Jack Thompson is over, apparently

While I’m sure this blowhard will still appear on Fox News, leaking verbal excrement whenever and wherever he gets the chance, it appears that his controversial legal career is over – at least in Florida – as the courts refuse to deal with him directly.

Last week I published an article over on my politics blog about Jack, where I outline why he’s such a dick. And, to save you the trouble of following a simple link, I have republished it below…

Jack Thompson. What a dick

On Valentines Day, again, a US university was rocked when one of its own students entered a lecture theatre and shot at classmates with a shotgun.

Five students were killed, and sixteen wounded before the gunman turned his weapon on himself. As usual the 24hr rolling news channels descended on the university campus and the salivating media circus had begun. Thrashing around for hard facts, and finding little, the networks – desperate to hold onto viewers – resorted to type: calling on their army of commentators and “experts” to offer opinions and suspicions based on… well fuck all really.

Of all the vultures who profit from this sort of tragedy, the most infamous is one Jack Thompson: a Fox News talking head, who happens to be an attorney (who isn’t?) specialising in jumped-up cases based on his own fucked-up Christian Conservative moral compass.

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Thompson has wasted a variety of people’s time, chasing targets such as rappers, shock-jocks, and more recently video-game companies. And it’s this latter obsession that led to Thompson’s smug face appearing on Fox News last month. Within hours of the killings, and even before the police had released any information, we find Thompson breaking his neck to blame video games. It’s really quite phenomenal: the speed at which he twists events to justify his agenda.

After an initial intro from the Fox presenter, Thompson begins with: “yeah, I wish I weren’t here”.

Yeah whatever. From someone who’s made a name for himself profiting from such tragedies, this sounds somewhat hollow. He’s a Fox News ‘Go-To-Guy’, after all. Some kid goes postal on campus, shooting up his classmates, and the right-wing news agencies know the man to call: Jack “it’s the video games” Thompson. Indeed, in his next breath Thompson squares the blame directly at video-games, even though, at that point, we have no-idea whether the 27-year old perpetrator was a gamer or not. Back to Jack: –

“Well we find from brain scans studies out of Harvard, that if you get started playing, for example violent video games, you can, errrr, are more likely to copycat the behaviours in the games and the disturbing thing, that keeps popping up in many of these, as in Virginia Tech, Columbine, Paducah where I represented the six parents of the three girls shot and killed is that you can rehearse these type of massacres on simulators, which are called video-games, and you can, errrr, are therefore make more proficient in doing this….”

Now, for a minute, if we could excuse the junior-school level grammar on show, let’s have a look at some of the accusations Thompson aims at video games.

First: video-games are killing simulators. Well, I guess, in a way they are. But having a joypad in your hands is a world away from holding a shotgun for real. If all you’ve done is play Call of Duty, I doubt you’d know where to start firing a shotgun. If sitting on your arse playing Halo can can prepare you for a life of killing, why doesn’t my pissy attempts at Wii Golf improve my handicap out on the course?

Second: Video gamers are more likely to copycat behaviours in the game. Well, doh. It would be hard to copycat something if you’ve never played it. But, lets not be pedantic, we know what Thompson is getting at. He’s suggesting that video gamers are more likely to kill, and so, logically: video games cause massacres. Ahhh. And this is the rub: Thompson has tried several times to sue video game producers, hardware manufacturers, and retailers for hundreds of millions of dollars. As the sayings goes: follow the money.

It should come as no surprise, when millions of kids are playing video games, that if a morbid fascination with guns and murder is your bag, you’re more likely to be attracted to games where the plot centres on guns and murder. Much like, if grooming horses is you thing, you may find yourself playing a Nintendo DS game where you… wait for it… groom horses with a plastic stylus. That kids with violent tendencies are inclined to play such games such as Grand Theft Auto, is a no-brainer.

I play games such as Halo, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life. Online and in single-player mode. Yet, funnily enough, I’ve never once taken it on myself to right a few wrongs armed with a high-powered rifle. It’s just not in my make-up, but competing against players across the world – just to prove how awesome I am, is absolutely my motivation. Video games don’t create psychos – society, chemicals, and fucked-up genes create psychos. Video games merely provide people with a cathartic escape, often one in which reflects reality – be it street crime or senseless wars in the Middle East.

I wonder, wouldn’t Mr. Thompson be better employed crusading against the proliferation of firearms in America? After all, isn’t the easy access to rifles, hand guns, and shotguns, far more important to a prospective high-school shooter than any sofa-based practice with a plastic controller? I wonder why America’s gun laws haven’t been the target of Jack’s vitriol?

Now I’m not going to argue for greater gun control. But then, neither am I going to use the law to coerce others to live by my moral agenda in any other field either.

Blaming video games for high-school violence is a great way to mitigate an incident’s impact on America’s gun laws. So is it any wonder that conservatives rally behind a pompous wanker happy to blame all societies ills on something other than freely available weaponry. You see, it’s got little to do with video games, and everything to do with that most hallowed of conservative institutions: the National Rifle Association. Oh, and in Jack Thompson’s case: money and ego, too.

It turns out that last week’s shooter did indeed occasionally play Counter-Strike: a popular multi-player online video-game. His friends said that this was ordinary – most of them played it. You see, this is what people do… they play video games. But it also transpires that he was a clinical depressive and had recently stopped taking his proscribed medication. His mother had recently died and his father was in a home. The guy was, as they say, pretty fucked up.

But Jack “it’s the video games” Thompson isn’t going to let a man’s dire situation, and ultimate breakdown, stop him from blaming video games. Indeed Thompson has attempted to use the law after several other shootings, to ascertain whether or not the perpetrator was a gamer. The courts have usually refused, citing that the evidence is crucial to an ongoing investigation. Thompson has claimed that “In every school shooting, we find that kids who pull the trigger are video gamers.” Right, so it’s got nothing to do with personal circumstance or free access to guns? Give me a break.

Let’s get one thing straight. Video games
should have age restrictions enforced by law – a la DVDs and alcohol. But they shouldn’t be used as a tool to mitigate the greater problems facing a society where kids are taking firearms into class and killing and maiming their fellow students. It doesn’t wash, it’s manipulative, and it’s weak.

Self-interested charlatans such as Jack Thompson have no place passing comment on serious incidents, and the media, however desperate, should start acting with some semblance of responsibility.

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