Ralph Nader Makes First Serious Bid For 'Crazy Old Man' Position; Refers To Video Games As 'Electronic Child Molestors'

from the read-more-in-'Flowers-in-the-Xbox'-by-V.C.-Andrews dept

Is it time to let the “how is a video game like a Catholic priest” jokes start flying? Show me on the cartridge where Mortal Kombat touched you? Remember that part in Grand Theft Auto IV when Niko Bellic shoved his hand down your/his pants? Now we know why all controllers have a vibrate function?

Inappropriate? Yes. Offensive? Of course. But no worse than Ralph Nader's bizarre statement suggesting video games molest children. Sure, the definition of “molest” could cover tinkering with their little minds, but Nader's mid-rant attack on video games suggests his mind is the one that needs some tinkering.

“We are in the peak of [violence in entertainment]. Television program violence? Unbelievable. Video game violence? Unprecedented,” Nader said. “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.”

Well, that seems to be everyone's favorite topic these days when they're not decrying gun ownership in general. “Violent media.” “Violent video games.” Let's get on the grandstand, ride the bandwagon, and craft some unfortunate legislation! And by all means, let's hyperbolize the issue into irrelevance.

“Peak violence.” That's a new one. Just a few years ago we were all concerned with “peak oil.” Now it's culture-at-large, supposedly more violent than ever, but without the escalating crime statistics needed to bear out these claims. All it takes is a tragedy or two to obscure the decline in violent crime and fog up the memory of those who have made overwrought statements aimed at various forms of media before.

Here's Nader's post-Newtown editorial for Huffington Post:

Advertisements aimed at children are meant to tantalize and sell the latest toys, gadgets and video games — many of which serve as electronic babysitters that feature violence and undermine parental authority.

That's a lot of blame to place on a few devices, Ralph.

The potential impact on the developing psyche of young children of heavy exposure to the violence and crass humor found in entertainment is disturbing.

“Potential.” Keep using that word like it means something. Everything is “potential” until proven or disproven. So far, “disproven” is winning. And one man's (or child's) “crass humor” is another man's high art. To equate an exposure to crass humor to an exposure to violence is some spectacularly bad rhetoric. Carrying out this “potential impact” to its illogical extreme means that fart jokes breed as many killers as Eli Roth films do.

Here's Ralph Nader again, from 2011, in an open letter to NBA commissioner David Stern, asking him to reconsider playing games on Christmas because NO FAMILY EVER WATCHED A SPORTING EVENT TOGETHER.

I urge you to reconsider the Christmas day NBA overload in a spirit of decency, regard and recognition as to how this will disrupt family gatherings throughout the day with predictable arguments between children and parents about watching the games instead of spending quality time with siblings, parents, relatives and friends.

If anything, I'd think he'd be more concerned about the players being unable to spend time with their families on Christmas, rather than on the “predictable arguments” of one-TV households (or whatever it is he's alluding to). I appreciate Nader's “family first” stance on all of these fake issues, but seriously, it's like listening to someone rant that everything today is terrible because it's not 40 or 50 years ago.

Nader has done a lot of good in his role as consumer advocate, but he's taking a wrong turn down an avenue that leads past “irrelevance” and into “self parody.” His slightly unhinged rant, which included referring to the inauguration ceremony as “political bullshit” (it kind of is) and calling out Obama for breaking several of his campaign promises (which he did), was made even more bizarre by his statement that all of this was “peripheral” to his real concern: the “molested” children.

If this sort of thing keeps up, by the time any conclusions are reached on violent media and its relationship to real-life violence, the American public (and perhaps even many of their representatives) will be so tired of hearing about it, they'll no longer care. If anyone's truly worried about “desensitizing” the American public, it should be those who feel the issue can only be taken seriously if it's surrounded by ridiculous conflation and tenuous correlation.

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Comments on “Ralph Nader Makes First Serious Bid For 'Crazy Old Man' Position; Refers To Video Games As 'Electronic Child Molestors'”

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PaulT (profile) says:

“many of which serve as electronic babysitters”

I think you’ve identified the real problem here, Ralph – parenting. Yet again, it’s not Rockstar’s fault if they create a game for adults then some idiot parent gives it to their kid because they want the XBox and TV to raise them instead.

“The potential impact on the developing psyche of young children of heavy exposure to the violence and crass humor found in entertainment is disturbing.”

Then ask why the parents are letting their kids view those programs and play those games. Don’t try pushing your prudishness onto full grown adults who like stuff you don’t like.

