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.

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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. 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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