Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm Searching My Constitution For the "Right Not To Be Offended"

... nope, still can't find it.

I know the US Bill of Rights doesn't extend to Canada. Maybe that would explain why their police would request that an American company remove a piece of software they don't like.

Some background: 4 years ago, there was a shooting rampage at Montreal's Dawson College. One student died and 19 others were injured before the gunman took his own life.

Four years later, an insensitive jerk decides: "Hm, that sounds like good fun! Let's make it into a videogame, and urge gamers to kill virtual students and cops!"  He makes a low-rent shooter called Dawson College Massacre and posts it to an American server. Outrage ensues, and the Montreal police ask the American internet provider to take it down.

We've been down this road before with reprehensible trash like Super Columbine Massacre RPG and V-Tech Rampage.

The men who make these games try to justify their squalid little pieces of propaganda as mere entertainment or social commentary or even art, but they display a level of creative skill and depth usually only found in a 14-year-old boy's Halo fanfic.I object to them because they're insensitive, crass, immature, exploitative, and morally repellent, but I don't see how that elevates them to a level of expression that needs to be policed.

Being an insensitive jerk isn't actually illegal in America. This is what bugged me about the reaction to the Koran burning pastor. I objected to what he planned on several levels, but it never even entered my mind that it should be illegal. Because, no matter what the worst justice on the supreme court says, it's not against the law, and it shouldn't be.

I don't like this kind of game, and I don't think it should exist. I also don't think people should deliberately offend someone's deepest beliefs, whether that means burning a Koran or a flag, or submerging a crucifix in a jar of urine. But I don't see how a truly free society can legally prohibit such things and remain truly free.

As for the picture that accompanies this post, it's of Anastasia Rebecca De Sousa: the only name I intend to use in this story, because hers is the only name that matters. She was 18 years old when the Dawson College shooter ended her life.

To the person who created Dawson College Massacre, I would ask: Does her death amuse you? If not, then how do you explain your game? If so, then how long have you been under the delusion that you are human?


Anonymous said...

Hadley Arkes at First Things made the point that certain kinds of speech used to be classed as "fighting words" and therefore not protected. I'm still thinking about the whole issue, but I thought he had a point.

The link is:

accordeonaire said...

Bang on. When Obama spoke out on the Koran burning pastor, I cringed. I know his speaking out doesn't "make it illegal," but in a way he is symbolically speaking for ALL OF US (the office is, anyway). I similarly wished he had remained silent on the Cordoba House project. Maybe we should take comfort that, since the election, anyway, he has proven inept as a charismatic speaker. I don't know, maybe, politically, he had to weigh in. I was bothered by the Generals speaking against the Koran burning, but I'm more conflicted about that. I don't want our military brass weighing in on free speech issues (especially opposing speech), but I can see a General objecting that this stunt is going to draw fire unto his men. Simple. And complicated. Go figure.

Thomas L. McDonald said...

I'm not sure that Hadley Arkes successfully made his point about fighting words, although I think that point could certainly be made. I think his argument rests too much on the same logic used for hate speech laws. They suggest that, for example, someone assaulted while being called a certain, circumscribed set of socially unacceptable words is somehow more wounded under the law than someone who is "merely" assaulted.

Thomas L. McDonald said...

By the way, my own faith, Catholicism, is routinely subjected to outrageous and offensive "free expression," and the media never makes a peep. Posting videos and photos of people desecrating the Eucharist has become a sport among certain militant atheists. Unless you are Catholic you can't really understand how truly horrifying and offensive this is.

I have no problem with petitioning websites and Youtube to remove these videos as a violation of terms of use, or merely because they are pointlessly offensive. But as painful as it is, I can't see the act itself being made illegal. And it certainly qualifies as "fighting words," because if I ever saw someone doing it, I'd flatten his nose and take the consequences.

Anonymous said...

I think that's the point of the concept of "fighting words", though.

If you saw someone desecrating the Eucharist, I'm pretty sure you'd have a moral obligation to stop him. It's not just that you'd want to: I think you'd have to. (Isn't it the same as the obligation to defend another person who is being attacked?) You could find yourself in a situation where you were charged with assault for doing something that you were morally obligated to do.

There's something wrong with a law like that.

Anonymous said...

BTW, as a prudential matter, I think I'd probably agree that the current cultural climate isn't the best setting for bringing back something like this. There are an awful lot of people who can't tell the difference between someone disagreeing with them and attacking them.

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