Perhaps I should start a column called “Jackass of the Week” as it really seems like every freakin’ week some ignorant politician says something deserving of a slap to knock the stupid out of their mouth.
This week it’s Ralph Nader, of all people, calling on President Obama to go even further in his criticism of violence in the media. In an interview with Politico Nader spoke on the topic of violent games and The President’s potential solutions to the gun control problem.
“We are in the peak of [violence in entertainment],” said Nader. “Television program violence? Unbelievable. Video game violence? Unprecedented.” He added, “I’m not saying he wants to censor this, I think he should sensitize people that they should protect their children family by family from these kinds of electronic child molesters.”
Electronic child molesters? Is he serious? He is, isn’t he? Oh, here we go…
Look, Nader. You should be old enough to remember how video games began. Remember those seedy arcades where young adults used to hang out, drinking, smoking, and pumping quarters into machines like Defender and Pong. Did kids play video games back then? Sure they did, but there was still a large swath of actual adults whose pastimes included munching pills and chasing after ghosts while listening to the droning bleeps of chiptune music. They also enjoyed playing Pac-Man every now and then.
The fact of the matter is that the eighties transformed video games from a new form of entertainment into a babysitter for parents who would rather party than take care of their children. This behavior continued into the nineties and on into the new millennium without so much as a peep of objection from most of society, save for those of us who were with it enough to call these “parents” out on their crap. If you need to know just why I consider this sort of thing one of my areas of expertise, let me simply state that I was one of those children for whom their video game console became the babysitter. As luck would have it, I was also well-educated and not suffering from mental illness. Sometimes these situations have a way of working themselves out.
You think Ed Boon and John Tobias had children in mind when they were working on their ultra-violent fighting game Mortal Kombat? Of course not. Kids got their hands on it, though, thanks to placement in skating rinks and mall arcades across the country. Is this the developers’ fault, though? Why should it be? Why isn’t it the fault of parents who so willingly drop off their kids (along with their kids’ friends) at whatever place of interest the children decide, only to pick them up hours later, completely oblivious and disinterested in what they were doing or who they were seeing?
I’ll tell you why it’s never the parents’ fault — it’s because Americans are spoiled, entitled, ignorant children, in bodies that just so happen to be roughly 30 years older than the minds they possess. You think we coddle the children in this country? Look at how much responsibility we’re willing to take off the hands of parents so they can continue to work 40-hour weeks in order to provide fast-food and mind-numbing “entertainment” for their little worker bees of tomorrow. It’s only a problem when the little runts get out of control and slaughter 20 other little worker bees. That’s when we go “Wait! Something’s wrong, here!”
But instead of looking for real answers, we blame a form of entertainment that has always been honest about its intentions. Nader’s comparison of the video games industry to child molesters is both ignorant and irresponsible, and he should be ashamed of the inference he made.
As a society, we encourage the romanticized portrayal of violence in our games, books, movies, music, and television, yet we blow our tops at the mere split-second sight of a nipple. What are we, stupid?
Neither the government, nor the creators of entertainment, are responsible for protecting children from potentially harmful content. Ultimately, and unfortunately, that burden lies with parents who are too lazy and uninterested to really be involved in their kids’ lives. The problem will fix itself when we begin blaming bad parenting. Until that happens, I’ve got my popcorn because I’m ready for the circus.