There are a few issues that, backed against a wall, I will fight hard to protect. Obviously friends and family would be strongest, and the only thing I’d kill someone or die to protect, if need be, but I hope it never has to come to that. Being able to choose how I live is another one of those things, though not nearly as extreme. But among those things that fall into choosing how to live my life comes creative freedom, both in the choices of things I like to watch, listen to, read, or interact with, and the ability to create things that can go as extreme, as violent or pornographic as I choose them to be. The choice does not mean that I have to, only that I have the ability to, if I need to.
So, naturally, I am against any person and any group who is going to make it difficult to do that. There’s obviously the straight forward part, where making it illegal to create something violent, pornographic, or otherwise offensive could come into play, and obviously, as long as there is a United States that understands that freedom of speech does mean that sometimes we have to allow the offensive stuff through, I will not have to worry about our government making laws against stuff like this. On the other side of coin, just because it can’t be made illegal doesn’t mean it can’t be stopped: Breaking parts in the chain that prevent the sales of such offensive material is just as lethal as banning outright offensive materials. Prevent or make it more difficult for retailers to sell said product, or to make it less desirable to the customers, and there won’t be many companies who will want to produce such material – hence stifling creative rights by taking away the money to create legitimacy as much as any law can.
This how those that fight for censorship and succeed at it win. Going for laws fail because the Supreme Court rarely allows for any form of censorship. Going and shutting down individuals at their source is far easier.
That is where Jack Thompson fights, and where he has found success. He’s the guy responsible for making sure any offensive CD has an appropriate “Explicit Lyrics” Label on CDs, after he went after 2 Live Crew for making the infamous As Nasty as They Wanna Be. Although he still targets music and movies (and I say this because he never really said he stopped), his main target since 1997 has been video games. after a kid in west Paducah, KY, went on a shooting spree. He mainly targets companies like RockStar Games, infamous for its Grand Theft Auto titles, Id Software, Famous for its Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein titles, and Midway Games, famous for its Mortal Kombat video games and merchandise. He sues the companies and anybody that helps them – retailers, game hardware makers, etc. In addition, he goes out, protests, writes in magazines and does interviews with people on TV and in print. Anything he can do to try to slow or stop the sales and creation of such software and offensive material, he does.
As much as I disagree with his view that all offensive materials should not be made, I do have to give him credit. Most of the times that we hear of nut cases like him, it’s when they go to such an offensive extreme themselves that they’re no better than the people they’re fighting. If you look at something like abortion, for example, people have gone and shot the doctors who do them, ran cars through buildings suspected of doing them, of planting and exploding bombs that do this stuff. In comparison, the worst you could possibly say about Jack is that, if there were no offensive materials for sale, he’d be one of the nut cases that think that it’s ok to display pictures of aborted fetuses on the side of the road. Offensive? Yes, but no one is dying because of it. He’s taking the high road, and in doing so, makes him a bigger, and much more difficult, target.
While I don’t have a solid plan, I can guarantee you one thing: Mocking him, threatening to kill him, all of that only does one thing: provokes him more. You kill him, or beat him up, you only prove his arguments correct, and in doing so, may make it possible for censorship laws not only to come into play, but also for the Supreme Court to support them. In any of those cases, he wins, because he draws more people to his side.
Nor is attacking him through the courts going to work. I could see someone, with just a bit more money and power, costing him in court and him still fighting. Why? He has enough friends in enough organizations who, even if they don’t like him personally, will support his fight as long as they can. Simple logic here, kids: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Equally as unrealistic – though the only guaranteed way for him to stop – is to quit publishing all offensive materials. The problem is that not only would you have to define “offensive”, you’d have to make everyone agree that it’s offensive. Majority won’t work, because the minority will find some way to get around any law that is put into place. Since no one can agree on this, the only real way to stop offensive material from being made is to not make anything. No TV shows or movies, No music at all, no art, theatre, or statues, and no books – not even the Bible. We’d even have to stifle what we eat, for fear of offending someone who likes one thing but not another. There would be no one who would live this way, as there’d be ultimately no reason to live.
