The Value of Free Speech: An Open Letter of Sorts to Colin Moriarty

No pictures, no videos, no flashy banners. The following are only words.

I think it’s fair to say that anyone that takes anything seriously has written off IGN.com as a credible website. People who still frequent their site are often only there to get the most basic of information or because they are directed there by friends to observe their latest spectacle of an editorial commentary. It seems to me that editors like Colin Moriarty, who frequently post outlandish and serpent-tongued opinions, are merely attempting to drive traffic to their website at the expense of valid dialog, journalist integrity, and good sense of the public. Discussion of such points, however, are not the topic at hand.

No, today’s post is a direct response to Colin Moriarty’s editorial about political correctness. His offensiveness to common sense travels beyond his hate of colons and his seeming love of starting sentences with conjunctions. The newest assault aimed at online journalism reads like a crazed right wing manifesto about the sins of political correctness and makes a martyr of this country’s glorious tradition of free speech. If one were to make a list of stupid political conservative tropes, Moriarty surely has hit most of them. In just under 1,300 words, he is able to quote a founding father of America, invoke the memory of 9/11, and not so subtly tell people who may be offended by controversial content to go fuck themselves. Mind you, this is all an article about video games. To me it’s paramount to a professional sports writer using the holocaust as a point of reference in a story about a one sided match of baseball. It’s distasteful, ham handed, and lazy as a writer.

Don’t get me wrong, I have the deepest respect for Ben Franklin. He was a wise man and contributed many wonderful things to our world. While I hold his opinion on many matters in the highest regards, I doubt his relevance when it comes to video games or in discussions of the modern day’s social climate. As creative as he was, I have trouble believing possibility and social ramifications of television shows, video games, and the internet were within his realm of daily thought. Even if he were to think of such products in a fever dream, I’m sure they rarely affected his daily thoughts. As such, his validity as a source in these discussions are moot.

Another fundamental problem with this writing is there is no clear consideration for the differences between freedom of speech and common courtesy. Just because we’re allowed to say something, doesn’t me we should. Just because it’s acceptable to speak on the topic of rape, murder, and other vile things that unfortunately populate our world, doesn’t mean we should do so carelessly. I hesitate to say they shouldn’t be the topics of joking, for humor is often one of our best balms. A well structured joke can often illustrate the lunacy of a topic, and said topic’s inclusion doesn’t automatically mean it is the subject of the joke or being taken as a lighthearted subject.

Self control and basic human consideration are completely separate topics from freedom. Just because we can say something, doesn’t mean we should. As usual, context is the very key in this discussion. Mr. Moriarty has previously stated that consumers should vote with their dollars, and that is exactly what gamers have done in situations of games like Six Days in Fallujah and Tomb Raider. The very people that are meant to buy these games have spoke up and said they are not comfortable with the content and would not buy them. As a result, the issues are corrected or the project is scraped entirely. This is consumerism at work, one of the very basic notions he claims support.

The idea of video games as art also have no validity in this discussion. As gamers who buy games, we are all patrons of the developers’ art. We are the ones who ultimately pay for their exercises in creativity. If game developers want full creative freedom, they will need to remove themselves from the mainstream gaming industry and their dependency on the money of gamers to fulfill their vision. Till such a time, they will always have to answer to the judgement and taste of the consumers.

Perhaps what I find most interesting in all of this is Colin Moriarty’s own hypocritical approach to free speech. A man that has railed fans of Mass Effect for speaking out against an ending they did not like is now telling people offended by murder and rape to keep it to themselves. It is a basic human liberty for us to voice our concerns and feelings in a rational and peaceful manner. If someone finds something offensive or dangerous, they often feel it is their moral obligation to voice their opinion as such. If enough people voice a similar opinion. there begins a consensus. No matter how small this group of people, they have a right to make their opinions heard and attempt to change the situation as they see fit. You can’t simply tell people not to share their opinions or stand up for what they feel is right. Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is just. Just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean it is evil. It is our responsibility as humans to challenge things we feel are unjust, just as it is the right of artist to address uncomfortable subject matters.

In the end, these are video games. Can they be artistic and creative? Of course, but that doesn’t mean they are some special resource to be protected. That is akin to comparing Scary Movie to A Clockwork Orange. Call of Duty is not Dear Esther or Amnesia, they are horses of completely different colors. There is a time and a place for artistic endeavors, but one should not be surprised if controversy comes home to roost.

To any readers: Please note that I wrote all of this within 30 minutes before having to start my shift at work, and it has little proof reading. I hope it makes sense and isn’t to hard to follow…

Say something... I dare you.