Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat. But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones.Just because there's a new media doesn't mean there's a new exception to be carved out of the 1st Amendment. I like our Court in general on 1st-Amendment issues. It's all too rare to see the government limiting the power of the government (unlike, say, in cases involving the 4th Amendment). Here's what I think is the meat of the Court's decision:
We have long recognized that it is difficult to distinguish politics from entertainment, and dangerous to try. “Everyone is familiar with instances of propaganda through fiction. What is one man’s amusement, teaches another’s doctrine.” Winters v. New York (1948). Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, “esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature . . . are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.” US v. Playboy (2000).But I still don't understand why nudity is worse than violence. For speech to be banned, it needs to be obscene. But I don't follow this logic:
Because speech about violence is not obscene, it is of no consequence that California’s statute mimics the New York statute regulating obscenity-for-minors that we upheld in Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U. S. 629 (1968). That case approved a prohibition on the sale to minors of sexual material that would be obscene from the perspective of a child.Why is violence somehow less obscene than, say, a naked woman?
But the best part of the decision? This attack, in a footnote, directed at the court's worst justice:
JUSTICE THOMAS ignores the holding of Erznoznik, and denies that persons under 18 have any constitutional right to speak or be spoken to without their parents’ consent. He cites no case, state or federal, supporting this view, and to our knowledge there is none.Damn, yo! This is a full-on Supreme Court Smackdown! (And now I gotta look up ipse dixit.) Why didn't Scalia just straight up call Thomas an idiot? Oh, wait, he did.
Our point is not, as JUSTICE THOMAS believes, merely that such laws are “undesirable.”... Such laws do not enforce parental authority over children’s speech and religion; they impose governmental authority.
This argument is not, as JUSTICE THOMAS asserts, “circular.” It is the absence of any historical warrant or compelling justification for such restrictions, not our ipse dixit, that renders them invalid.
I also like that Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books are now officially enshrined in constitutional law (I admit: I "turned back." Didn't we all?). Says the Court: "All literature is interactive."
And Scalia, who lives up to his reputation as the liveliest writer on the bench, has one final dis for one those idiotic over-reaching psychological studies:
One study, for example, found that children who had just finished playing violent video games were more likely to fill in the blank letter in “explo_e” with a “d” (so that it reads “explode”) than with an “r” (“explore”). The prevention of this phenomenon, which might have been anticipated with common sense, is not a compelling state interest.