The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

The Zombie Rights Campaign Strongly Supports Supreme Court Ruling About Violent Videogames

A controversial Supreme Court ruling was handed down today declaring that a California law restricting the sale of violent videogames to minor was unconstitutional.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday struck down on First Amendment grounds a California law that barred the sale of violent video games to children. The 7-to-2 decision was the latest in a series of rulings protecting free speech, joining ones on funeral protests, videos showing cruelty to animals and political speech by corporations.

Now I know what you might be thinking: much of the graphic and disgusting Anti-Zombie violence in the videogame industry today is targeted at virtual Zombies, so why is the ZRC applauding this decision?

We’re standing behind it because, quite frankly, it’s the right thing to do, not just on general principles of free speech but also for the Zombie Community.

The ZRC has discussed previously here on the blog our stance on free speech issues and our fervent belief that dialogue, as free and unrestricted as possible, is the best method to advance the goal of full Zombie Equality.

That belief has not changed, nor has our commitment to standing up for those rights, whether expressed in the context of Zombie Rights or not.

We picketed in favor of allowing the extremely dark and, again, controversial cinematic work ‘A Serbian Film’ to be screened in Chicago, for one example.

Getting back to Zombies, however, yes, there is an enormous amount of Anti-Zombie violence in today’s videogaming industry, and yes, this troubles the ZRC enormously.

We speak out constantly about Dead Rising, Resident Evil and numerous other evil franchises promoting hatred of the Differently Animated.

However, the same industry that brought us ‘Resident Evil’ also brought us the ‘Fallout’ games, a universe where Zombies are portrayed with enormous sympathy and nuance, not just as characters but as fully-fledged individuals. It brings us games like ‘Bioshock’ and ‘Final Fantasy X’ that explore the world of the Differently Animated and, while perhaps coming up short in some areas, pose thought-provoking questions about the nature of humanity and moral decision-making regarding the Undead.

And yes, those games are also quite violent, especially Fallout. Violent content does not negate art or make it inherently less worthy of protection or consideration.

The status of videogames AS art has now been thoroughly and resoundingly confirmed by the Supreme Court:

Justice Antonin Scalia., writing for five justices in the majority in the video games decision, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, No. 08-1448, said video games were protected by the First Amendment.

“Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world),” Justice Scalia wrote. “That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”

Depictions of violence, Justice Scalia added, have never been subject to government regulation. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed,” he wrote, recounting the gory plots of Snow White, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. High school reading lists and Saturday morning cartoons, too, he said, are riddled with violence.

(ibid)

This is precisely and absolutely correct. As careful observers of the media the ZRC is more than willing to attest that graphic Anti-Zombie violence is present across, tragically, almost all art forms. We have Anti-Zombie comics like ‘The Walking Dead’, and of course Anti-Zombie television like its adaptation. We have innumerable Anti-Zombie books, we have countless Anti-Zombie films, we even have Anti-Zombie music being published all the time here in America.

And yet, through it all, the ZRC still believes that the only way to advance our agenda is through convincing others of the rightness of our cause. Censoring Anti-Zombie art will not cure society’s ills, nor censorship of violent media in general. Failure to talk about a problem does not make it vanish, a lesson quickly deduced by millions of children who read ‘Harry Potter’ and marveled at a society so terrified of a villain that they refuse to even speak his name aloud.

And yet somehow millions of supposed adults have failed to learn that lesson. Astonishing.

Even more astonishing is that California reached the amazing determination that videogames alone, of all potentially violence-drenched media in the entire world, deserve, nay require, intrusive governmental regulation. Videogames alone, California declared, possess the power to instill new thoughts and feelings and behaviors in the young. Videogames alone pose the unspeakable danger of being able to influence and sway and change the minds of others.

What a low and despicable view of art, of culture and of literature other than videogames the legislators must have in California, to think them all so powerless, and what cowards they must be to fear the one form of expression they think has the power to change the world. How little they think of their own constituents as well, especially the parents in California, who can obviously not be trusted to instill any values at all in their own children, at least not compared with the power of a videogame.

Which brings us, at last, to the alleged goal of all these true-believers calling for censorship, for the protection of society, and usually the children, from supposed harm.

Naturally, I don’t believe them for a moment, but even if that was their goal, censorship is no way to accomplish it. Fiction aimed at children, yes, including videogames, is often violent and disturbing out of necessity, the need to be meaningful and true to the world, the need to say something honest and open about the reality we live in through a reality we don’t, and yes, that does means children will be exposed to unpleasant things and scary and terrifying things as well.

And that’s a good thing.

In response to a recent drummed up controversy over protecting kids from yet another boogeyman, this time Young Adult books, Sherman Alexie wrote a powerful and damning Opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, entitled ‘Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood’. A few highlights:

And, often, kids have told me that my YA novel is the only book they’ve ever read in its entirety.

So when I read Meghan Cox Gurdon’s complaints about the “depravity” and “hideously distorted portrayals” of contemporary young adult literature, I laughed at her condescension.

Does Ms. Gurdon honestly believe that a sexually explicit YA novel might somehow traumatize a teen mother? Does she believe that a YA novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape? Does she believe a dystopian novel will frighten a kid who already lives in hell?

No, they are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be. They are trying to protect privileged children. Or the seemingly privileged.

And there are millions of teens who read because they are sad and lonely and enraged. They read because they live in an often-terrible world. They read because they believe, despite the callow protestations of certain adults, that books-especially the dark and dangerous ones-will save them.

This is precisely correct. Whether the censorship campaigners wish to acknowledge it or not, we live in a deranged and degenerate society, and what’s more, we always have. Where is the Golden Age in human history free of strife and violence? Where’s your Shangri-la hidden in the history books? It’s not there, because it never was.

We have two options in the world we actually live and Unlive in. We can operate under the assumption that speech and art and ideas are dangerous and that we need to shelter society from them, first perhaps with children, as if that wasn’t bad enough, inevitably with others as the censors grow emboldened. That is one possibility. If history is any judge, it won’t lead us any closer to progress, although it might create a few nice bonfires of banned material to cook marshmallows over.

The other is, to the fullest extent we can manage, to TALK about our problems, our ideas, our hopes and fears and terrors, in order to hopefully gain a better understanding of one another. That freedom is the one that supports absolutely everything the ZRC does, and that dialogue is the activity we cherish most.

So yes, bring on the violent videogames, and the books, and the comics and the music. Bring on the art and literature, Zombie Friendly and Living Supremacist, and let’s have it all out in the open. Haul out Robert Kirkman and Max Brooks and George Romero, along with the ZRC of course. Let children see both sides, let adults see both sides, and let’s find out who we really want to be, as a society, as a nation, as a planet. I’m confident in the rightness of our Zombie Friendly cause and in its eventual triumph.

The ZRC and our righteous Cause have nothing to fear from free expression, from art, and as of today, videogames are considered protected First Amendment speech in the United States of America.

Let’s apply pressure to the videogame makers of the world to live up to that honor.


About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.

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