Hillary Clinton Will Come for Your Video Games

This is not an exaggeration, nor is it hyperbole.  If you have the time, listen to this 2005 press statement from then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

For those without time, this particular video introduces the “Family Entertainment Protection Act,” which was cosponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman, Tim Johnson, and Evan Bayh (I’m pleased to note that none of these people currently serve in the Senate). Also: video games destroy children’s minds and souls! It’s like lead paint poisoning! …Yes, the comparison was explicitly made; yes, then-Senator Clinton was being serious about that. And, in case you were wondering just how bad any of this really was, this is how described FEPA (which had long since died in the Senate) in 2008:

On-site store managers would be subject to a fine of $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first offense and $5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent offense.

The bill would also require an annual, independent analysis of game ratings and require the FTC to conduct an investigation to determine whether hidden sexual content like what was in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a pervasive problem and to take appropriate action…

Finally, the bill would authorize the FTC to conduct an annual, random audit of retailers to monitor enforcement and report the findings to Congress.

Now, I’d like to push back on something at this point: this behavior is not, in fact, “social conservatism” — which is how Politico couched it back in April of 2014, presumably because the author was legitimately upset about Clinton’s policy stance here and couldn’t think of a nastier term to use.  This is rampant nanny-statism. This is practically a (historically inaccurate) stereotype of Puritanism. This is somebody who has extended the concept of “helicopter parenting” to encompass the parents themselves, whether the parents like it or not. This is, in fact, the inexorable, logical extension of the remarkably fatuous statement “it takes a village to raise a child.”

It’s also problematical science, and worse law.  The science is not exactly, as they say, settled: the latest batch of findings pretty much reeks of ax-grinding and dubious reasoning (“lack of peer review” is a rather strong accusation in the science community).  Certainly there’s a counter-argument out there that youth violence levels have been dropping throughout my lifetime. But you could argue that in 2005 Hillary Clinton might not have known that. I mean, let’s face it: you don’t assign your best people to be Democratic senators.

But the law is rather more clear: the 2011 Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association Supreme Court decision shot down a similar California law, largely on the basis that THERE IS SUCH A THING AS THE FIRST AMENDMENT IN THIS COUNTRY. 7-2 split, for those who were interested; and it’s not every day that Scalia writes the majority opinion and has Ginsburg, Kagan, Kennedy, and Sotomayor sign off on it (Alito and Roberts concurred: Thomas dissented because he thinks that individual parental rights trumps minors’ free speech rights, and Breyer dissented because he apparently agreed with Hillary Clinton*).

Now, all of this is relevant because the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has just released a survey that claims that video game players will be an extremely important voting bloc in the 2016 election.  You may, of course, take that survey with as many grains of salt as you like; certainly the ESA’s policy opponents will!  However, it does remain clear that Hillary Clinton — the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic nomination, remember — has been on the record for some time as supporting a rather dubious, and certainly unconstitutional, position on video game violence. Does Hillary Clinton still believe this?  …And perhaps someone should ask her?

*It is not a good thing to have Stephen Breyer agree with your interpretation of Constitutional law.