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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Oh dear. The recent news that a federal judge tossed out a law that would fine kids for attempting to purchase or rent video games rated "M" or "AO" has put Kersten into a tizzy. A fact-free, ranting, raving, sky-is-green conservative tizzy, as usual.

Wingnuttia Level: 10 (She's gonna blow!)

She starts out by describing a game called "Manhunt". This certainly sounds like a game that kids should not be playing, and it is rated "M" according to her. I wonder what kind of adult would find this entertaining, but that's really none of my business. I also wonder what kind of adult finds Kersten's kolumns to be entertaining as well, and she still has a job, so what can I say? Different strokes and all that. Personally, I'm not surprised that there are some pretty odd video games out there. I'm more surprised that Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson still find work, but that's a totally different subject.

What do these games teach? "That degrading and hurting other human beings can be a thrill," according to Kersten. Or, in other words, they teach the same lessons that you learn from listening to Rush Limbaugh tell African-American callers to his show to "take the bone out of their nose" and other such pleasantries. Or listening to Michael Savage, Hugh Hewitt, Ann Coulter, etc.

Kersten is apoplectic that Judge James Rosenbaum tossed this law out, a law that is just a tool for helping parents according to her. She doesn't get that he found no proof that violent video games harm children. Since she is a conservative, I assume she is unfamiliar with the ideas of "science", "empiricism", or "peer review". The problem is that there aren't any rigorous scientific studies on the effects of games on children. Without these studies, one can't draw conclusions about whether this prior restraint on free speech is justified. It doesn't matter that the state's attorneys said the games were "utterly repulsive and demented." They aren't scientists, they aren't psychologists. Saying something and proving it are two different things. Kersten doesn't seem to get that: perhaps I can sell her my tiger-repelling rock. It obviously works since you haven't seen any tigers roaming loose around the Twin Cities lately, have you? I say it works!

Proving she has been spending too much time around Joe Soucheray, she appeals to "common sense". Common sense is not a basis for restricting rights afforded to us in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Common sense is anything but common. If it became "common sense" that Kersten's kolumns were sorely lacking in factual evidence and were damaging to the community, would she accept a restriction on publishing them?

Kersten then decries the fact that Judge Rosenbaum rejected the argument that the law helps foster children's "moral and ethical development". Really? I'm quite shocked that a conservative, those self-reliant people, would argue that the government can, nay, should, pass laws that foster somebody's idea of what "moral and ethical development" should be. Sounds like Kersten is looking for an excuse not to be a good parent, and for the government to take over the job. How does this square with the conservative ideology?

Yes, it's those evil judges who insist on having good, empirical reasons for doing things that are the root of all the problems in the world. It has nothing to do with anything else. Parents are perfect; they are just stymied by these judges. That has to be it!

I'm not a parent, so maybe these ideas are just plain crazy. But lacking a law that bans children from buying these games, I have several ideas that could help foster ethical and moral development in kids. I don't know if Kersten has any children of an impressionable age; if so, perhaps she should read this:

1. Don't let your children buy these games. You don't need a state law to prevent your child from doing something.
2. Don't let your children have a video game systems in their rooms; keep video game systems out in the open where you can see what they are playing (this goes double for computers; hell, kids don't need TVs in their rooms).
3. If you children go to a friend's house to play games, talk with the friend's parents to see what they are playing, if they have similar rules, if they are supervised, etc. If they are not as stringent as you like, don't let your children go over there.
4. Do spend lots of time with your children in non-video game activities, teaching that there are lots of fun things to do besides sit in front of a TV.
5. Do talk with your children about why you have these rules. You don't need explanations with very young children, but teenagers are certainly old enough to understand these reasons. They are much more likely to follow rules with a reason behind them than a rule "that is just because!"
6. If you really want to make your anger known, march right down to Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or your retailer of choice, talk to the manager, and tell them that you will not spend another dollar there until they institute store policies that require mandatory ID checks for all video game purchases. And if they don't do it, then follow through with your threat and don't spend money there!

Again, these may be way off base, but I know lots of people who were raised just fine with rules like these, long before the state tried regulating video games.

In the end, Kersten is arguing that she can't raise her kids without the government's help. That's a mighty strange position for a thinking conservative to take. For Kersten, though....


At 11:31 AM, August 03, 2006, Blogger minntelect said...

Kersten does try to have it both ways here. She criticizes the judge for ignoring "moral" and "ethical" considerations, but if the judge had relied on "moral" and "ethical" considerations and ruled in a way that Kersten disagrees with, she would have cried "activist judge!"

I think Kersten adds a lot to the Star Tribune, regardless of how many people disagree with her. Just look at the letters to the editor that follow her columns and you'll see how she fosters debate. But this column was pretty poor.


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