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re:

That’s the first thing I noticed.

I don’t think he meant to say that. Saying electronic babysitter is suggesting a fault in the parents then allowing responsibility to return to the parents, which we all know are without blame, being angelic hard working individuals with morals that can make a saint blush in shame and all.

I think he intended to suggest that the items brainwash and corrupt the parents with subliminal messages hidden in the children’s advertisements for people who are not paying direct attention to the advertisement.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” Then ask why the parents are letting their kids view those programs and play those games. Don’t try pushing your prudishness onto full grown adults who like stuff you don’t like.”

Here’s what I don’t like in arguments… This is a caricature… A stereotype if you will… That is used as an emotional plea.

The government really shouldn’t have any business in what games are too violent except to have that information understood by the community.

Parenting is not the problem here. We have millions of gamers that play millions of different games for millions of different reasons. Very few of the gamers become violent.

What we have here is lack of communities to regulate behavior. The parenting is a scapegoat for most people to ignore how a community regulates behavior for good or ill.

Personally, I played MKII in arcades. I still study high level sciences and maths while I speak two languages and study in college. The amount of science needed to create a game is mind boggling and yet people don’t realize that parenting isn’t the problem.

How about creating better communities that teach better storytelling? How about being able to talk to parents about different games?

How about allowing patents to have a few days off to spend time with their children instead of working until they’re 65 with few paid vacation days?

How about jobs paying a living wage so that our society allows parents more options and choices in the games they think are appropriate?

Focusing on merely parenting is focusing on once aspect without a clear view of the big picture.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:


I purposely let my five year old daughter play TF2, Skyrim, Hotline Miami + a bunch of other games.

Do you know why? Because they’re games and they are fun. Guess what? She also studies maths, English, sciences etc. at home as well as doing many outdoor activities such as karate, music and dance.

This is how I choose to parent her and I don’t really care what the government has to say about it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Parenting is not the problem here”

No, in cases where Nader is correct that videogames (or any other devices) are being used as “electronic babysitters”, parenting is exactly the problem. In other cases, different criteria apply.

My point was simply that in cases where parents are palming off the upbringing of their children onto videogames and other media, it ain’t the media at fault…

I largely agree with everything else you stated, and I do wish that politicians would tackle those instead of boogeyman scapegoats to grab headlines.

Jay (profile) says:


Look, it’s a generational gap here. Anyone around the ages of 30-45 have played games from Pac-man who popped pills to eat ghosts to Super Mario who got big ‘shrooms while saving a princess to get laid.

We get it. You don’t play games for entertainment. The fact that violence went down as more people started inside to eat Cheetos and play army with the newest Call of Duty is lost on you. You had GI Joe and Barbie and you liked it. We got more violence in our games than the movies from the Pentagon can show.

We got more depth and storytelling than the latest Tom Clancy novel.

We got more connectivity on the internet than your book club meetings on the weekends.

And we like it!

Now quit picking on the nerds that are our future generation!

Lord Binky says:


I’m sure playing cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, etc. was all less violent then what video games do.

Especially for all those kids that used to have BB/pellet/small caliber guns to shoot pigeons/rodents/pests/animals was less violent and gory and is less applicable to real life violence and lethal skills unlike a oddly shaped piece of plastic with buttons and a couple sticks protruding from it.

Anonymous Coward says:

his ridiculous comments have been borne from the usual place, politicians looking to have their name associated with a bill to get games re-qualified at least, banned at worst. it makes me laugh. people never look at the stupid consequences of ridiculous actions! all they see is the narrow field of what they want. never whether what they want is going to help, let alone whether it is gonna benefit the majority or even if the majority want the same thing. it’s always ‘let’s do this! it will get my name in lights!’ f*****g morons!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz is a prime example of this. He spearheaded an antitrust case against Google; not because he thought consumers were being harmed, or because he thought Google was misbehaving, but solely because he wanted to go down in history as the guy who broke up Google.

You know you’re country’s a wreck when the people running it are completely ignoring their actual jobs so they can try to get their names in the paper.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s true, video games molested me! Actually, worse, they raped me!

I was playing Diablo 2 as a female Sorcerer with a fellow male Barbarian when some mean monsters killed us both at once!

And then when I went to retrieve my body (what you mean you DON’T come back to life in town naked when you die?) I saw that my dead male Barbarian ally was RAPING my dead female sorcerer body! His dead body was right on top of mine, positioned as if they having sex!

