Vice-President Joe Biden has stated that he sees no legal problem with taxing violent media in a gun legislation strategy meeting last Monday. The proposed tax would be collected from the media and entertainment industries, and used to help suffering victims and families.
Biden was quoted saying there was “no restriction on the ability to do that” and “there’s no legal reason why they couldn’t [tax violent images].”
The Vice President also said he would like to see a comprehensive study of the impact that violent video games and movies has on developing brains, akin to studies that have been conducted on things like smoking.
These ideas were largely inspired by the 20 members of the meeting, many of which being religious leaders from around the country.
Those present for the Monday evening meeting included Rabbi Julie Schonfeld (the Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly), Franklin Graham (son of the evangelist Billy Graham and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association), Vincent DeMarco (the Baltimore-based National Coordinator of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence), and Barrett Duke (the Vice President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm).
Those also invited were Bruce Reed, Biden’s Chief of Staff, and Melissa Rogers, the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Although the ideas were initially suggest by Graham, Biden acquiesced by thinking of ways to help protect the country, especially from the recent surge in violent shootings. Since this was a meeting on potential gun legislation, the idea to take preemptive measures on violence was logical course of action.
Now, I respect both our Vice President and the religious minds of this country. They have only the best intentions at heart when making these decisions. These decisions are made in order to protect us.
This, however, is a ridiculous idea. Worse yet, it is a slippery slope that threatens not only video games, but any entertainment industry. The idea that leaders could tax violent media is as lawful as the idea that they could tax literature or a work of art, just because it has graphic imagery.
Rape, Genocide, Torture, Baby Killing, and no Bacon
Fortunately we are protected by the 2011, 7-2 Supreme Court case Brown vs Entertainment Merchants Association, which states:
“The most basic principle–that government lacks the power to restrict expression because of its message, ideas, subject matter, or content–is subject to a few limited exceptions for historically unprotected speech, such as obscenity, incitement, and fighting words. But a legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test.”
It is comforting to know that we have a legal precedent to protect our interests but what if they continue to push this idea? How would they define what games are “too violent”? Anything that has a ‘M’ rating? Of course that wouldn’t work, because many M games have adult themed content that has nothing to do with shooting aliens in the face. Should the game be taxed because the protagonist likes to drink and smoke?
A regulatory group would be a flawed concept to attach to this kind of legislation. For example, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has recently come under flak for unethical rating practices and procedures.
A discernible bias, dictated by a handful of older predominately white males, is no way to judge the taxable merit on works of art or entertainment. There would be no way to properly dictate what games are “too violent” in a culture with ever expanding concepts of what is “socially acceptable”.
However, I would like to see more studies done to see the effects of how media violence effects youth. To say that we are in no way changed by the products we consume, is almost hypocritical. Yes, a video game will not makes someone shoot up a school, but it more than likely increases aggression in an individual.
Humans as a whole are very malleable. People complaining about “unrealistic standards of beauty” have as much of a point as those who say that violence is negatively shaping youth.
However, the rating system exists for a reason. If adults want to ignore them, and allow impressionable youth to play M rated games, then it is the fault of the parents. The other day I saw a 5 year old child talking about Call of Duty with his mother. That is completely unacceptable.
In the end, I feel nothing will come from ideas like these. They were mainly produced by ultra conservative leaders, and supported by Biden only as empty promises to assuage the worries of these individuals.
What I suggest is that parents and adults take the regulation into their own hands, instead of blaming those who create. It should not be the job of the politicians to intercede and protect little Johnny from playing violent games, but the responsibility of Mom and Dad. To insinuate otherwise shows a callous apathy and laziness that borders on neglect.