[Column] Fact Check: You Can’t Teach An Old Jack New Tricks

Who would have thought that reality, not unlike Hollywood, would start running out of ideas and reboot failures from the 90’s for the modern day audience?

Grab your Nintendo 64 controllers and crack open a Mountain Dew Surge kids, we’re going back to the past to give a platform to one of Florida’s worst attorneys. Jack Thompson, best known for his failed campaign against the games industry ultimately leading up to being disbarred in disgrace for disparaging litigants, making false statements to tribunals, etc, has once again returned to exploit school shooting victims and this week ran an op-ed in The Washington Examiner (archived) to remind us of something we all know: Jack Thompson has no qualms about lying to push his agenda.

So to follow up this piece (and I do recommend reading it for yourself), I decided to roll a point by point fact check for Jack’s major topics.

1. The FBI finds fascination with violent entertainment to be a trait of school shooters

This is true, and Jack even links to the FBI report which, since I read the thing, also recommends not doing exactly what Jack did, create a profile of the typical school shooter calling it “shortsighted, even dangerous.” As it also turns out, people with violent tendencies tend to be infatuated with violent media, however there hasn’t been a conclusive study that would indicate that the latter can cause or enhance the former.

“One response to the pressure for action may be an effort to identify the next shooter by developing a “profile” of the typical school shooter. This may sound like a reasonable preventive measure, but in practice, trying to draw up a catalogue or “checklist” of warning signs to detect a potential school shooter can be shortsighted, even dangerous. Such lists, publicized by the media, can end up unfairly labeling many nonviolent students as potentially dangerous or even lethal.”

2. Jack filed a lawsuit on behalf of the families of students killed by Michael Carneal

This is true, what’s also true is that the lawsuit went horribly for Thompson and crew. The case can be researched as “James v. Meow Media,” and if you want to see Jack’s poor grasp on the law even going back to 1999, just take a look at this case. Thompson and crew sued two porn websites, game companies, and the distributors of the films Natural Born Killers and The Basketball Diaries, whose products were all consumed by the shooter.

The lawsuit made claims on negligence, product liability in regards to producing a “defective” product, and the RICO act. Let’s focus on that last charge to prove my above point, RICO for those outside the loop stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, it is a law specifically built for bringing down criminal organizations allowing prosecutors to take down bosses who order crimes committed despite not actually committing those crimes themselves, and Thompson thought that they could use this against porn websites for allowing a minor to access their content.

The case was dismissed on all counts and then appealed to the 6th circuit who in turn dismissed it. According to both courts, it was beyond a doubt that the plaintiff had no facts to support their claims.

“A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.”

3. The Columbine Shooters Trained on Doom

This was beyond incorrect in 1999 and it still is wrong despite Thompson’s desire to repeat it as though it were common fact. Anyone with the most basic level of understanding of video games would be able to tell you that Doom, with its technology so basic that it has auto-aim and does not allow the player to do things like look up or down, can not train someone in how to fire a gun, how to maintain a gun, real world tactics, or anything else related to the operation of a gun or battlefield tactics.

The idea that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris “trained on Doom” is pure nonsense.

4. The American Psychiatric Association found that violent video games shift teens toward the aggressive end of the spectrum

Again, more false claims from Jack. An APA review from 2015 found that there is a link between video games and increased aggression, however they also state that there is no conclusive evidence linking violent media to actual criminal acts of violence. The APA even released a statement calling claims like the one Thompson makes a “disservice.”

“Journalists and policy makers do their constituencies a disservice in cases where they link acts of real-world violence with the perpetrators’ exposure to violent video games or other violent media. There’s little scientific evidence to support the connection, and it may distract us from addressing those issues that we know contribute to real-world violence.”

Thompson also notes the “American Pediatric Psychiatric Association,” an organization that we could find no evidence of existing.

5. The World Health Organization has classified video game addiction as a mental disorder

That has no bearing on this conversation.

6. The military uses video games to desensitize soldiers to killing

Purely fictional statement, one created and repeated by fellow anti-video game zealot David Grossman. There is no evidence that the military uses video games to desensitize soldiers and the Army and Marine Corps have vehemently denied claims of such training methods. This claim is nothing but an urban legend created by people with goals similar to Jack Thompson’s, to be thrown out as fact by people like Jack Thompson.

7. An FTC Sting Operation Found That Retailers Are Still Selling Violent Games

Another sentence, another lie. I know this because the FTC publishes its papers and in 2013 found that “video game retailers continue to enforce age-based ratings, while movie theaters have made marked improvement in box office enforcement.” The sting found that only 13 percent of undercover shoppers were able to buy an m-rated game.

8. The Fraudulent and Deceptive Trade Practices Act Could Be Used Against Retailers

No, it couldn’t. I’m going to explain this in clear terms because Jack doesn’t seem to understand the difference between video games and cigarettes or alcohol. Cigarettes are age-restricted by federal laws created by the Food and Drug Administration. You need a license to sell cigarettes, alcohol, actually any legally age-restricted merchandise and that license comes with agreements to follow laws and regulations on what you can sell, who you can sell it to, and how much you can sell and when.

It is illegal to sell alcohol or tobacco to minors, in fact it’s illegal in a lot of places to be a minor in possession of alcohol (but not cigarettes, incidentally). There is not a law in the United States that makes it illegal to sell violent video games to minors. Jack Thompson should know this, he spearheaded legislation in Louisiana that was shot down and referred to as a waste of taxpayer money.

9. Conclusion

When the Florida Bar disbarred Jack Thompson, they note that he had showed a total lack of remorse or even slight acknowledgment of his inappropriate conduct, concluding that there was no evidence that Thompson would be open to rehabilitation or even appreciate the basis for why such rehabilitation would be needed, and removed his privilege to practice law permanently and without the opportunity for reinstatement.

Over a very extended period of time involving a number of totally unrelated cases and individuals, the Respondent has demonstrated a pattern of conduct to strike out harshly, extensively, repeatedly and willfully to simply try to bring as much difficulty, distraction and anguish to those he considers in opposition to his causes. He does not proceed within the guidelines of appropriate professional behavior, but rather uses other means available to intimidate, harass, or bring public disrepute to those whom he perceives oppose him.

Nearly ten years later, it looks like the Bar’s opinion was correct. Jack Thompson hasn’t changed his tactics. He still doesn’t understand the law, apart from the pieces he’s willing to twist far outside of their legal definitions to fit his claims, and he still doesn’t understand the basics of video games. He is willing to lie, throw out hyperbolic opinions as established fact, and has seemingly no ability for self-awareness.

I’m not going to call on the Washington Examiner to censor Thompson, but running an op-ed by a man who torpedoed his professional career by lying to the courts, especially without noting the man’s long history of absolute falsehoods in regards to the topic that his editorial is covering, is giving undeserved credibility to the simply incredible.

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