SENATE BILL 2497 - THE CRIMINALIZATION OF ENTERTAINMENT VIOLENCE

By: Kenny Moore

On May 2, 2000, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) immortalized themselves in the Censorship Hall Of Shame through their sponsorship of The Media Violence Labeling Act (Senate Bill 2497). The purpose of this bill is to complete the process begun in the mid-1980's by Tipper Gore and pals to establish a mandatory labeling system for all entertainment products containing violent content and to CRIMINALIZE the sale of labeled material to minors.

Under the terms of this proposed bill, producers of "interactive video game products and services, video program products, motion picture products, and sound recording products" would be forced to create a uniform rating system for all violent content depicted within these products. The Federal Trade Commission would hold the power of review over this ratings system, and if the system employed by the entertainment industry is deemed unacceptable, the FTC would also hold the power to create it's own system that would become mandatory by law. The labeling system ultimately implemented must include descriptions of all acts of violence depicted within the product and "shall specify a minimum age in years for the purchase, viewing, listening to, use, or other consumption of the product or service in light of the totality of all depictions of violence in the product or service."

The real teeth of this draconian censorship legislation lies in it's punitive sections for those caught in violation of the terms of this bill. For any manufacturer or retailer caught selling an audio/visual media product that does not contain the mandated label, or caught selling any labeled products to minors under the age specified on the label, they face a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation. Get caught selling a CD containing violent lyrics to a minor, lose $10,000. If that isn't bad enough, the law considers each day from the time the product is sold or distributed to the date of the determination of the violation as A SEPARATE VIOLATION! So if a store sells the newly illegal product for 30 days before it is determined that they are in violation of the law, it will be considered that they have committed 30 violations of the law, and thus can be fined up to $300,000 as we understand this bill to read--all because some politicians like John McCain and Joseph Lieberman are bound and determined to spit on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in just about every conceivable way in an attempt to impose their wrong-headed beliefs upon all of society.

We at ROC have been sounding the alarms regarding the fact that these labeling and ratings systems are all conceived not out of a desire to inform the public as is often claimed, but instead as an identifying criteria for complete removal from society of products that are offensive to some. Legislation to criminalize the sale of violent material to minors will not be the end of the story since the true motivation of the people behind laws like this is the complete removal of violent material from society for anyone. This is simply a stepping stone towards that goal. The criminal penalties within this bill certainly have proven our past statements against such labeling and ratings systems to be 100% on the money.

The flawed logic behind legislation such as this would have society believe that by eliminating fictitious depictions of violence, we will somehow diminish real incidents of violence. Because some politicians believe this entirely unproven theory, we are being asked to turn the other cheek to the fact that our rights to freedom of speech and expression are being completely trampled on with this latest attempt by government to decide what is or is not appropriate for citizens to watch, read or listen to. It is ROC's belief that products such as violent video games actually reduce the level of violence in society by giving children (and adults) a fantasy-based setting to vent their real world frustrations. We feel it is far better to go on a shooting rampage in Doom to release some anger than to do so in real life.

ROC encourages all our readers to contact your elected officials and demand that they stop the national crusade to destroy the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. To find contact information for the Senators or Representatives in your state or district to voice your disapproval, just go to http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/search.html . Specifically, please contact Joseph Lieberman and John McCain and let them know you will not stand for government criminalizing the sale of material that is fully protected under the Constitution.

Joseph Lieberman
http://lieberman.senate.gov/
E-mail: senator_lieberman@lieberman.senate.gov
DC Phone: 202-224-4041
District Phone: 860-549-8463

John McCain
http://mccain.senate.gov/
E-mail: John_McCain@mccain.senate.gov
DC Phone: 202-224-2235
District Phone: 602-952-2410



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