The Null Device

Moral panics past

As politicians and wowsers decry the evil, corrupting influence of video games, Tom Standage (author of The Victorian Internet) looks at the moral panics created by previous new technologies and media:
"The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?"
- Reverend Enos Hitchcock, Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, 1790
"Many adults think that the crimes described in comic books are so far removed from the child's life that for children they are merely something imaginative or fantastic. But we have found this to be a great error. Comic books and life are connected. A bank robbery is easily translated into the rifling of a candy store. Delinquencies formerly restricted to adults are increasingly committed by young people and children ... All child drug addicts, and all children drawn into the narcotics traffic as messengers, with whom we have had contact, were inveterate comic-book readers This kind of thing is not good mental nourishment for children!"
- Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, 1954
"The effect of rock and roll on young people, is to turn them into devil worshippers; to stimulate self-expression through sex; to provoke lawlessness; impair nervous stability and destroy the sanctity of marriage. It is an evil influence on the youth of our country."
- Minister Albert Carter, 1956

There are 1 comments on "Moral panics past":

Posted by: Greg Wed May 3 14:28:47 2006

I saw a keynote by Brad Bushman at a videogames conference, presenting a long and fairlyy convincing argument that playing shooters and consuming violent media makes people less compassionate, quicker to respond violently, and similar scary stuff. All based on laboratory tests. He was very level headed, and, I thought, brave to be presenting this view at a games conference, where this view is usually ridiculed. I'm not completely convinced, but I think the jury is out on this one.

A counter-argument might be that so many pre-video games and sports have been based on a war metaphor. Kids have been playing violent games for centuries. And they didn't turn into violent adults! (Oh, wait a minute :-)

There's a list of BB's pubs at

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