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
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), 15 Feb 2011 @ 4:20pm

    First they came for my energy drinks...

    both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Now they're coming for my rape enablers.

    At some point, I'm going to have to grab the kids and barricade the house before my possession of entertainment console is used as exhibit A that I am unfit to be a parent or part of general society.

    I'll argue that I have a proudly un-hacked PS3 but it won't matter. They'll find the little "M" on half my games and that will be enough.

    The only saving grace is that "they" are pretty busy right now, chasing down every pirate and infringer in the world, hastily assembling various Internet SWAT teams and trying desperately to plug every leaking hole in their rapidly sinking ship with subpoenas and empty threats.

    I did notice in the comments that there seems to be some actual enforcement of the rating system at the game shoppes, so I shan't be sending my little ones out to pick up the latest in mass murdering entertainment. Shame, too. They seemed to like the bright lights and membership cards of the various entertainment purveyors. I guess they'll have to settle for the dimly lit and malodorous thrills of picking up my usual pack of filterless Camels and contraband energy drinks down at the local 7-11.

    Late in the evening we'll gather round the LCD and cheerfully mix metaphors carelessly late into the night. The winner gets to write an incoherent essay in the guise of a comment at their website of choice.

    (I won last night.)

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