decision to make.

The movie theaters all self-regulate, Zavatar, (at least in the US). There is no law that says kids cannot see R rated movies.

When the cowboy bebop movie came out, I as some thirteen if even. I walked up to the walmart Register, the guy there has a huge sign hanging over him that says "No DVD purchases rated R to minors under 17 wihtout ID or parent. He sold it to me with Faye all half naked on the cover and pointing a gun. I see the same thing all the time still.

As a kid I was praised for reading things like The Dead Zone with violent depictions of rape nya, for being so adult.

Now I play Video games and I'm acting childish, or just being a teenager? Never mind that I don't like the majority of Violent games, and can only really take DOA, and Resident Evil for their unrealism and complete lack of characters to indentify with.

Not to double post but didn't one of the founding fathers say that it would be a sad day for democracy when we trade Freedom for Safety?

@ Zavatar
I noticed you mentioned: "On the other hand, there is a rating system for movies and certain movies can not be seen by under 18’s (if that system works or not, is another question)."

And while yes people under 17 are usually not admitted to Rated R movies, there is not law against it. As long as a parent or guardian is accompanying the minor they are allowed in, I don't see why games should be any different. Nothing is stopping the parents from sitting down with their kids and watching what they play, and if they find the game to be in bad taste explain to the child why they don't want them playing those types of games. Its not hard.

and as for an 18+ law, it is ridiculous. A 17 year old can enlist in the army and that kid will have become a well trained killing machine long before he would be able to buy a video game. doesn't make much sense to me.

sorry for double post

@illspirit

No matter how many times we parade that graph, and the one Brenda Brathwaite would show when I was in her class, I don't think it will ever get through the think skulls of politicians. We might as well hand them a blank piece of paper cause they, don't want to see the truth.

Aidinthel: really? I did not know that. Over here (Portugal) if a movie is rated 18+ you have to show some ID to even buy a ticket, much less actually get in to see the movie.
I appreciate your position that "it isn’t the government’s decision to make". More responsibility should be placed on the parents. In a related matter, is there any parent organization that lobbies for this kind of ban? I only seem to see politicians doing it. It would be more credible if parents were involved.

catboy_j: was that store policy or is it something mandated by law? If it was policy maybe the guy just didn't care, but if it was law, maybe the answer lies in enforcing that law, not making new ones.

"Our life is full of violence."

Captain Obvious quote of the day.

"I'm trying to make them understand there's a different way of life."

Menino is trying to do that through legislation! Does that sound totalitarian dictatorship-like to anyone else?

Meh. This is the same guy who thinks Lite Brite is an explosive device and PSP games feature rape. I could only imagine what other fantasies this guy has in his world.

I take it his "different way of life" entails hiding under the bed in constant fear of everything?

If games were banned from people under 18 then it would be like every violent game was AO rated. Then stores will not sell M rated games and only E rated games would be allowed.

What I wonder is if these people are even aware that every major retailer will not sell M rated games to minors.

Menino is obviously a retard.


And so, as Mayor, I just want to put something out there, and let’s have a discussion about this. Everybody has a responsibility. I’m taking some of that responsibility, I know it’s controversial. But you gotta do something about banning the violence that young people are accustomed to today. And it’s a tough battle because they say, it’s a First Amendment. But we also have… rights in America to have a safe neighborhoods, safe streets, and safe world. And that’s what my discussion will be about - is about safety in our homes, safety in our streets, safety in our worlds.

alright then mayor, show me. show me where on the constitution it says you have a right to a safe world.

@Zerodash

come on now, just because it is a Retailers Company Policy doesn't mean kids can't get their hands on it. You can't play stupid, let the other side play that role.

@ DCOW,

A better argument is, so you want to live in a safe world and it's bad to use simulated violence...explain to me how a kid can turn on any news station and see real life violence coming from the war in Iraq, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, etc and how that is OK. Explain to me how a kid can live in a household more violent than any game could possibly be because the pain and the abuse is real. Explain to me how a kid can live somewhere where shootings and robberies and murders happen daily and how that is OK. And using a recent story, how about the 3-4 Boston guys who brutally beat a Yankees fan outside of a bar? Explain to me how banning violent video game sales to minors will stop all of that and allow us to live in your Utopian society.

@Strªng?r_Dªng?r

There's always going to be a way. Even if they banned sales, minors could (and would) buy a mod chip or swap disc, and download the game, burn it, and play it that way. Or have an older sibling or parent buy it. Banning sales wouldn't accomplish jack because when you tell someone no, it makes them want it even more.

Yet again, I file a tired old reply, because the Politicians makes the tired old statements, are video games really the cause of violence on the streets? I ask you seriously what percentage of criminals where motivated by computer games? come on, the figure has to be somewhere around the 0% percent mark, if you asked anyone with half a brain they would tell you that poverty is a bigger cause of crime.

