Jack Thompson/Lorne Lanning Debate - Blow by Blow Summary - Part 1 Print E-mail
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Written by Thomas "CigDangle" Balistreri   
Wednesday, 07 November 2007

[News] [OpEd]

The debate began with N’Gai Croal, general editor for technology at Newsweek magazine and author of a videogame blog for Newsweek called Level Up, introducing himself and laying down a few ground rules: no photography or video recording.  Croal then thanked both Jack Thompson and Lorne Lanning, praises Spencer's Halpin's: Moral Kombat a bit, and then dives right into the questions.

“So the first question and we’ll start with you, Jack, and I’ll have the same question for Lorne in a bit, but how did you come to be in the movie Moral Kombat?”

The simple response from both was “Spencer called.”  Both Jack and Lorne had nice things to say about Spencer Halpin and the film.

Next Croal asked Mr. Thompson about a comment made in the movie by Lorne Lanning about how “canceling something out” was an easy method of programming when processing power was limited; in the film, Mr. Lanning claimed this style of programming by "cancelling that which is moving" led to the violent nature of the media.  Jack decided to show off is techie knowledge, making an ambiguous comment about binary, and then continued by delving into a diatribe about developers’ responsibility.  He also stated that he didn’t think that all entertainment should be devoid of violence.

Croal then turned to Lorne and asked him how he approaches the responsibility to make the “good” products discussed by Jack.  Mr. Lanning explained that much of what brought him to the industry had nothing to do with violence, but with his concerns over global warming.  His intent was to use the media to teach.  He continued lecturing on his personal knowledge of global warming for the next few minutes, but closes by making his point, “…in our content, we have always tried to believe that if we can capture this much mindshare, we can help make a better world.”

N’Gai then asked Jack if felt there were parallels in the challenges Lorne experienced in bringing the problem of global warning to light to his own struggle proclaiming what he believes are the negative effects that violent videogames have on children.  Jack responded with a touchy-feely answer about the fight for “the common good” and saying we have more in common as human beings than as gamers.  In addition, he sucked up to Lorne, commenting on Mr. Lanning’s ‘obvious’ concern for mankind.

This is the point, at only about 16-17 minutes in, that the very docile “debate” got ugly.  Lorne responded to Jack’s comments about using the “public square” for the good of all, making the observation that Mr. Thompson is often given the public square “for free” by means of national news telecasts on which he speaks.  Mr. Lanning also pointed out that the videogame industry is seldom ever given equal time.  This is when Lorne began discussing what he called the “Jack Thompson Business Model”, an item he would repeatedly revisit throughout the rest of the debate.  Jack and Lorne sparred back and forth about Mr. Thompson’s ability to easily secure air-time, until Jack blurted out, “Gee, I thought this was gonna be friendly.”

Jack then went off on a tangent about his entry into the field of crusading against videogames by discussing Michael Carneal and the incident in Paducah, KY.  One of the things Jack makes a point of discussing Carneal’s tactics of shooting each victim one time and moving to the next, a tactic that Mr. Thompson claimed he learned by playing Doom.  (N’Gai would later refute this, saying that he didn’t recall too many one-shot-one-kill enemies in the game and that he didn’t understand how clicking buttons and pressing keys prepared anyone for firing a gun.)

Jack would then toot his own horn about accomplishments in his career, name-drop, and make himself be out to be a martyr.  Lorne complained that Jack needed to be called on “untruths”, until Mr. Croal was forced to verbally separate them like two fighting dogs.  Jack continued discussing the details of the Paducah case, until finally making this revelation: “No one in their right mind would say a videogame by itself can turn an angel into a demon…”

Click here to hear Jack’s revelation…

Jack then moved on to retail bashing, complaining that the retailers, particularly via online sales, are not keeping their promises to not sell to minors because they do not require age verification online, and often forego the verification in their brick and mortar stores.  Then Jack made another interesting statement: “The only issue for me, in the last seven years I’ve been on this issue, is when in the world is the videogame industry going to get serious about the labeling of their products that they say they adhere to, but they don’t.”

Lorne then pointed out the two issues at hand: violence in videogames and content being sold to minors.  He then launched into a diatribe that somehow found the topic of dolphin-safe tuna and organic foods.  His point was that “truth in labeling” is no longer truthful, and videogames, via the work of the ESRB, do a much better job than most products in being truthful about the content.

Jack’s solution was for developers to boycott retailers who sell to minors, and said that the industry is not serious about the ratings system because they don’t.  After ranting for several more minutes Jack revealed, “I think frankly, almost, it would be better if we didn’t have an age ratings system, which is what the industry decided to go to, because they are not serious about enforcing it.”

Croal then addressed Lorne about a quote in the movie that addresses the speaker’s belief that eventually this issue will dissolve as politicians are voted in, who themselves, have been raised as gamers.  Lorne said he wasn’t so confident in that idea, discussing corruption in the government and the media.  He reinforced this idea by saying, “Whoever controls the airwaves is going to control the perception whether there are truths or not.”

Jack took this as an opportunity to discuss how he feels that God is not “a part of the public discourse anymore.”  Lorne called the idea a “fallacy” pointing out that “this country is Christian.”  After continuing to discuss God and the media, Lorne implied that Jack watches Fox, which he called a “Christian run network with a right-wing agenda”, after which this discourse took place:

“I wouldn’t call Rupert Murdoch that at all."

“You wouldn’t call Rupert Murdoch a Chrisitian?  He calls himself a Christian."

“Well…he’s a Roman Catholic.”

Apparently, this upset a few in the audience as they emitted a groan, but Lorne and Jack found some common ground in agreeing that Murdoch was a not an “honorable person.”

Part two will appear Friday...


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