How To Debunk A Fact-Free Fox News Fearmongering Piece About New Video Game

from the a-few-options dept

I'm admittedly late to the game in discussing the (unintentionally) hilarious Fox News fearmongering attack on the new video game BulletStorm, that (among other things) quotes someone suggesting that it will lead children to rape women because certain actions in the games (which includes no sex) include "sexual" names. For example, shooting someone's torso off is called "topless," while killing a bunch of enemies in one shot is called a "gang bang." A bunch of folks submitted this story last week, but I only had a chance to read it now, and... wow. It's a "classic" in the almost totally fact-less genre of how video games will lead children to their doom.

Since I'm so late to the story, rather than directly going through all of the laughable (or downright false) claims directly, I'll simply point to three of the best debunkings that were done to show you how to properly debunk this type of thing:
  • There's the straightforward debunking, done by folks like Winda Benedetti at MSNBC, which calmly and rationally responds to many of the claims that Fox News reporter John Brandon made in the original review (or quoted people to make). For example, Brandon quotes Carole Lieberman, a psychologist, who claims that "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games." The only problem? As video games have become more popular, rape rates have gone down.

  • If that's not enough of a debunking, John Walker, over at the RockPaperShotgun blog went with a dig deeper debunking, in which he contacted folks quoted by Brandon in the article, and discovered (surprise, surprise) that Brandon appears to have selectively chosen his quotes in at least some of the cases, to make "experts" say something quite different than what they really said. Walker got the full email interview that Brandon did with Billy Pidgeon, a video game analyst with M2 Research, which Brandon uses to suggest that the game won't sell well, since people aren't interested in such violence. But that's not what Pidgeon said at all. In fact, Brandon mixed and matched parts of Pidgeon's answer to have him "say" something quite different than what he actually said. On top of that, Walker's research shows the way that Fox News approached this story, asking incredibly leading questions.

    Update: In the comments, Patrick points out that Walker has posted another "dig deeper" debunking of Carole Lieberman's "research" to attempt to prove her claims. It's a long and thorough takedown.

  • And, finally, we have the absolutely epic takedown debunk, as done by Eddy at Botchweed, where he did a giant image of the entire Fox News piece, overlayed with his own commentary (including a chart showing the rape rates declining next to the quote mentioned above). Here's just a snippet of the image, but you should see the whole thing:
So there you go. When someone like Fox News publishes a ridiculously wrong and misleading attack on video games, three perfect templates for debunking.

Filed Under: bulletstorm, debunking, fearmongering, fox news, video games


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  1. icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 15 Feb 2011 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    From a purely statistical point of view, it's much better and more scientific to use the PPT (parts per thousand) rate of measurement. You can't compare a select group in a population of millions to the same select group in a population of thousands. The numbers don't add up. You also can't properly compare the numbers from year to year. Total population numbers change greatly from year to year. Statistically one needs to use the PPT numbering.

    There are also many other things you have to take into account. The study you posted is off, to say the least. It only covers domestic violent acts (not just domestic rape). It also only covers a vary small group of people that they chose to ask. When you have a group of people that only make up less then one third of a percent of the total population, the numbers will be wrong. Multiply that mistake by 300 or so, you get vary bad numbers (How do you get 248,000 people raped out of 74,000 people asked?).

    The only numbers you can trust are the ones from the police (to an extent). They had x number of rapes this year compared to x number the next. I can't say for sure, but I believe those are the numbers used in the last report I read about the drop of rape.

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