- Text smaller
- Text bigger
There’s a big reason why Al Gore has chosen Joe Lieberman as his
running mate: the culture war.
Both before and after the massacre at Columbine High School in
Littleton, Colo., all public opinion polls have shown that the number
one issue on Americans’ minds is, variously — call it what you will —
our country’s “moral decline,” the assault on our “values,” or “social
decay.” Americans figure, correctly, that many if not most of our
public issues arise from this culture rot.
A week after Littleton, Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan’s brilliant
former speechwriter, wrote that “with Littleton a line was crossed.
American parents finally figured out that the sewage that passes for
American ‘culture’ in which their kids swim is dangerous.”
On June 1, 1999, President Clinton, because of Littleton, ordered the
Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to investigate
“the entertainment industry’s marketing of violent entertainment to
children.” Violent video games were singled out by the president for
scrutiny because of the role that the first-person shooter game Doom
made by Id Software of Dallas, Texas, played in the lives of Klebold and
Harris, the murderers of Columbine High.
These two boys had played these games obsessively. The manufacturer
sold them special software allowing them to morph the faces of their
classmates, taken from their Columbine High School yearbook, onto the
virtual human targets, so they could practice shooting them for months
on their computers. More software from Id allowed them to replicate the
look and dimensions of the Columbine hallways through which they stalked
their virtual prey.
Klebold and Harris named their shotgun after one of the characters in
Doom. They said on their video taped self-interviews: “We want to
replicate Doom in the hallways of Columbine.”
I was on CNN’s “TalkBack Live” the day after Clinton ordered the
Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice joint investigation
of the entertainment industry. Why? Because I, with Kentucky attorney
Mike Breen, represent the parents of the three girls shot and killed on
Dec. 1, 1997, in the Paducah, Ky., school shootings. We sued Id
Software for the key role it played in training Michael Carneal to
kill. He fired eight times and hit with all eight bullets, even though
he had never fired a handgun before. And we filed the suit eight days
before Littleton. We weren’t chasing an ambulance; we were predicting
Who has been the leading voice in Congress for years pleading with
America to do something about violent entertainment marketed to our
children? The answer: Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
The FTC-DOJ investigation report is going to be released during the
presidential campaign. It is going to empower Gore to point to it and
to his vice presidential choice, and to his own long history, along with
Tipper, on such issues and then say with passable credibility to the
American people: “Our party cares about the safety of your children. We
are going to do something about the targeting of your kids with violent
entertainment that encourages them and trains them to kill.”
What about George Bush on this issue? Last year he lampooned Robert
Bork and with him other social conservatives by mocking Bork and
stating, “we are not slouching toward Gomorrah” in clear reference to
Bork’s brilliant book whose title and text say and prove otherwise.
Bush and Cheney, despite all common sense, invited the WWF’s brutal
icon, “The Rock,” to posture on the podium on Wednesday night at the
convention. I called the RNC when I heard this was planned, begging them
to disinvite “The Rock,” since the FTC-DOJ study is going to identify
professional wrestling as a contributor to the teen “culture of
violence” that has resulted in actual deaths of kids mimicking “The
Rock” and other WWF sociopaths. I know this is going to be addressed in
the investigation report, because I was told this by the head of the
investigation at the FTC.
Oh, one more thing: George W. Bush pushed for and signed into law,
as governor, a tax break for high technology companies in Texas. What
was one of the companies receiving the tax break? Id Software of
Dallas, the makers of Doom and Quake.
You think Gore doesn’t know that?
Lieberman allows Gore to get to the “right” of Bush-Cheney on the No.
1 issue on Americans’ minds — our “slide into the sewer,” first called
that by George Will in 1990 when writing in Newsweek about 2 Live Crew.
Kennedy got himself to the “right” of Nixon on the alleged “missile
gap” in 1960. Lieberman allows Gore, as Clinton did in 1992 and 1996,
to characterize the Democrats’ presidential ticket as pro-family.
Lieberman is a brilliant pick — the only plausible pick — in that
To give weight to my analysis, I note that Monday the following
appeared in the Hollywood Reporter: “Some entertainment industry
executives want Democrats to water down a section in the draft of the
party’s platform that pushes the industry to tone down its products.
“I have made it known to the Democratic Party that this is political
pandering at its worst,” MPAA chief Jack Valenti said when asked about
the offending provision. “It’s unworthy of the DNC.”
The “Responsible Entertainment” provision, tucked into the 2000
Democratic National Platform Committee Report section titled “Valuing
Our Families” says, “Parents are struggling to pass on the right values
in a culture that sometimes seems to practically scream that chaos and
cruelty are cool.”
Al Gore has both the platform and the veep choice he wants to be a
player in the culture war. Dubya has yet to admit there is a war. He’s
about to find out.
Jack Thompson, a Miami trial attorney and free speech expert, has appeared on 150 college campuses debating the meaning of the First Amendment and has appeared on more than 50 national television programs on entertainment industry issues, including 60 Minutes, 20/20, Nightline, Crossfire, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News, Today, Fox News Channel and Oprah.