I note that James is on a brief hiatus and as such I thought that I'd leap in with one of my rare posts—only my second, in fact—in order to fill the gap.
I would like to say a few words about ManHunt 2, a computer game that is causing some controversy, as it essentially involves the gamer playing the part of a character who hunts down assorted people and kills them in inventive ways.
After deliberation, it had been given a release in this country but now that is going to be fought in court.
British censors have won the right to fight the UK release of video game Manhunt 2 in the High Court.
A judge accepted the British Board of Film Classification's argument that the game had been approved for release on a misinterpretation of the law.
The game was banned in June but the Video Appeals Committee said the game could be classified and released.
The BBFC said that the VAC had been guilty of "a very serious misdirection of law" on the question of harm.
The judge said: "I have taken into account the high public interest in the possibility of harm to children."
Mr Justice Wyn Williams ruled the Board had an arguable case that should go to a full hearing.
Both sides agreed that the game was not suitable for children, but the BBFC argued that if given a certificate for release, it could still end up in the hands of minors.
The first point is, if these media releases—be it video games or films—are going to "end up in the hands of minors" anyway, then what point is there is giving them a classification in the first place?
And how will they end up in the hands of minors? Either through shops selling them to minors—in which case the shops are breaking the law and they should be prosecuted at every opportunity—or the parents are going to buy the game for their children.
In this second scenario, the parents have made a deliberate decision to flout the law and the warnings that come with the classification. Whatever the reason, we have to accept that parents have ultimate legal rights over their children; their wishes should trump both the classification board and the government. To deny that is to accept that the parents do not own their children and are not responsible for them: the state is, and the state should have preference over the parents as to what is suitable for the children. And that is an utterly unacceptable scenario—unless, of course, you are someone like Polly Toynbee, for whom such a situation would be the first step on the road to socialist Utopia.
The final thing to consider is whether or not violent computer games are responsible for violent behaviour. And the answer is that it is unlikely and, assuming that it follows the same projection as porn, we can actually say how unlikely it is. Or, rather, Strange Stuff can.
The available data is quite explicit. The availability of porn does not lead to sexual violence, it actually decreases the incidence of it.The incidence of rape in the United States has declined 85% in the past 25 years while access to pornography has become freely available to teenagers and adults.
Not good enough? How about in the land of tentacle sex?Within Japan itself, the dramatic increase in available pornography and sexually explicit materials is apparent to even a casual observer. This is concomitant with a general liberalization of restrictions on other sexual outlets as well. Also readily apparent from the information presented is that, over this period of change, sex crimes in every category, from rape to public indecency, sexual offenses from both ends of the criminal spectrum, significantly decreased in incidence.
Most significantly, despite the wide increase in availability of pornography to children, not only was there a decrease in sex crimes with juveniles as victims but the number of juvenile offenders also decreased significantly.
In short, in the case of porn, easy availability leads to a decrease in sexual attacks because, fundamentally, porn acts as a substitute for the act itself. As far as we can tell, violent computer games act in much the same way: they allow people to play out a fantasy and they are less likely to ape the acts that they see portrayed.
Therefore, whilst various campaigners may hail this court challenge to Manhunt 2 as a triumph for decency and common sense it is, in fact, anything but. But these special interest groups don't like to get in the way of a good moralising, because that is why they exist.
However, make no mistake: if this game's release is banned, the subtext here is that the state knows better than you how you should raise your children. And from there, it's only a short step to the state podding hutches of Polly Toynbee's dreams.