Sen. Rockefeller Continues His Quest To Regulate Free Speech With His 'Violent Content Research Act'

from the because-we-love-our-elected-reps-pursuing-personal-agendas dept

Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s pet project — fighting violent media — just got a shot in the arm from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (because those three seem like perfect complements…), which “advanced” his legislation directing the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of violent media on children.

Rockefeller’s bill — the “Violent Content Research Act of 2013” — also drags the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services along for the ride, which indicates the end result of this study is going to be some form of regulation, First Amendment or no.

Why the country needs redundancy in studies of violent media is something only Rockefeller knows for sure. The president himself ordered the Centers for Disease Control to study the effects of violent media on children shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, although the president’s request also tasked researchers with looking for a link to gun violence.

Both studies are looking for something that hasn’t been conclusively proven to date: violent video games and media make people more violent. Rockefeller has his own ideas, ones which hopefully won’t skew the results. For the past half-dozen years, Rockefeller has made a handful of efforts to regulate or otherwise curtail violent media, to this point mainly concentrating on broadcasters. Every attempt to date has been shot down, mainly due to First Amendment concerns.

But the Sandy Hook shooting breathed new life into Rockefeller’s media-controlling aspirations. One week after the shooting, he fired off a “concerned” press release that made the following claim:

As parents, research confirms what we already know – these violent images have a negative impact on our children’s wellbeing.

But research doesn’t confirm this. Perhaps these two new studies will find a link between violent media and violence, but to date, research hasn’t proven there’s a link. Hopefully, this research will confirm what seems to be obvious — that violent video games and media do not alone turn a person violent.

Lobbying groups for broadcasters and a spokesperson for the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) both issued statements welcoming the new research, with the ESA pointing out that the FTC once again has recognized the voluntary ESRB program as the “best in the entertainment sector.”

With Rockefeller already having decided that violent media is a problem, it will be interesting to see what his reaction will be if this research comes to the same conclusions many others have. He clearly harbors a desire to clean up the airwaves (and beyond) and there aren’t many things more stubborn than a politician with a headful of bad conclusions.

Unfortunately for those on the receiving end of the scrutiny, they’re facing more than one such politician. The bill’s co-sponsors include Sen. Coburn and Sen. Blumenthal, both of whom might be remembered as being in the select group of 18 senators who voted for the PROTECT IP Act back when it was in its nascent, most damaging form. Clearly, both are in favor of regulating free speech. (Or, at the very least, punishing the internet to protect the movie industry.)

Of these two, Blumenthal is the greater concern. While at his post as the Attorney General of Connecticut, Blumenthal waged a grandstanding war against Craigslist and Backpage for hosting escort ads, as well as attacking Myspace and Facebook for their supposedly “inadequate” tracking of sex offenders. (This despite Myspace handing over a list of 90,000 names to Blumenthal.)

Blumenthal also filed an amicus brief (siding with the state of California in its attempt to regulate video games) with the Supreme Court arguing for the ban of violent video games, despite 10 states having already struck down such attempts as unconstitutional. In his brief, Blumenthal made some vastly ignorant claims about the video game industry’s “inaction,” suggesting it “follow the lead” set by the MPAA with its rating system, somehow ignoring (or not realizing) the fact that the ESRB has had a ratings system in place for years and a voluntary enforcement system that routinely outperforms movie theatres (and DVD retailers) in preventing minors from purchasing M-rated games.

Like the industries mentioned above, I too support more studies into the effects (or lack thereof) of violent media. My issue isn’t with the study, it’s with the people calling for it and, more specifically, the timing. Both of these requested studies were announced shortly after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, giving them the reactionary sheen of a witch hunt.

If these groups are allowed to do the research unimpeded by those looking to have their pet theories confirmed, we might finally have some sort of consensus on the relation of violent media to violence. If not, we might find ourselves looking at regulatory action prompted by compromised or badly extrapolated results that “justify” the curtailing of free speech these senators so obviously crave.