Finally, the best way to defeat him is also not feasible. That is to prove him wrong by not doing the things that he says these games, this music and movies that offend him, do for people. Can’t go beating people up, raping people, killing people, committing violent crimes. Essentially, we’d have to be a perfect world – something that, as much as I would like to see a day without these bad things happening to anyone, is literally impossible to do. The things that trigger these ideas existed long before video games, movies, music, and books even came to be – there was evil long before the first paintings were made.
So how do you defeat Mr. Jack Thompson? You defeat him through a combination of different strategies that, when combined, could work.
The first thing you’d have to do is discredit him. As I said before, it’d be impossible to get people to stop doing nasty things to other people, but you can get a majority of people to think before such an action takes place, not just of the implications on their own lives, but on the lives of the people they care about. If only 2 of the 10 million people who buy Mortal Kombat 51 commit a violent or heinous crime, and the crimes they commit, can’t technically be traced back to the game, he can’t go after the game and prove its connection to said crimes.
Since that, too is difficult, if not impossible, you have to discredit him through other means. (Unfortunately, he’d be the type to go after the company who made the game anyways, because he’d try to find a link.) That means catching him up in his game, making him be as perfect as he expects the rest of the world to be. I’m not talking little stuff either; as he can attest to, he’s just as human as anyone else. I’m talking on the type of scale that recently ousted Ted Haggard from his position at the top of the New Life Church: whatever is done has to be done in such a way that he has a difficult, if not impossible, task to dig out of. Haggard may someday be welcome back into his church, but he’ll never be on top of it, or any other church, again. That’s the type of discrediting that has to be done here as well.
The second thing that has to be done is to drive his fortunes down to near/at poverty level. It’s unlikely he’d ever give up having a good life for his kids or family, so that means driving him to middle class, at least. This is a little more difficult, in some ways, than the first task, since that means also cutting him from all of the organizations that helps him.
The third thing – and what is probably the easiest – is to find him a new focus. As much as I hate saying it, he’s always going to attack something he disagrees with, and he’s good – people wouldn’t support his cause or pay much attention to him if he wasn’t. What if his focus was directed somewhere useful instead, such as the Iraq War or Abortion? Or maybe something we don’t even know about yet? He doesn’t waste as much time going after the Movie, TV and Music industry the way he did before games like Doom came out. New focus = not much time to focus on old problems = he’s less of a problem, if he is still one at all.
Of course, we have to remember, through these things, not to attack him indirectly – that means for the game industry, including the game makers, game magazine publishers, and even the video game bloggers like myself, to not take jabs at him. Each time we make a cartoon where his face shown acting like the monstrosity we picture him to be, the more fuel for his fire, the more desire for him to attack us. We need to afford him the same level of respect a person complaining about a product should have: enough respect that he is, at minimum, listened to for all of his complaints, but at the same time, not so much that he controls and bullies everything he can about it and us. He has the right to do what he does, and so long as he doesn’t step out of line, we should afford him that respect. Even if and when he falls out of line, we should show him enough respect and dignity that he does not want to come back after us again.
Let’s not B.S. about things: there are times, in all forms of media, where we cross boundaries that leave us questioning whether that boundary should have been crossed. When those times come up, some will also rise to take that question to the highest authorities. Even if we manage to stop Jack Thompson from filing lawsuits and fighting against media companies, someone else will rise up to take his place, someone with similar, if not the same, principles and beliefs and who, like Mr. Thompson, is short-sighted in the legitimacy of the problems they introduce should they ever succeed.
Of and for the record, I don’t play many video games anymore, partly due to time and money, and partly due to desire: Most of the video games they have today are not as interesting as the games that have come out when I was a kid. there a few, like Guitar Heroes, Okami, and the Sonic and Mario games, as well as some RPGS such as the well known Final Fantasy and not-so-well-known .Hack games. Games like Grand Theft Auto and Bully, while I have never played them, don’t look all that interesting to me in the first place. That doesn’t mean that someone who has different beliefs from mine should dictate whether or not I can choose to play those games, watch those movies or listen to those songs. That doesn’t mean he should try to stop me should I want to do something that others could consider as offensive. The right for me to do something should not be dictated by the ignorance of someone else, even if I decide to never do such a bad thing.