Call Of Doody

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Memo to Southington, CT: YOU ARE AT LEAST BEING DUMB.

Overreaction in the face of tragedy is a modern American virtue. 9/11 didn't change everything, but one thing it did change was our propensity to say stupid shit like "9/11 changed everything". So I'm not particularly shocked to learn of a Connecticut town overreacting to the Sandy Hook shooting, but I am a smidge surprised at the positively quaint way they're doing it.

SouthingtonSOS has organized a Violent Video Games Return Program to be held on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at the Southington Drive In Theatre on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike from 9:00 am to Noon. The Town of Southington will have a dumpster there for the collection of Violent Video Games, CDs and DVDs. As people arrive in their cars to turn in their games of violence, they will be offered a gift certificate donated by a member of the Greater Southington Chamber of Commerce as a token of appreciation for their action of responsible citizenship. Violent games turned in will be destroyed and placed in the town dumpster for appropriate permanent disposal."

Woo! Old-fashoined book-burning! Oh, it's a post-modern book burning. It's couched in the same language as voluntary gun buy-back programs, it's called a "return" program, but the fact is, at the end of the day, busybodies will be taking hammers to physical media and throwing them in a dumpster because they think the ideas in them are harmful to children. And no matter how you dress that up, it's still fucking book-burning.

The only difference? Back in the day, when zealots burned books, the books were gone. When they smashed records, the records were gone. But this is the age of digital information. Physical media is, at best, a convenience. Not a necessity. And even if you smash all the Call of Duty: Black Ops II's, and convince the stores to stop selling new copies of Black Ops II, there's Gamefly and Amazon to fill the physical media gap. It's not even like digging a hole on the beach. These days, book-burning is like trying to shovel out the ocean. You won't accomplish anything and you'll look ridiculous doing it.

But let's get a litle more of the reasoning behind why snapping PS3 discs in half constitutes "responsible citizenship".

"SouthingtonSOS is saying that there is ample evidence that violent video games, along with violent media of all kinds, including TV and Movies portraying story after story showing a continuous stream of violence and killing, has contributed to increasing aggressiveness, fear, anxiety and is desensitizing our children to acts of violence including bullying."

Except, you know, there isn't. Ample evidence, that is. The studies that cover some of the things they mention, like aggressiveness, don't show the link. And then they list other stuff, like bullying, in an attempt to tie their issue into a hot-button issue. Trust me on this one, children don't need to be desensitized to bullying. They start completely desensitized to it, and only in the lsat decade has there been any kind of effort to sensitize kids to it. Ask any middle-aged nerd you know. The Atari 2600 didn't invent bullying. I don't even think Mitt Romney invented it.

And if they're so intent on smashing the physical versions of digital media full of violent content, including TV and movies, why can't people turn in Sons of Anarchy season sets or Expendables Blu-Rays? How violent does a game have to be to be eligible for the "return program"? Would a Ratchet and Clank game end up in the dumpster? It has guns in it. But they're cartoony guns. What about Madden? For over two decades now, the John Madden games have allowed impressionable children to simulate a violent struggle for territory that causes hundreds of serious injuries every year.

Southington school superientendent Joe Erardi doesn't want you to think about that. His message is simple. Just ask him. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Our message is fairly simple: Have the conversation with your child. If you conclude your child is done with these games, drop them off and move forward. That is all. It's not about the NRA endorsing, or video game production companies defending, it's a grassroots movement. It's simple and we believe it's meaningful."

Well, it's simple, and it is meaningful, but the meaning it has and the message you claim you have are not the same. You don't start a conversation by staging a book-burning. You end it. You can say it's not about the NRA's endorsement, but when you stage a public, visible event that reinforces their talking point that it's the media that's to bleme, you're getting in bed with Wayne LaPierre. You can insist that you're staying on opposite sides of the blankets, but you're still gonna wake up at 2 a.m. with his "pistol" dry-humping your thigh.

But they're just encouraging a conversation. And if the conversation comes out the way they've directed it to come out, by citing the nonexistent ample evidence that the X-Box will turn your little angel into a bullying monster, well, then, they will happily pick up a big rock and smite the demon game for you. It's all so perfectly reasonable. How could anyone object?