Monday, May 5, 2008

An Open Letter to Glenn Beck re: 'Grand Theft Morality' Segment

The following letter has been e-mailed to Mr. Beck directly, and is being re-posted on Law of the Game for my readers to enjoy.

Glenn,

First, let me say I am a fan, and listen to your radio show every day during my commute. However, over the weekend I caught your show from Thursday with the magic of TiVo, and I have to say the ‘Grand Theft Morality’ segment was a real disservice to the public at large. First, your panel was exceedingly one sided and biased. It was the equivalent of discussing global warming with Al Gore and Ted Turner. Given that you have had the authors of ‘Grand Theft Childhood’ on the show, I would have expected a more balanced guest list. Second, it is irresponsible for anyone to bring Jack Thompson on the air anymore. He has been sanctioned in Alabama and Florida and is facing disbarment in Florida for his courtroom shenanigans against the video game industry, which includes attaching homosexual pornography to court filings (which are available to anyone at any age in the general public). Most importantly, with no one there to even speak to the other side of the issue, it was a complete disservice to your viewers. Mr. Thompson makes many allegations which have been disproven, and he presents them as though they are still fact. Most notably, the complete myth that the Virginia Tech shooter was an avid gamer was not only invented by Mr. Thompson, but repeatedly disproven.

Here are some undisputed facts:

1. There is NO LINK between factual statistics on ‘cop killing’ and the release of Grand Theft Auto games. (http://gamepolitics.com/2008/04/29/fbi-stats-dont-support-claims-of-gta-series-as-cop-killing-simulation/)

2. There is no link between the violent crime rate and video game violence. (http://gamepolitics.com/2008/04/12/comparing-violent-crime-to-violent-game-releases/)

3. There are many studies showing that games don’t have the impact on behavior that people like Mr. Thompson espouse as fact. (http://gamepolitics.com/2008/04/02/new-study-game-violence-makes-players-less-angry/ and http://content.apa.org/journals/emo/8/1/114, among others)

4. In fact, studies show that it is a dysfunctional family that generally creates violence. (http://gamepolitics.com/2008/03/25/study-games-dont-spark-violence-but-dysfunctional-families-do/)

I have actually played Grand Theft Auto IV, which I assume neither you nor your guests have. For the first nearly full hour of the game, you quite literally drive people around, go on a date to a bowling alley (no sex in the entire sequence), and then get into a schoolyard fist fight with some thugs who are beating up your cousin. In terms of the actual storyline, it’s no more violent or sexual than a Martin Scorsese movie. All of the worst things you cite as part of the ‘experience’ are completely optional. Those films garner an ‘R’ rating, and this game has similarly garnered an ‘M’ rating, the game equivalent to ‘R.’

I find it troubling that someone like you would be perfectly fine with Jack Thompson’s government-imposed controls on content while decrying government interference and the ‘nanny-state’ on so many other fronts. No other packaged media (books, DVDs, CDs, etc.) in America has any government-controlled content restriction for the level of content that exists in these games. They are not pornography, and stating otherwise is a gross misrepresentation of fact. The ‘AO’ rating referenced in the segment is generally reserved for games whose content falls into what would be a film rating of ‘XXX.’ Most importantly, a number of states have passed laws similar to the one written by Mr. Thompson, imposing government regulation on games, and all of those laws have been struck down by the courts, many on First Amendment grounds. As someone who has repeatedly denounced the ‘fairness doctrine’ based on its chilling effect on free speech, I would hope your view would extend to other media in addition to your own.

