On "condemning" our violent culture

When the President put his pen to nearly two dozen executive orders regarding gun control, there were a couple of glaring omissions which many of us quickly noted. One was the fact that the previously ballyhooed “balanced approach” to gun violence, mental health issues and the “culture” of violence in video games and films turned out to be little more than gun banning. Even the fig leaf given to the issue of those facing mental health issues amounted to little more of any substance than a way to generate more lists of people who couldn’t buy guns. But the other half of that balance sheet was entirely missing. There was nothing more than lip service to the so called problem of violent video games and movies.

Apparently seeking some redress for this omission, Matt Lewis penned a column about the need to shame Hollywood into condemning their pandering to a blood crazed nation. It starts out as something of a tribute to the latest onslaught from Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough for calling out the evils of Quenton Tarantino and all of the millions of dollars he’s made from gun happy films.

“I think you need to bring people like Harvey Weinstein around the table,” Scarborough continued, “and just say, ‘this is no longer socially acceptable. It is no longer socially acceptable after Newtown for you to give Quenton Tarantino money to make movies that glorify slaughter, murder, rage, than it would be, Harvey, for you to give somebody millions of dollars to make a cheap porn movie.'”

I could have stopped reading right there, except that Lewis redeems himself a bit by noting that government censorship is no answer. And yet, he still sees fit to pass judgement.

As a culture, we have decided that a lot of things may be legal, but are still deserving of scorn. For example, being racist or sexist comes with consequences. We as a society have decided it’s okay to shame someone for this behavior.

If you make money peddling violence, then you’re making the world a less sublime place for me to live. I might have to live with that, but you shouldn’t get a Golden Globe Award for it, either.

Violence in video games, violence in movies… it’s very easy to make a case against them. And anyone who disapproves is not only free to avoid them, but to speak their mind about it. But this diatribe seems to fail the core test of conservatism on two levels. First of all, who are these “leaders” we are supposedly waiting for to lead the charge against the next release of Grand Theft Auto or Die Hard Seven – Geriatric Grenade Thrower? Surely we already agree that it’s not Uncle Sam, but who should we be welcoming as the “thought leader” on a national level? Aren’t these precisely the sorts of things which not only can, but should be entrusted to parents and spiritual leaders?

And what of the free market? How many people have watched all of these “awful” films? How many people have purchased shooter based video games? (Hint: More than 11 million bought Grand Theft Auto 3 alone.) And out of all of them, less than a dozen irreparably damaged, sub-human lunatics have gone on mass shooting sprees. So the rest of the consumers bear the guilt for this handful of monsters? Seeking to gather together an army to “shame” the producer of a legal product isn’t all that different from asking the nanny state to outlaw 16 oz sodas or bring lawsuits against McDonalds. (It’s better, mind you, as it doesn’t turn the parental responsibility over to the government, but the effect is the same.) If people produce a product which nobody wants, it will fail and they will go out of business. If the product is not only legal but popular, you are effectively seeking to censor everyone else with a shaming campaign. Feel free to speak up all you like, but don’t expect everyone else to fall in line.

I applaud anyone who takes the responsibility to manage the affairs of their family wisely, monitor what their children do and teach them to be constructive members of society. And I leave room for each of us to pick the sort of entertainment we choose to take in, providing we all take responsibility for our own actions. Government’s place is to punish those who break the rules we collectively agree upon as defining civilized conduct. It’s not to preemptively regulate what we see, hear or legally do to make sure we don’t go off the deep end. And when it comes to non-regulated offerings, blaming Hollywood or Rockstar Games (the makers of GTA) for our violent culture is exactly the same as blaming McDonalds because you’re fat.