Newt Gingrich on Gun Control and Video Games

Newt Gingrich

This morning on This Week with George Stephanopoulus, former Speaker of the House and possible 08 Presidential candidate jumped on the "anti-game" bandwagon -- the same bandwagon that has been backpedaling from Jack Thompson's recent outburst. Gingrich didn't explicitly claim a causal relationship between playing games and committing violence, but he held up the existence of violent games (played by 7 year olds) as an illustration of the failures of the liberal elite. You can view the full segment, which is mostly about gun control, on ABC's website, and the parts I'll be discussing below start at about 3:30.

George asks Gingrich about something he said in a speech following Columbine where he blamed the tragedy on liberalism in America. George asks him if he still stands by that comment, and Gingrich replies by taking an unexpected turn toward games. I won't quote his Columbine comment, but you can read it in context here. (Interestingly, he specifically mentions legislating game content in that speech as well.) Anyway, here's my quick transcript of today's conversation:

Stephanopoulos: Do you stand by that description today? Gingrich: Yes, I think the fact is if you look at the amount of violence in games that young people play, at 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 years of age, if you look at the de-humanization, if you look at the fact that we refuse to say that we are endowed by a creator, that our rights come from God, that if you kill somebody you're committing an act of Evil. George: But what does that have to do with liberalism?

Good question, George. Gingrich goes on to talk about the Don Imus scandal, but similarly shifts that topic to a criticism of children's Halloween costumes, implying that these costumes which he saw for "Pimps and Prostitutes" (allegedly intended for 10 year olds) were far worse than Imus' racist comments. Actually, following his logic, it's the permissive, "situationist ethic" created and promoted by liberals that allows for these costumes to exist, so they (the liberals) are really to blame for all of this. On the one hand, it's easy to dismiss these distortions and non-sequiturs as a "those darn kids" rant of someone who's out of touch culturally and somewhat disenfranchised politically, but since Newt has presidential aspirations for 08, we have to pay close attention to his rhetoric. Further, while it also could be argued that the best response to the politicization of the Virginia Tech tragedy is to simply ignore those who seek to gain partisan points by exploiting it, we can't let Gingrich off that easily. We can roll our eyes at Jack Thompson, but Gingrich has a far greater chance of being in a position to actually influence policy than Thompson, so we should hold Gingrich accountable for his irresponsible statements. At the very least, gamers that vote need to be aware of Gingrich's positions on games and should take them into account when considering who to support in the next election.

In my comment on Laurie's blog, I criticized a then-hypothetical viewpoint which we now see completely encapsulated; that is, the idea that a proponent of looser gun control legislation could be in favor of tighter video game legislation. The topic of the segment on This Week is gun control, so Newt moves in less than a minute from arguing that he would make changes to help get more guns on America's streets, to saying that it's liberals who allow and implicitly support a culture of violence. I respectfully disagree.

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