Because so many politicians need a boogeyman to blame every time something bad happens, often times, entirely benign things get political targets painted on them for eradication. Since government’s toolbox to solve problems is usually limited to prohibition and force, when a tragedy takes place, once-legal activities are blamed then banned and those bans are upheld with the threat of police violence.
Sadly, this has been the modus operandi of the state for centuries — despite the fact that it almost never works. Unfortunately, repeated failure of prohibition has not ceased to prevent future politicians from thinking that their next ban will work. Such is the case in Illinois
State Rep. Marcus Evans has recently placed the next government scapegoat on the chopping block. This time the state’s target is on video games.
Though this isn’t the first time video games have had a target on them by politicians, it is the first time in a long time. And, given the current state of anxiety and uncertainty in the populace amid the constant fear porn shoved down their throats over the last year, this time, there is actually a chance the ban could be successful.
Rep. Marcus Evans Jr. is using carjackings in Chicago as a reason to demonize video games this month and has moved to amend a 2012 law which prevents the sale of video games to minors. Earlier this month, Evans filed filed HB3531, which would amend that law to ban the sale — not just to minors but to anyone — of video games depicting “psychological harm,” including “motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present.”
According to the Chicago Sun Times, Evans had been contacted in January by Early Walker, who started Operation Safe Pump to prevent carjackings at gas stations and shopping centers. Safe Pump positions security guards from the Kates Detective and Security Agency in areas with high numbers of carjackings.
“The bill would prohibit the sale of some of these games that promote the activities that we’re suffering from in our communities.” Evans said.
Because carjackings in the video games have similarities with carjackings in real life, the state needs to ban the video games because it is clear that they are the reason people are committing these crimes, according to their “logic.”
“I feel like this game has become a huge issue in this spectrum,” Walker said. “When you compare the two, you see harsh similarities as it relates to these carjackings.”
But Walker is completely missing the point. The reason a carjacking in the video game looks similar to a carjacking in real life is the same reason a shooting in a video game looks like a shooting in real life. Video games are meant to be realistic.
On top of the bogus carjacking relationship, the bill goes further by changing the definition of a “violent video game” to one in which players “control a character within the video game that is encouraged to perpetuate human-on-human violence in which the player kills or otherwise causes serious physical or psychological harm to another human or an animal.”
The scope of this definition can be applied to thousands of other games outside of the Grand Theft Auto franchise up to and including the widely popular Fortnite series.
Unfortunately, like previous legislation claiming to “follow the science,” this new bill does anything but. Despite unscrupulous distortions of scientific data put out in journals with clear editorial biases, there are mountains of other studies showing no correlation between video games and violent behavior.
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that research did not find a clear connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior. What’s more, criminologists who study mass shootings specifically refer to the connections of violence and video games as a “myth.”
In reality, the data show the exact opposite. As Christopher J. Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University and coauthor of “Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong” points out, spikes in violent video games’ popularity are well-known to correlate with substantial declines in youth violence – not increases.
While the scapegoating of video games as the root of violent behavior may seem like some insignificant crazy push by politicians, it actually comes with a grave cost. As politicians and media fight over whether or not to ban Grand Theft Auto, the resulting misconceptions muddy the waters and prevent real measures to prevent violence like addressing mental illness and other issues, that are actually related to violence.
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