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Pro-con: Are violent video games free speech?

The U.S. Supreme Court waded into murky and, perhaps, treacherous waters Monday when it agreed to decide whether the Constitution permits California to prohibit the sale of violent video games to people younger than 18. The law regulates the sales of games that portray "killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being" in a "patently offensive" manner. (Is there a polite way to do one of those things?) It also prevents children from buying games with violence that appeals to children's "deviant or morbid interests" (whatever those might be) or that lack "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." (Now there's a logical and aesthetic minefield if ever there were one.) This is a well-intentioned but ill-conceived law that not only undermines several generations of legal progress toward making free speech a day-to-day reality in this country, but also threatens an emerging expressive industry in which California and the United States currently play a leading role. More important, it's an unnecessary gesture toward child protection in an area millions of parents already are handling competently on their own. The Supreme Court should regard the California statute as an infringement on free speech rather than as a child protection measure — and affirm the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to strike it down. — Timothy Rutten, Los Angeles Times

We think there is a strong argument to be made as to how the First Amendment applies differently to children and violence than it does to adults. California argues — and we agree with this position — that very violent video game sales to minors ought to be treated in the same way as selling sexual materials to minors. The state contends that excessively violent material sold to children deserves no protection under the First Amendment. Such a holding by the Supreme Court would add to the power of parents in determining whether their children should have such material, since presumably minors could get it only through their parents. We hope when Supreme Court justices contemplate the issues, they find that when it comes to minors, seriously sick and violent games deserve the same treatment as sexually explicit materials. — Long Beach Press-Telegram

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