Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Fear

I'd like to spend all day engaging people about this, but the fact is I have a shit-ton of deadline-driven work to do that's only going to get done if I got media-dark for a few hours. So this will have to be all from me about the big Obama gun laws speech today.

I imagine the number-one thing anyone wants to hear from me is how I feel about the President calling for "more research into violent video-games" as part of his big set of plans/proposals. Honestly? I hated hearing it. It cuts me to the bone when otherwise intelligent, reasonable people I happen to support have to jump and join that particular political dance; especially when I strongly suspect that they're better than that. I would prefer that the President had said "some have called for more attention paid to a link between violent games or movies and gun deaths, but the fact is that research has already been done a hundred times over and the link quite simply does not exist and continuing to call for it distracts from the real issue; which is guns and the obscene power of the Gun Lobby."

I'd have liked to see that, and maybe someday I will, but it wasn't going to be today.

The fact is, enough of my fellow Americans are paranoid enough (either through their own deficiencies or because they lack the necessary clarity and intellectual confidence to not be swayed by the propaganda of the NRA and their ilk) to give real traction to the meme of Obama/democrats "coming to take all the guns!!!;" one that only gets stronger if said propagandists can claim that they and their issue is being "singled out." That they and their issue should be singled out is beside the point - "singling out" sounds bad.

Thus was Joe Biden obliged to invite representatives of the movie and game industry (Why not books? Oh, right - older/out-of-touch people aren't scared/confused by books) to his various summitts - even though he's smart enough to know that the "link" doesn't exist - in order to affect the image that guns and gun-rights weren't "alone" in being called to the principal's office. And thus is Obama obliged to namecheck some illusory need for violent games "research" even though he's also smart enough to know better and saavy enough to know that even if he did buy into (for example) the "desensitization" fallacy, actually making any moves that even smelled of censorship would lose he and his party their crucial support among GenX/Y voters.

But here's the rub: "Calling for more research," in Washington-speak, translates to "we pretty-much garauntee nothing will come of this." It is, quite simply, a smoke-screen - a way for the President and his allies to appear to take the "broader solution" nonsense seriously while they get about the real business of breaking the back of the Gun Lobby in order to make U.S. gun laws slightly more sane.

Would I prefer that this hadn't been part of the speech, even as I recognize it as little more than rhetorical sleight of hand? Of course I would. I also wish he didn't have slip into maudlin reassurances about "Our Creator" at the end, or that he didn't need to feign four years worth of "evolution" on his support for gay marriage. I welcome the day, soon to come, when we look back on today's notions of "violent" movies and games causing real violence with the same "this was actually a THING??" horror and sadness with which we react to Calvin Candie's phrenology speech in "Django Unchained."

But that's not realistically going to happen today, and progressives, young people and especially gamers among them need to recognize that before they think about dismissing and turning their backs on an administration that - where and when it actually counts - has been (and is likely to continue to be) largely on their side. The perfect mustn't be the enemy of the good.