My Male Barbarian ally even commented “looks like we were having dead body sex”, as if it was NOTHING! He raped my DEAD body and then didn’t care since he was so DESENSITIZED by video games!

Throwdini says:

Not your best work

You started the year strongly with a batch of well-written and powerful pieces. Here you are just mugging. I don’t see that you bring any substantive contradiction to Nader’s overarching message. You just disagree. Ok. I’ll file this under “Macho Business Donkey Wrestler” and await your next.

NA Protector says:


Reading through the comments and this article, what I have to write is that it is obvious that this problem is not simple. The obvious point is that games cannot be blamed for the rise of violence. The argument about guns causing violence and death and this are both pointless because logically a gun can not get up and shoot someone without some outside force at work and the same applies with games. (A cyborg with AI is an exception to this rule but, I’ll stop right there.)

Jay brings up a interesting point that society itself has to carry some blame because, not all parents intentionally ignore their responsibility. The problem with that argument is, its not all true either. I have seen and heard about some very dumb parents and they were not financially deprived or had limited time with their family. They just up and didn’t care. Another view is some people start families with no plans to take care of them and I can google or youtube for these types of stories (over a thousand found).

The overall deal is that this is a complex problem and these problems are usually comprised of several or more simple problems. Ralph could be focusing on what he thinks makes sense since it wasn’t part of the main stream several years ago and ignoring documentation studies that indicate that there is no relation between games and violence. (Personally, I would like a study to see if certain games can decrease violent tendencies.) So, games are not brainwashing tools that influences people to be violent, (If that was true, terrorist would be making video games and giving them away for free.) most parents do all what they can to raise their children to be responsible people of society, and there are some pockets of society that care about the individual and his/her family and in turn are flexible.

Regardless of who brings up the topic, the topic itself has relevance to what is happening, and I am happy to see people having a point a view.

Anonymous Coward says:

Someone should remind Ralph of the Saturday morning media he watched. The Three Stooges and Tom and Jerry were as violent (for their time) as much of the media is today (for this time)
Do these people not realize that its pretend, and that only a mind that has other serious flaws can not tell the difference?

I feel like the folks that imply that the public can not tell the difference are calling us all stupid or worse.

shane (profile) says:

Voice in the Wilderness

I have been wandering the wastelands of videogamedom for some time now patiently waiting for something deeper than the typical D&D clones and variations on the theme of first person shooters. My favorite types of games tend to be strategy games that have to do with resource management. But even those are progressing at a snails pace.

I adored Dwarf Fortress, at least for a while, until Toady made it absolutely clear that he is not going to outsource anything, isn’t going to move to an open source business model and just in general is going to leave the game in perpetual alpha for the foreseeable future. And I can’t blame him. Apparently people are paying him upwards of 50k a year to do so.

My complaint is simply this – the reliance of the entire video game industry on relatively shallow and formulaic variations on the same theme, all of which feature violence prevalently, is at least partly to blame for the constant media attention (ironic isn’t it) on media violence.

Bottom line, society is not stupid, and as fun as it is to pretend, neither are the vast majority of politicians. There is an underlying reason why this tactic keeps climbing back out of the bag. It works as a deflection tactic because people are aware of this focus on mindless violence in a lot of video games.

RyanNerd says:

Scapegoats are great aren't they

When a lunatic goes on a rampage kills a bunch of children then himself, we as a society try to blame external factors: Guns, video games, parents, the media, dungeons and dragons, heavy metal music. Rarely do we actually put responsibility for the acts of violence where they belong –> With the person who pulled the trigger.

shane (profile) says:

Re: Scapegoats are great aren't they

Well, and people also look for ways to prevent the tragedy, which I think is noble. But they overlook the obvious – be diligent in the physical defense of the innocent.

People are scared of guns, so they refuse to learn about them and carry them even though the only thing really that will ever stop a mass murderer in the act is someone as well armed or more so opposing them in the moment.

It is our cowardice ultimately that lends itself to these tragedies. It is not the cause, but it is what leads to the circumstance that allows it to happen more easily.

Wii Games (user link) says:

Harsh words " Molesting"

Well I think the word molesting is pretty harsh for identifying all video games, especially ones relating to children. There are some excellent games out there that should not be thrown under the same umbrella. Yes I do agree that children are playing way to much video games and should be getting outside doing physical activities more. Some parents do use these games a convienient baby sitters far to often.
Too easy to throw the child in front of a TV and give them a game controller. Can just be a cop out for good parenting.

As they say, “Everything in moderation”

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