Last month, Franklin Graham, in a meeting with other religious leaders and Vice President Joe Biden, brought up the idea of taxing violent media including video games. Even though numerous legal experts and anti-censorship organizations have shown that such a curb on free expression would be grossly unconstitutional, Graham apparently has not given up on the proposal. On Friday, he brought his argument to John Stossel’s show only to have it torn to shreds by Fox News’ resident Libertarian, who compared the current panic over video games to the crusade against comic books in the 1950s.
As far as Graham is concerned, violent media is no different from alcohol and cigarettes — never mind that movies, TV shows, and video games are all forms of protected expression:
Stossel: What do you want to do, do you want to ban ?
Graham: Well, we have of course a Constitution and we won’t be able to do that, but we certainly can tax them, John. We can tax violence. Why don’t we try that? We do that to cigarettes, alcohol, why not tax violence and give the money to the people that are the victims?
Stossel correctly points out that “[t]here’s no good evidence that video games cause violence,” but Graham forges ahead with anecdotal evidence:
Everyone I grew up with had guns, but we didn’t go around shooting people. And today these young kids want to dress like the actors they see in TV or what they see in these video games, and they arm themselves with these rifles and guns and they go out and they commit these killings. It is sick…our entire nation has become addicted to violence for entertainment, like the Romans.
Stossel ripostes with statistics showing that violent crime overall and youth crime in particular have actually decreased in the past several decades, and that Japan’s higher rate of video game consumption does not correlate to a higher rate of violent crime — just the opposite, in fact. Then he brings up discredited psychiatrist Fredric Wertham (misidentified via PBS’ Nova as a “forensic scientist”) and the Senate hearings which tied comic books to juvenile delinquency:
Stossel: In the 1950s, the villain was the comic book. The Senate claimed comics were causing juvenile delinquency, and at one hearing a so-called forensic scientist said one comic promotes sadistic fantasies to kids. That comic was Superman.
Graham: I don’t know. Maybe the comic books did have a negative impact, I really don’t know. But we don’t know unless we have a study, do we? And our government is not focusing on that.
Stossel: I can’t imagine what more study we could have other than the fact that the games are more popular and crime is down.
You can watch the full video of Stossel’s takedown of Graham over at Kotaku.
Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!
Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.