I hope we swim up out of this flood… How can we clean up new social media when we can’t clean up the old? #twittersilence

Part of this entry is going to seem ridiculous.  A straight, white, conservative male is about to complain of receiving threatening telephone calls.

‘Boohoo,’ you might say.  ‘Each day, thousands of women receive death threats, rape threats, and all kinds of other harassment over the Internet, over telephones, in person, and everywhere else.’

And you’d have a point.  This article isn’t my entry into the Harassed Olympics.  This is instead an article about the way social media has inherited deep systemic problems from yesterday’s telecommunication.

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Moths beat themselves to death against the lights… #Censorship and entitlement in the gaming community #SaintsRowIV

No on under 18

No on under 18 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Australian Classification Board announced that it has refused to give an R18+ rating to the fourth installment in the popular Saints Row video game series, meaning that Australian retailers would be unable to sell the game here. Almost predictably, the Australian gaming community responded with its ritual of entitled whining.

“It’s so unfair,” they wail. “What about our rights to play games with interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context? My grandfather died in a war so that I could play video games which include elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards.”

I am an avid gamer and a big fan of freedom, but the argument that my rights are being infringed just because I can’t play a game which simulates sexual violence is indefensible.

The problem is not whether or not video games influence behaviour (although the jury is still out on that one). The problem is not whether or not gamers could find some other way of obtaining the game. The problem is not even – as Slavoj Zizek suspects – whether or not the brutal rapist identity portrayed in the video game reflects the truth about the gamer who is unable to express these urges due to social constraints.

The problem is whether or not we think that women in our society should tolerate having violence against them depicted as entertainment.

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I did not take to analysis so I had to make up my mind… R18+ video games still fail to be justified

There’s quite a good post on ABC’s The Drum about the impact of violent video games on the behaviour of young people. Lo and behold, there isn’t much evidence supporting the ‘but think of the children’ argument. Colour me shocked.

At the same time, advocates of R18+ video game classifications are still refusing to provide any argument in their favour.  Greg Barnes (the same guy who still can’t come up with a model for an Australian Republic) has this to say about the issue.

[N]o censorship regime can hope to ban video games and therefore to refuse to sign off on a national scheme that provides certainty for the video game industry, suppliers and users is simply a case of putting religious fervour before reality. [Source: Greg Barnes, ‘Video game opposition pointless’, The Drum]

I was a bit startled to read that.  As an atheist, I’m fairly sure I don’t have any religious reasons why I think R18+ video games are a bad idea.

Despite this, Barnes drops the word ‘Christian’ as often as he grammatically can to show why R18+ games should be sold in Australia.  Australia should sell the games because Christians are naive.  Riiiiiight.

Every teenager knows how to access violent games. That’s the beauty if you are a libertarian or the curse if you are a prohibitionist, of the Internet. Anything can be downloaded. Not only that, but there is plenty of opportunity to smuggle into the country pirated copies or even burnt copies of violent video games. In other words, the porous borders of the world of technology will find their way with concomitant ease around fulminating censors like Mr Clark and his fellow lobbyists.  [Ibid.]

Because ‘You can already get it on the internet’ is justification for so many things, like weapons manuals and recipes for explosives.  Personally, I think it’s a great thing that I don’t have a local 4Chan vendor in the main street of town.  Just because somebody can download this rubbish doesn’t mean somebody ought to be permitted to sell it.

But this is my favourite part:

Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor wants to use the July meeting of the nation’s Attorneys-General to agree to a proposal which will see an 18+ rating for video games. It is a proposal that has been around for almost a decade. Currently the highest rating is MA 15+.

This means that makers of games edit material to ensure it comes within that rating, even though it might contain extreme violence. As O’Connor said last December, the absence of an adults only 18+ rating means he is “concerned that there are dozens and dozens of games in this country that are currently accessible to 15-year-olds that are not accessible to minors in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.”  [Ibid.]

Imagine the game is ‘Spot’s First Blood Bath‘.  It is, in every way shape and form, identical to Spot’s Big Red Ball except the final page is Spot massacring his neighbourhood in a gorefest.  The Australian government says, ‘You can sell that here but you have to remove the final page.’  According to the reasoning of the above quote, the restricted material is available to minors even though it’s been censored.  Does that make sense to anybody who can read without moving their lips?  What part of the word ‘edit’ doesn’t he understand?  The restricted material has been removed, now 15-year olds can’t access it.  They’re not accessing restricted material.

To me, the argument comes down to whether we want to live in a society where torture-porn is easily accessible.  It’s rarely noted by advocates that it’s not uncommon for the material to be extremely misogynistic in its violence.  If there were some artistic or cultural reason for allowing the material, I’d could even bring myself to support it.

But nobody’s raising these arguments.  Personally, I can’t think of any arguments for it and so I think we’re better off without them.

Instead, advocates are just claiming the opposition is ‘pointless’ and assuming that the pointlessness entails legality.  The debate remains adolescent.

I know a place where the grass is really greener… Katy Perry lyrics used ironically in a post about women opinion writers

It certainly wouldn’t shock anybody, I think, if I let them know that I was in support of many kinds of censorship.  I don’t think that media/entertainment should be a free for all where anybody can produce whatever they like just because there’s a market for it.  Freedom of speech laws are far too often used to the detriment of the unprivileged, and most regularly used to defend the tasteless, tacky, and indecent.

But if we are going to have the system that we’ve got — where every halfwit gets to express ‘their opinion’ (often a very staged and crafted variant of it) — then the rules have got to be consistent.  At the moment, they aren’t: women opinion writers are overwhelmingly more likely to be censored than male writers. Continue reading