As far as Washington politics go, Ralph Nader has always been an outlier. He made his fame in the 1960s battling auto industry lobbyists in an effort to make America’s cars adhere to a much higher standard of quality and safety. To date, he’s run for president an impressive/depressing six times (the picture above comes from his last Presidential election in 2008). And while he’s failed at every attempt to secure the highest office in the land (although realistically his goal has typically been to secure 5-percent of the popular vote in order to qualify for federally distributed public funding in the following election), Nader has always attracted a loyal following of supporters keen on his brash, no-nonsense sensibilities and willingness to call out other politicians – regardless of party affiliation – whenever they happen to be doing something he finds appalling.
Thanks to the ongoing fervor surrounding the gun violence debate here in America following the December 14 shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, the latest target of Nader’s vitriol happens to be violent media, and more specifically, violent video games.
In an interview published by Politico, Nader attacked President Obama, both for his failure to go after corrupt banking officials and then for his attempts to combat whatever possible threat violent video games might represent. “Tomorrow [during the Inauguration] I’ll watch another rendition of political bullshit by the newly reelected president, full of promises that he intends to break just like he did in 2009,” Nader said on Sunday night. “He promised he’d be tough on Wall Street, and not one of these crooks have gone to jail — they got some inside trading people, but that’s peripheral.”
“We are in the peak of [violence in entertainment]. Television program violence? Unbelievable. Video game violence? Unprecedented,” Nader added. “I’m not saying [Obama] wants to censor this, I think he should sensitize people that they should protect their children family by family from these kinds of electronic child molesters.”
Most reports you’ll see on this incident focus entirely on the fact that Nader opted to use the phrase “electronic child molesters.” While that’s not the most diplomatic series of words Nader could have used to illustrate his point, it may be nothing more than a poorly chosen turn of phrase. Instead, the important part of Nader’s statement is that bit about “sensitizing” people. There’s something intriguing in the idea of combating the effects of media violence by making said violence even more visceral and “real” than it already is. If a gamer experiences legitimate, natural feelings of horror and loss after killing a virtual foe, the idea of violence, whether in meatspace reality or the world of gaming, would lose its established entertainment value.
Hypothetically that should put some kind of dent in our violence problem, but it would also necessitate a seismic shift in the way our society and entertainment industries function as a whole. This seems like another instance in which Ralph Nader may have a really great, simple idea that just calls for too much change, too rapidly for it to ever be feasibly implemented in the real world.