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Comments on “Sen. Rockefeller Continues His Quest To Regulate Free Speech With His 'Violent Content Research Act'”

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Mike-2 Alpha (profile) says:

Correlation and Causation

Even if studies showed that violent people partook of violent media, there would still be the question of whether or not the media was a causative factor. In other words, would that mean that violent media made people violent, or would it mean that those people liked it because they were already violent to begin with?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I grew up with violent media and my parents explained not real to me when I was about six.
I had no problem understanding that just like my kids understanding it.

I might add I’m relaxed all the time, I’ve not been in one fight in my entire life. I don’t believe in physical violence or verbal abuse towards others. I spar at the local gym but that’s not the same, we’re all friends.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: GUN violence

I’d say the ease of it is what frightens people. Someone trying to bash your skull in you can theoretically grapple with and win. Someone trying to stab you, you can theoretically grab a mundane object to fend them off with, or run away. With a gun once they’ve got it pointed at you, there’s not much you can do. That increase in danger and inability to defend one’s self equates to more violent in people’s minds. Basically “more deadly” = “more violent”.

Guns are also more efficient at inflicting harm. More people harmed in the same amount of time as a hammer or knife = more violent in people’s minds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: GUN violence

Naturally my statement assumes that the goal of an attacker is to kill you, or otherwise quickly inflict physical harm on you. If mister shotgun wielder’s primary goal had been shooting that guy, mister plucky pedestrian would have been shot.

When they’re already swinging the hammer at your head, you can block or dodge. When they’re already swinging or thrusting the knife at you, you can block or dodge. When they’re already pulling the trigger, your options and odds are significantly more limited.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why redundancy you ask?

First, they are commissioning studies to FIND a link between the two, no find IF there is a link between the two. There’s a big difference between those two things that makes all the difference in the world. The former is biased and the latter is objective. Once you understand that, the reason for the redundancy is simple. It allows them to say “According to STUDIES…” (note the plural sense of the word) before regurgitating the talking points.

Digger says:

To Mr. Fucktard Rockefeller

Hey asswipe, you must have watched too many Bugs Bunny cartoons as a kid, you’re brain is dead.

Kids in the past grew up with just as much, if not more violence, and they turned out just fine (of course, their parents were allowed to punish them appropriately for fucking up).

Kids grew up with things like
The Civil War
Indian Attacks
Locust Swarms
Press Gangs
The American Revolution
French-Indian war
Spanish Inquisition
The Catholic Church
To name just a few of the greatest violence creators of the past.

Todays entertainment violence does nothing to increase violent behavior.

Hamstringing a parent’s right, neigh, obligation to discipline their children so they can grow up civil minded, right thinking upstanding adults is what’s screwing today’s children up.

Go back to the laws of discipline from a century ago.
Remove the no children left behind bullshit.
Forget the everyone’s a winner crap, it isn’t true.

All of these things create children that believe they are entitled to their every whim, and that’s what leads to violent outbursts, children killing children for iPods and Air Jordens, not video games and movies.

Pull your head out of your ass and get some fresh oxygen to that thing you call a brain and start thinking you moron.

Hagen (profile) says:

As a matter of fact, violence has never been as low as it is today in the western world. And if you look at the development of violence over the last 40 years, you can see a nice positive correlation between the appearance of video games and violence. Also illustrated here:

Of course, correlation does not even come close to causation, as my professor at UTEP tended to say: There is a strong correlation between ice cream sales and rape. Why? Because of the heat of summer, a factor which influences both variables. That does not mean ice cream causes rape, though.

However, as an educated guess, I would argue that generations that have lived through actual wars and had to butcher their own animals (which they raised before that) where also exposed to lots of violence but without many means to handle violence in a socially acceptable manner which doesnt cause harm.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There’s a good argument that while crime is actually lower, people perceive it as being higher due to the 24 hour news cycle. Crimes that might not have been shown get coverage, more shocking crimes gets shown for longer, stories that might never have made it past local news are now national or international headlines, etc. So, most people think the world is more dangerous and violent, while in many areas the opposite is true.

Which is exactly why impartial studies are even more important than ever now. The facts need to be shown, not simply what people feel is a problem.

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