Politicians, please for the sake of trying to look respectable, stop going after the no issue which is video game violence, and attempt to tackle something which is actually an issue.

@Matt
I can't tell if you are backing me up or if you though I was for banning games, which I am clearly not...

@ Pinworm

Blaming any weapon for violence is irrational. The weapon doesn't influence a person to commit a violent crime, but merely influences the manner in which they commit that crime. To use an argument we often use here, social problems are the real cause of violence. Poverty, ghettos, poor parenting, ect, are the real causes of violence (all of which is in a far to significant supply in America). If guns were completely gone, then we'd simply have a shit ton of crimes committed with knives. A weapon is unbiased in its usage.

As for the article, the mayor's an idiot who tries to pander towards the idiots of society (again, far too many of them). Luckily the courts are in place to stop these kinds of actions.

This is the kind of interview I'd kill to see on an episode of "Penn & Teller's Bullshit!" about video game controversy. It would naturally start with Penn Jillette saying "And then there's THIS asshole!"

Yet another out-of-touch fool scapegoating gamers. Who really thinks that Violent videogames are the main cause of teen violence. Newflash: Teens are violent because of hormones and general lack of maturity, not because of playing games.

I've gotten "carded" and had to show my ID every time I've purchased an M rated game at Wal-Mart or Best Buy. As much as these idiots don't want to believe it, 10 year old kids cannot just walk into Wal-Mart and pick up GTA or whatever. And The 18+ proposal is just fucking stupid. How would the film industry react if there was a law that only adults were allowed to go and see any movie in theaters or buy DVDs? The current system works as long as parents know what their kids are playing.

I'm starting a sort of semi-campaign to make the mayor realise what he's really talking about.

If you want to join the cause, go to this site:

http://www.cityofboston.gov/contact/default.asp?ID=55

from here you can contact the mayors office, It's not much but if there are enough of us he can't ignore it!

@ Zerodash

Remember that? The [adult swim] Lite Brite things? I cracked up when I read that report.

Anyway, I heartily agree with you. If the older generations took time to get to know the younger generations and see life through our eyes, they'd probably be more sympathetic towards us.

Blaming violent videogames is a safe scapegoat. You can't prove through science that it WASN'T videogames, but then again, you can't prove that it WAS. Thus, it's moot point; people just continue to fail to realize that.

Going back to Zerodash's comment: It would have been funnier (maybe) if the Lite Brites had had the Laughing Man from G.I.T.S. on them instead of a Moonanite.

I stopped after the no IDs comment.

If this ever happens, and the nation goes along with it, I believe it will open up the gates to real mature games. I hate to say it, but after they do this, I can see video games getting a whole lot more violent, drug related, and sexual oriented. And the sad part is, teens will still be able to play these games. This will stop nothing. Do they know how easy it is for a teen to get their hands on porn now of days? I say let them do it, and when crime starts to rise, we can say, told you so.

I just sent this to the mayor's office:


Is it possible for us to chalk this issue up to a misunderstanding?

I suppose not, since, according to your interview, video games are the equivalent of pornography and are therefore a scourge of society that must be regulated and, if necessary, eliminated.

Since this view is obviously pleasing to only one side of this debate (the exact opposite of compromise, wouldn't you agree?), I submit to you a two-part proposition, one that I think will, for the time being, alleviate the current pressure that you are no doubt receiving from the online community (and gamers, as well)...

1) Get to know your foe (and make him your friend)

During your interview, you stated that you wanted to try to "make [video gamers] understand that there's a different way of life."
I don't condemn your efforts to help. Indeed, there are most likely some of us who need a reality check quite badly. However, to label an entire sub-culture is a bit foolhardy, is it not? Though you referenced "5, 6, 7 [year olds]" in this statement, it was taken as a slap to the face by the gaming community. This is not a good start to diplomacy, is it?

Instead of trying to change our way of life to suit yours, why not try changing your outlook on our life to better suit ours? Not permanently, but all the same, it's worth a shot, isn't it?

Far too little conclusive evidence has come from research to label violent video games as the sole cause of rising violence among the younger generation. Until either side of this debate can positively, and without any shred of doubt, prove that violent video games are/are not the SOLE cause of rising violence among today's youth, then one should not maintain an attitude about video games as you displayed during your interview.

That is not to say that you are at fault here. Far from it. You just lack the experience that one gains when placing himself in the life of a normal American gamer for awhile.

Which brings me back to my point: why not try getting to know our community better before trying to change our "way of life."

