|Subject: Release: Release: media violence lawsuit
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 22:35:17 -0700PDT
To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Libertarian Party announcements)
Lawsuit against 'killer' corporations could murder the First Amendment
WASHINGTON, DC -- A new lawsuit that seeks to hold movie directors, video games, and Internet sites "responsible" for the slaying of three high school students is an assault on the First Amendment that could cripple free speech in the USA if it succeeds, the Libertarian Party warned today.
"This lawsuit attempts to murder the First Amendment, just like a deranged killer murdered innocent high school students in Kentucky," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director.
"This is, quite simply, censorship by lawsuit. Instead of using the principles of personal accountability to deal with crime, this lawsuit attacks the principles of free speech."
A lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Kentucky seeks $130 million in damages from 25 companies, arguing that media violence inspired 14-year-old Michael Carneal to shoot three students at Heath High School in 1997.
The lawsuit, filed by parents of the slain children, targets Time Warner, producers of the movie The Basketball Diaries; Nintendo and Sony, manufacturers of video games like Mortal Kombat and Doom; and Meow Media, which owns an Internet pornography site.
Jack Thompson, a lawyer representing the parents, said, "We intend to hurt Hollywood. We intend to hurt the video game industry. We intend to hurt sex porn sites [on the Internet]."
But the people who actually will be hurt if the lawsuit succeeds are ordinary Americans -- who would find their entertainment options sharply curtailed and their right of free speech strictly limited, said Dasbach.
"Make no mistake: These lawyers are gunning for the First Amendment," he said. "If the court holds that movie directors, video game creators, and Internet pornography operators are indirectly guilty of murder -- just because one out of the millions of people who enjoy their products commits a horrible crime -- there will be a chilling effect on movies, books, and every other form of artistic expression."
But it won't stop there, noted Dasbach: If this lawsuit succeeds, how far will the precedent extend?
"The Bible is rife with stories of murder and bloodshed: Could churches be held legally liable everytime some deranged religious maniac kills in the name of Jesus Christ?" he asked. "Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet features suicide: Will the Bard be considered an accomplice if a lovesick teenager kills herself?
"And what about the nightly news: If someone commits mass murder after being inspired by news reports of, say, the FBI's savage assault in Waco, Texas, or by deadly U.S. military attacks in Yugoslavia, will the federal government be held liable?
"If this lawsuit succeeds -- and dumbs down personal accountability so that anyone could be held responsible for someone else's crime -- then no one will be responsible, and every American will be at risk."
Instead, said Dasbach, the courts should uphold a more traditional, libertarian notion of "personal accountability" when it comes to seeking blame for a crime.
"In this case, the young man who committed the crime pleaded guilty but mentally ill, and was sentenced to life in prison," he said. "Let's hold the individuals who commit crimes responsible -- not deep-pocketed corporations whose only 'crime' is producing popular but violent entertainment."
Dasbach said he could see why grieving parents might look for someone to blame after a senseless crime.
"We can understand the grief of the parents who lost their children in a random shooting, committed by a vicious killer," said Dasbach. "But the needless deaths of those precious children won't be redeemed by making the First Amendment the latest victim of this crime."
The Libertarian Party http://www.lp.org/