May 20, 2013
Innocent and Executed
Posted on Jun 29, 2011
Truthdig Radio airs every Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Los Angeles on 90.7 KPFK. If you can’t listen live, starting on Wednesday nights look for the podcast and transcript of each week’s show right here on Truthdig.
This week on Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK: Argentina’s bloody past and New York’s historic gay marriage moment. Also, actor and activist Mike Farrell talks about death penalty injustice. Plus, Robert and Peter Scheer celebrate (sort of) Justice Scalia.
Mike Farrell on the death penalty:
Argentina (extended edition):
Larry Gross on New York’s gay moment:
Robert and Peter Scheer discuss the Supreme Court’s video game violence decision:
Related article: Yes to Violence, No to Sex
Bonus: Bill Boyarsky on the California budget:
Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio from Truthdig.com and KPFK. I’m Truthdig Managing Editor Peter Scheer.
We have a very big show today dealing with Argentina’s bloody past and New York’s historic gay marriage moment. Also, actor and activist Mike Farrell talks about death penalty injustice, and if you head over to the radio post on Truthdig.com, you can hear a special interview with our political reporter, Bill Boyarsky, who says California’s new budget will devastate the state for decades to come.
But first we’ll be speaking with my boss, Robert Scheer, who has been absent from the show for a while as he recuperates from heart surgery. But he’s now well enough to get into it a little bit with his son.
We’re going to be talking about the Supreme Court’s historic decision about video game violence and free speech in which I was incredibly surprised by how much I liked [Supreme Court Justice] Antonin Scalia for a brief moment who affirmed the fact that the First Amendment extends to minors, and he showed an incredible knowledge, oddly enough, of the issue of video game violence. He dismissed the argument of interactivity as many researchers have.
I’m joined now by Robert Scheer. Dad, welcome, welcome.
Robert Scheer: Hi, how are you?
Peter Scheer: Hi, I was just getting into some of the things that I was blown away by Scalia. You have a slightly different view, but let me now say that one of the things I was most impressed by on the violent side of things was that he dismissed his colleagues’ arguments, including [Justices] Breyer and Alito, that video games do not cause violence. If anything there’s an association with aggressiveness; it’s not proof of causality. And you basically agree with that point of view, right?
Robert Scheer: Well, I would go further than I think he would, as well. I mean, we shouldn’t have restrictions on free speech and reading just because there may be some anti-social consequences. As he points out, you can read Grimm’s fairy tales and get some violent ideas, you know? So I agree with you, what Scalia did was wonderful in terms of extending the right of inquiry to people under 18 years old, and cutting through a lot of the garbage that’s always said if you read this or watch this you’ll turn into a violent human being. However, where I draw the line with Scalia and with the court is that they are very tolerant with not only violent expression, but he puts into the category even racist expression and other uncomfortable, bad ideas, but people still have the right to be exposed to it. But, he draws the line at sex, and in this country we have a sick attitude towards sex, we’ve always had it, we like violence, we only like sex if it’s in a violent setting and the court to this day, and as it happened on Monday, is willing to extend the right to minors to have access to violent material, violent video games that it isn’t even willing to extend to adults, let alone minors, in the sexual area.
Peter Scheer: Let me just say, to give some context, because Justice Alito wrote a concurring opinion giving all these examples of how damaging video games are and Scalia responds saying Justice Alito has done considerable independent research to identify video games in which the violence is astounding. Justice Alito recounts all these disgusting video games in order to disgust us. But disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression. Justice Alito’s argument highlights the precise danger posed by the California act [a law being decided by the high court] that the ideas expressed by speech whether it be violence or gore or racism, as you say, and not its objective effects, may be the real reason for government proscription.
Robert Scheer: Yeah, that’s wonderful—of course we want free expression, and we think young people should be exposed to a wide variety. But in that same opinion he once again reiterates that when you’re talking about sexual obscenity, which has never been properly defined, a whole different standard sets in. So, it’s OK to play video games in which in fact women are assaulted, brutalized, and yet if you show consensual adults, consensual sex of a nonviolent kind, unless you can show redeeming literally social political value to it, it can be banned. You cannot take both of these positions in any kind of logical sense, and yet that is what Scalia does.
Peter Scheer: Well, that’s what the court has done.
Robert Scheer: Well, it’s what Scalia reiterates. Because what California tried to do is sneak in language from the obscenity thing, which it’s not obscene and is …
Peter Scheer: Socially redeeming.
Robert Scheer: There’s some socially redeeming political blah blah blah, so they put this into the video game argument and Scalia was offended by that. He said you’re confusing sex with violence; violence needs no such exception. Violence is just out there; it should just be out there. Sex, we have all these rules to prevent people from having access to it. So it’s a double standard, it’s illogical, it’s irrational and yet it runs right through obviously not only his opinion but the whole stance of the court.
Peter Scheer: The whole situation is fascinating to me because here you have this really despicable, in general, justice of the Supreme Court, this arch-conservative, and you have in California these allegedly progressive, liberal people clamping down on free speech with the most tired of arguments that we have to protect our children from media that might cause damage to them, which is absurd. And Scalia becomes the great defender of free expression, and you’re saying it’s a problem because he’s reiterated this absurd position on sex and the difference between sex and violence, but shouldn’t we be happy that he at least …
Robert Scheer: Oh, I’d give him great credit. I said Scalia’s opinion, in my column in Truthdig, I said Scalia’s opinion is actually quite thrilling in enunciating an extremely broad definition of free speech rights of minors. I have no problem …
Peter Scheer: Wait, what is the deal with lefties like you that wouldn’t let me play Duck Hunt as a kid, or other violent video games that …
Robert Scheer: That’s not true … I’m saying, and I’ve learned from you, by the way…
Peter Scheer: (Laughs)
Robert Scheer: But let me just say something, I don’t know that he’s a despicable person. You know I think that when it comes to First Amendment speech rights, there may be a consistent conservative opinion that’s emerging on the courts. Unfortunately they extended to corporations and everything else, but don’t forget it was Scalia and the unanimous decision in The People vs. Larry Flynt which protected parody and ruled against Falwell in that case and its role when it comes, hopefully, when it comes to First Amendment freedoms we can have a lot in common with conservatives. My only problem with Scalia’s decision here, he’s still the uptight Catholic who draws the line at sex.
Peter Scheer: Right.
Robert Scheer: You know, for my money that’s …
Peter Scheer: It’s funny because the point he was making is that you can’t prove … one of the points he made is that you can’t demonstrate the link between the harm of these kids and the violence in video games but at the same time there’s this assumption that sex somehow corrupts children.
Robert Scheer: Yeah, and in fact the evidence on sex is far more supportive of the material on violence. We’ve had, you know, national commissions on so-called effects of pornography that could never show any connection between looking at material and acting in a misogynist or anti-social way. And Scalia …
Peter Scheer: Dad …
Robert Scheer: … while he scoffs at the pseudo-evidence on violence, still embraces the view that somehow sexual imagery is corrupting and antisocial.
Peter Scheer: OK. We gotta leave it there, Dad. But hope to see you in studio soon, and thanks so much for calling.
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