If you decide to do so, then I applaud you. You have taken the first step (among many, I assure you) in creating a world where anti-video gamers and video gamers can live without conflict. To get to know our community better, set up annual or semi-annual meetings with Boston's youth representatives. Take them seriously, as they know better than any of us what ails our society. Ask them to explain, among other things, why they get enjoyment from playing video games. Ask how many of them play specific violent video games, specifically those on handheld devices (PSP, Nintendo DS). By displaying an interest in getting to know your "opponents" better, you show that you are willing to compromise, and that you truly care about what your ENTIRE community thinks, not just what the voting public thinks.

2) Engage your "opponents" in the bill-writing process (i.e. compromise with your foe, make him your friend)

The gaming community is distressed by your actions in passing a new bill labeling video games as equivalent to pornography. This is wholly inaccurate and if you follow step 1 of this proposal, you will see why.

The gaming community is not opposed to compromise, however. I'm sure that if you engaged the video gamers of Boston in the bill-writing process, to the point of co-authoring a new bill with representatives from Boston's gaming community, you will be able to resolve this debate with both sides coming out strong. Despite our current "ways of life," we know much more about politics than many in Congress and in state governments give us credit for. We would be most excited if you were to ask us to co-author a new age-restriction law with you.

I think that you will agree that while video games are not the SOLE cause of rising violence in the United States (nay, they are most likely NOT a cause of violence at all), changes are necessary if we are to resolve this debate. Engage your community in friendly, semi-annual talks about what they think needs to be done in order to make positive changes in Boston, and allow them to co-author a bill with you. I assure you that if you consider my two-step proposal, you will find a solution to this debate.

Thank you for your time.


Good God, I hope I didn't just open up a can of worms...

Actually, I haven't sent it yet. But if anyone wants to make revisions to it (or offer suggestions), I would greatly appreciate it!

What gets me is the 'We are exposed to violence all the time' attitude of this man, especially considering that a massive percentage of that violence involves a war that was instigated and funded by the same government that is trying to 'protect the children'.

Regardless of anyone's opinion on the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you've got little choice but to see the hypocrisy in this guys' statements., they have 'kill the terrorists (armed with lite-brites)' being droned in one ear and 'Violence is Evil!' being droned in the other. No wonder there's a lot of confused young people in the US...

He did a bad job explaining his positions. His thoughts felt very disorganized and he didn't put much effort in trying to make his thoughts clear. The sluring of the speech did not help and the fact that he didn't use examples makes his speech sound more 2 am ramblings while drunk. The interviewie also asked some bad questions and didn't really question anything he said. It felt like he might as well answered questions on a paper and have hear read the answers.

@Pinworm

Umm, what are you talking about? 9 out of 10 anti-game politicians in the US are anti-gun. Probably about two thirds want to ban games as part of their ongoing campaign to demonize guns. The basic idea is if they can limit the channels by which people can become familiar with guns, they can control the message. Just as they've been trying to do for decades with toy guns before there were video games.

The God of War story says nothing. Jack, list many other elitist political hacks, supports gun control so long as he can keep his gun..

But yea, if you think getting rid of the eeeevil guns is such a great idea, I'm not going to bother hijacking the topic to argue more, just come and take them. ^_^

"We haven’t determined what the violence would be, I mean the penalty would be, but we’re looking at some serious, serious restriction on the sale of these video games."

So violence is bad. Except when the government is inflicting it on you, for your own good.

I'll say it again. A poorly worded, terribly subjective law like this cannot possibly come to pass. And even if it does, its gonna get appealed, prevented from getting enforced, its gonna fail.

I feel this more so, seeing how Menino just sounds like a total goob in this interview.

Honestly how the heck did Menino get voted into office?

He sounds like he ate glass covered with tar...and that he seems less intelligent than a mentally retarded baboon...

Honestly if and when this bill gets shot down he would waste so much of the taxpayer money i hope he gets voted out...and get then get some speech lessons..

@catboy_j

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
~Ben Franklin

Sorry for double post...

Just to point out violence in handhelds, there's a few PSP games out there that would be considered violent... GTA games made their way there as well as God of War. Those are just the ones off the top of my head, as I'm sure there are more games out there with violence in a handheld environment.

And as for the picture of Mumbles... it looks like the face one would make when dealing with a wedgie... or hemorrhoids... or both.

May I just say that there has been lots of violence in the world LONG BEFORE the age of Videogames....

He said violence so many times it makes me want to hit someone in the face.

"18. I’d restrict the sale of video games to anyone under the age of 18."

i think im becoming desensitized to stupid people because of too much exposure to them.

He still accepts no responsibility for the Mooninite incident. The man is a joke.

please explain to me how some of the most violent people in history, the mafia, were made to be violent with video games then.

I mean looking back at the 60s, this stuff was major. All casued by videogames? wow then time travel is possible because vidya games werent around then!
 
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