Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Moral Combat


Egh. Well, this is certainly a buzzkiller after yesterday's "Mario Galaxy" trailer.

Produced several years ago but apparently only heading into some kind of release now, "Moral Combat" is - aside from being a new all-time champion in the field of Worst Movie Title Pun EVER - a documentary about the debate over video game violence.

The doc, produced by Spencer Halprin, carries the standard promises of a "fair look at both sides," but I didn't need to know that it gives substantial screentime (and a premier panel discussion!) to Jack Thompson to know that a red flag was already up on this one. Here's the thing: It's all well and good to pretend that every argument carries equal weight and is equally worth considering in the hypothetical realm of academic debate where you do so to sharpen the rhetorical skills. But that's not - and I know I'm committing a sin against Political Correctness by saying this - how it works in the Real World, where quite often you DO frequently find "debates" where one side IS demonstrably, catastrophically wrong.

Thusly, there are times when "balance" between sides is not possible because any "balance" would have to be artificially-imposed. You cannot "balance" debates about Holocaust Denial, for example, because the "it never happened" side has no evidence or credibility while the "yes it did" side has MOUNTAINS of it. There can be no "balance" there: One side is right, the other side is wrong, and any attempt to make it appear otherwise would have to be an exercise in dishonesty, framing crazy people in order to make them appear as worth hearing from as their legimitate others. All men are created equal... yes, but they don't stay that way. Jack Thompson, Louis Farrakahn, Pat Robertson, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, etc. are not rational, reliable sources on ANYTHING - they are crazy people.

And that, you may have guessed, is my problem with what this doc claims to be (I will, of course, withhold final judgement until I see it)... it's not, in my estimation, possible in the realm of intellectual-honesty to make an "unbiased" doc on this subject that is also fair and balanced - it's NOT a balanced debate, and it NEVER will be. There has never been, and will never be, proof to back up the idea that violent video games are a direct cause of real-world violence. Not one study, not one laboratory test, not one SHRED of hard evidence has ever been found. The Thompson/Leiberman side does not have anything to support their claims. Not a single thing.

Thus, a truly unbiased doc showing both sides as they are would end up looking, well... as innevitably one-sided as a doc about the debate over the roundness of the Earth. Because you have one side that's made up of rational individuals with evidence and facts, and another side made up of crazy people with nothing to back them up. And as the trailer, which I'm about to show you, demonstrates, the filmmakers are at great pains to make Thompson etc. look to be on equal moral and intellectual footing with their opponents, which is simply not an accurate representation of the situation.

Now, I understand. This is the way people think you NEED to do documentaries, always pretend that everything is exactly equal and worth-considering or else you'll be accused of propaganda. I get that, and was expecting it. THEN I saw the trailer, which I somehow managed to miss back when it was fresh:

No, you didn't just imagine that. One of the commentators blames video-games for 9/11, and the film (appears to, based on it's own trailer) treats this as an argument as worth considering as any other.

Yeah, talk about fair.


joe said...

It would be so funny if they weren't being serious. Listen to the scary-sad music and apocolyptic language. I have never seen such horrible propaganda screened to American audiences. I think this may be even worse than a Mike Moore film! THE VIDEO GAMES ARE GOING TO DESTROY THE WORLD!!! THEY'RE MAKING OUR KIDS TURN AWAY FROM JES... I mean, from normal society.

What was that one douchebag talking about when he said we have always understood violence to be a vice! Since when?!? Has he ever read Homer, Shakespeare, or any of the myriad of mono-myths throughout history??? Violence is always the answer in many of those pieces of art, with the exception of Shakespeare where violence is supposed to be wrong but it's presence brought many out in droves.

As I have this strange feeling he is one of these religious right jack-offs, has he ever looked over that Old Testament!?! Exodus didn't go down like it does in modern interpretations, Moses doesn't feel much regret over the Egyptians predicament after the plagues. What about David and Goliath? That's a story of a war-lord rising up and violently defeating an enemy army over a few shitty scraps of land!!! We have only thought, as a society, that violence is something to be avoided for about 35-40 years now.

This is the "well-meaning" child psychologists stepping in to try and tell everyone else what to do again! God, they piss me off!

Anonymous said...

Three points:

I'm not sure you noticed, but the trailer also features at least one commentator decrying that games could be banned in the wake of a Columbine-type massacre. He didn't sound like he was describing that as a good thing.

Two, I think your comparison to Holocaust deniers is overblown not to mention inaccurate. You're right that there's no evidence proving a connection between videogames and violence, but unlike the Holocaust, which can be proven to have existed and therefore totally refutes Holocaust Denial, the fact that no proof exists to prove a connection also means that no proof exists that can REFUTE a connection between video games and violence. An absence of proof proves nothing either way.

If that's the case then there can be an unbiased debate in the movie as there is no determining factor either way. There's no physical proof that extraterrestrial life exists. Would you say that there can be no balanced debate about that issue?

The ironic thing is that I'm sure many on the other side as well feel there can never be an unbiased debate because they are so certain of their beliefs despite a lack of proof.

Third point, how does inclusion about that commentator's admittedly ridiculous comment about games and 9/11 prove the filmmakers consider it a worthy argument? That's a bit of a reach on your part, no? Isn't it possible it was put in the trailer simply because it was an inflammatory comment and more likely to get people interested in seeing the movie? I mean, if the trailer consisted of people talking about how great and harmless video games are, do you think people would find that as interesting?

Bob said...

"the fact that no proof exists to prove a connection also means that no proof exists that can REFUTE a connection between video games and violence. An absence of proof proves nothing either way."

"____ causes violence" is an accusation. In the legal realm, which is at the end of the day what we're dealing with here, it is incumbent upon the accuser/prosecutor to provide proof. Absence of ANY proof, legally, DOES absolve the accused.

"Third point, how does inclusion about that commentator's admittedly ridiculous comment about games and 9/11 prove the filmmakers consider it a worthy argument? That's a bit of a reach on your part, no?"

It doesn't "prove" it, hence the words "appears to, based on it's own trailer" appearing in paranthesis in the final paragraph and my stated objective to abstain from a FINAl opinion until I see the whole thing.

However, the overall tone, editing and music choice of the peice gathering toward and through the 9/11 moment seem, to me, to be giving the statement a semblance of real "dread" and credibility - it's the trailer's "stinger" moment, designed to get audiences not otherwise interested yet snapped to attention: "Zzzzz... Gah! Plane! Building! 911!!! OMG!!!!"

Also, not for nothing, but just the fact that a certifiable nutcase like Jack Thompson is (apparently, based on the trailer) shown as a talking-head on par with a sitting U.S. Senator (yes, Lieberman is a TOOL on this issue but he's not insane) is all the evidence I'd need that they are fudging to make the "yes they do" side of this look more credible than they deserve.