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Commentary: Violent Free Speech Must Be Treated Fairly

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, July 1, 2011

I once wrote an editorial in defense of the state law that barred the sale of violent video games to children. The U.S. Supreme court this week declared that law unconstitutional. The court's right. I was wrong.

My impulse was understandable. The games targeted are vile. One depicted a man crawling on the street, begging for mercy. The video game player shoots him, and then pours gasoline on his still writhing body.

But as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, there is no absence of gore in the fairy tales many parents read to their children.  In Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers until she falls down and dies.  In Hansel and Gretel, children kill their captor by baking her in an oven. And in that high school reading list favorite, The Odyssey, the hero kills his enemy "by grinding out his eye with a heated stake."

California attempted to treat one form of violent free speech - video games, differently from other forms - violence in books (for example), movies or even Saturday morning cartoons. And that's wrong.

I really hate violent video games, but I agree with the court. Ultimately, it's parents who must decide what their children are exposed to. Not, the government.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.

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