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Opinion: Let's Kick Jack Thompson to the Curb

Filed under: Video Game Politics
Posted by Lunabean on October 18, 2005 10:43 AM
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Gamespot is today reporting the latest from everyone's favorite ambulance chaser, Jack Thompson. It seems earlier this month the anti-video game attorney penned "A Modest Proposal", in which he asked game makers to create a violent game that would target high ups in the video game industry, asking specifically that Take-Two Interactive president Paul Eibler be one of the victims. According to the letter, Thompson offered to donate $10,000 to Eibler's charity of choice upon the creation of such a game.

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Thompson's letter was clearly parody and satire. It was poorly executed parody and satire, but it was parody and satire, nonetheless. The key to the fact it was not to be taken seriously was the title, which is clearly a reference to Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal", where Swift proposed the poor children of Ireland be fattened up and fed to the rich land-owners of Ireland, as a means to improve the economic condition of the country. In 1729 people weren't used to satire as a means of persuasion, and Swift was widely criticized for writing such a cruel and insensitive piece.

Thompson's "A Modest Proposal" is laughable in comparison to Swift's, particularly since the evidence of satire only comes by means of the title. It is Thompson's constant self-elevation and belief that he's bigger and smarter than he actually is that I find most offensive about the man. This is why I'm so annoyed that people in the gaming industry keep playing his games, and continue to take Thompson's bait.

According to Gamespot, the Fighting Hellfish (aka the people who gave us the "Hot Coffee" mod, turning GTA: SA into adult entertainment) created a "PC Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas total conversion", which meets the criteria of Thompson's challenge. The Fighting Hellfish have asked for Thompson to pony up to his promise of a donation for their work on Defamation of Character: A Jack Thompson Murder Simulator. Thompson, clearly, refused, citing the piece as "satire". This also provided Thompson with the opportunity to explain his craptacular piece further, as it was written to "highlight the patent hypocrisy and recklessness exhibited by the video game industry?s willingness to target cops, women, homosexuals, and other groups with some of their violent games."

Now, enter Penny-Arcade, a truly wonderful little company chock full of some of the best web comics on the internet, often with a focus on video gaming. Needless to say, they have had a few comics featuring Mr. Thompson's name, and, therefore, have been threatened by Thompson with lawsuits a few times. Penny-Arcade has decided to step up to the plate and make a donation in Thompson's name to the Entertainment Software Association Foundation.

I applaud the donation, particularly since the ESAF pledges its own money to causes such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Child Welfare League of America, however, I'm not a fan of the way any of this has gone down. Thompson should have been ignored from the get go. Or, even better, ridiculed for what he was trying to do with his Modest Proposal. Instead, gaming sites (Penny-Arcade included) are now publishing pieces about how funny it is that Jack Thompson claims his piece was "satire". It was satire. It really was. Thompson now believes he won, because the gaming community isn't bright enough to understand, what I'm sure he believes to be, his genius.

I believe it's time we kicked Jack Thompson to the curb in the same way the National Institute for Media and Family did earlier this week. We need to stop playing with him, as doing so is only emboldening the already megalomaniacal lawyer. I know it's fun to make fun of him, but the truth is he's only gaining attention from it, which makes it more and more likely that his voice will continue to be the one picked up by the 60 Minutes and the Reader's Digest's of the world. We can't have Jack Thompson be the person our "news" stations turn to when school shootings occur or when teens commit atrocious crimes. His voice should not be the voice of those concerned with kids playing violent video games, as that concern is a very real one and does have a place in mature discussion and debate.

Yes, we should still point out all of the ridiculous things Thompson does and says, and, while we're at it, we should forward these comments to our news stations and political leaders, just in case they have a hankering to use Thompson as someone who knows of what he speaks. However, the time has come to stop egging Thompson on and to stop taking Thompson's bait. We're bigger and smarter than he is. It's time he understood that fact.









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