Glenn, we’re not talking about placing this game deliberately in the hands of kids. Many stores do actually require ID to purchase games and movies that are rated M and R respectively. Ultimately, though, it should be the responsibility of the parents to monitor their child’s media consumption. The rating systems on TV, movies, and games make it much easier for a parent to do so, and if the point of your piece was simply to make parents aware, then your method of doing so was exceptionally overbroad. Telling your viewers to be careful if their husbands are playing this game was just absurdity. I have been playing video games for decades. I haven’t murdered anyone yet, and I have no plans to murder anyone in the immediate future. When any new form of media has been released, the public has always been quick to blame all of society’s ills on it until, eventually, people realize that it is not the media causing the problem, rather some other aspect of society. Putting on segments that only serve to increase the fear and unfounded hate of not only the games but those who play them has no benefit to the public at large. I hope that future segments dealing with the issue of video games would at a minimum include more credible anti-gaming guests, if not guests on both sides of the issue.

Thanks,
Mark Methenitis

14 comments:

Kenan Farrell said...

Well said, Mark. Let's hope he's open to the opinions of sane folks.

Ricky Grove said...

An intelligent and well written letter that will be ignored simply because dissing GTA IV makes for entertainment of certain segments of society. And entertainment means money. Circumstances were very similar in the earlier fifties when EC comics were raked over the coals for horrific content. Eventually people just got tired of all the hullabaloo and moved on. I think the same thing will happen here. But I think your letter is a noble effort.

BoosterBoy said...

Very eloquent Mark. Well done.

Wolfeman said...

Well put.

Unfortunately, this whole mess reminds me of a favorite saying:

"Never argue with a fool; they drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."

Tal said...

Well said.

Robert said...

An excellent letter! What really frustrates me about all the anti-GTA soapboxing out there is that just about every single element of the game that is decried is taken completely out of context. In Glenn Beck's case, I would have expected him to be a little more sensitive to the dangers of things being taken out of context: If I'm not mistaken, didn't Glenn at some point suggest he'd like to "kill" Michael Moore, only to point out that his statement was taken out of context? By that same token, suggesting that GTA is a game about killing prostitutes and that this is fundamental to the nature of the game and how it is meant to and will be experienced is really just removing the context of the game as a whole.

I wish I could be more optimistic and hope for some kind of a retraction from Beck, but somehow I just don't see that happening. Thank you for writing this letter, all the same, and expressing the thoughts of gamers everywhere.

Rob said...

Point 2 - you might want to explicitly mention the apparent negative correlation.

You also say "most" were thrown out on First Amendment grounds. Out of curiosity, what ones weren't? I really don't see how any decision on those laws could not mention it.

AmazedSatsuma said...

Mr. Methenitis I think you from the bottom for writing this open letter. We need to show the mainstream media that gamers will not not take these lies without making a fuss.

So thank you again, unlike what Glenn said, you are not a loser.

Pixelante said...

Good letter.

Too bad Glenn there thinks video gamer bloggers are morons.

robowerks said...

Great to hear from a fellow Xbox Live member and Texas as well. Well said, Well said.

FunkyJ said...

I don't think using Game Politics as a source is going to convince anti-gamers of your arguments.

Once any sane person reads the comments there, they will instantly discount the source, whether it is genuine or not.

Nightwng2000 said...

Funkyj,
So, what did we do that made you throw a temper tantrum?

And Mark, I'd like to echo the comments that support your letter but also state that Beck's comments imply he'll just ignore it.

Nightwng2000
NW2K Software

mattand said...

Mark:

This is a well-written article and I agree whole heartedly. I came to your blog via Gamepolitics.com and look forward to reading the other posts.

I don't want to sound critical, but as a Glenn Beck fan were you actually surprised in his presentation of this issue? From what I've seen of his show, Mr. Beck tends to frame a story so his outrage meter redlines well before the first commercial break.

Again, a well-written post. Thanks.

------

Matt

FunkyJ said...

@ Nightwng2000

Gamepolitics is like the Fox News of games journalism.

It's inaccurate, poorly researched, omits facts and truths in stories to further it's agenda, and all articles are written to entice response from it's rabid readership who don't engage in discussion but rather react strongly against anyone who has an alternative view to them.

You don't hear of anyone (of any consequence) using Fox News to defend their point of view, so why should such an elegantly and thought out letter use such a piss-poor news source when there are hundreds if not thousands of better websites?