Occasionally, a politician makes an off-the-cuff remark that reveals more about Washington than thousands of speeches ever could. With one sentence, Joe Biden recently let the cat out of the bag and affirmed the true intentions of the flurry of proposals for government studies on violent media that have propagated in the time since Newtown shootings: that is that they are purely political studies with a purely political intent to create pseudoscientific cover for a brazenly unconstitutional agenda.
At a recent meeting at the White House between Biden and faith-based leaders Billy Graham’s son Franklin proposed the idea of taxing violence and funneling proceeds to “help victims.” To which Biden replied that there was “no reason why they couldn’t do that.” Now the unconstitutionality of this has sparked no small amount outrage among those who value the First Amendment. But what he says next should alarm them even more. Biden continued by saying, “They really need a good scientific study, which they’ve done on things like smoking.”
Ah, yes. The Study. When it comes to Washington lobbying and public relations, nothing ads credibility to your position like a study confirming the validity of your position. Never mind that your position is in direct violation of the Constitution. Get the results you want from a study, publish it, run a PR campaign, get the media on board and eventually weak-kneed politicians will succumb to your “scientific evidence”.
This sound far-fetched? Well, its already underway.
Politicians of both parties looking to “do something” in responses to incidents of violence, have attempted to blame video games and violent media for the actions of Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado. President Obama called on the Centers Disease Control and Prevention to conduct further research into the relationship between video games, media images and violence and ask Congress to spend $10 million to support his position.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Justice, demanded that National Science Foundation– a government agency he oversees funding for–conduct a study to link violence and video games. The Foundation hired a “can’t miss” professor, whose claim to fame is a 2006 study linking Bible verses to violence in society. Of course, Wolf was able to get the result he was looking for as Professor Bushman testified and asserted a link between violence in society and video games.
But when actual scientific research is done, Wolf and Bushman’s findings are directly contradicted. There are literally dozens of legitimate research projects that find no such link. In fact one recent study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence in April 2013, found exactly the opposite to Bushman’s finding. They found that teens’ pre-existing competitiveness and aggressiveness predicted game play not the other way around as Bushman asserts. But then again, what do they know? They are just experts in their field conducting research without agenda.
No doubt, actual facts or experts will not deter Biden and his ilk. And the use of politically motivated studies will continue even beyond the issue of video games and media. Studies are an all too easy, commonsense sounding way for politicians to lay the foundations for their real aims or seem responsive on an uncomfortable issue (on the taxpayer dime of course).
Wolf’s study is moving forward as is the CDC study mandated by Obama. Citizens who value the First Amendment and their right to expression would be well served to pay attention and remain vigilant as these studies begin to publish their “results.” Because a demand that the government usurp liberty to address the “crisis” will be highlighted by the results.
The last thing we need is another IRS-like agency empowered to decide what speech is allowed is which is not.