When I was a lad growing up in Florida, our fine state banned the sale and public consumption of 2 Live Crew’s "As Nasty As They Wanna Be" album. As archaic as that sounds, retailers were actually arrested for selling it and everyday citizens blaring it from their stereos were given citations for obscenity violations. And I think we can all look back on that kind of legislated censorship and realize how stupid it was, over something fairly harmless. Hey, at least we’ve come a long way since stoning heretic peasants and drowning witches.
It only recently came to my attention that the person behind this idiotic cultural blockade nearly twenty years ago was none other than Jack Thompson, arch-villain to free-thinking gamers everywhere. Not only was this his first (only?) semi-successful campaign against free expression, the surrounding controversy propelled the Crew’s album to #29 on the Billboard charts and made every ten-year-old boy knew lust after an album we would’ve otherwise never been aware of. Thanks to Thompson, my friends still know most of the words to Me So Horny.
An Extra Large Serving of Self
As is most often the case, a public cry for legislated censorship increases awareness, appeal and sales of the offending object - among kids, especially. And when you add the internet into that inevitable equation, you’ve got a recipe for unregulated access for people of all ages. Surely, politicians, pundits and watchdogs have to be hip to the Web’s existence, and the old axiom: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” So, what drives a busybody into the Business of Ban if they know the end result is likely to be the proliferation of the very thing they desire to suppress?
Notoriety and personal gain, mostly. Jack Thompson would use his crusade against “filth” to jumpstart a political campaign, vying for position of Dade County State’s Attorney. He lost, in spite of renegade political maneuvers such as accusing his opponent, Janet Reno of battery for touching him and repeatedly alleging she was a lesbian. (Smooth, Jack.)
As a senator, Hillary Clinton rode the Hot Coffee controversy caravan into a Presidential election. Regardless of how uninformed, coming out against a game as prolific as GTA helped Clinton appear “tough on smut” while appealing to a more conservative demographic who would otherwise view her as too progressive. As is usually the case with calls for censorship, it’s not important for the person on the soapbox to know what they’re talking about as long as the people they’re appealing to know even less.
Out of Touch
Calling Hot Coffee “pornographic” did the biggest disservice to actual pornography. You think hard-working cockmasons like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy want to be lumped in with the ugly, polygonal gyrations buried in San Andreas’s code? It was all an elaborate pageant to appeal to people who already hated Grand Theft Auto it on principle but would never play it.
Plus, they seemed to completely overlook the fact that anyone web savvy enough to uncover the once inaccessible sex mode, or even download a nude patch, has unfettered access to endless streams of explicit, high-res, beautiful, pornography.