Free Markets, Free People

video games


Quote of the Day – Pecksniffian Progressive edition

George Will goes on a bit of a run today about "progressive puritanism." His current example is the attempt by California to limit minors from buying certain video games:

California officials argue that they should be allowed to limit minors’ ability to pick up violent video games on their own at retailers because of the purported damage they cause to the mental development of children.

The article Will references says that while the court seemed sympathetic to the aim of the law, it "has been reluctant to carve out exceptions to the First Amendment."

Interestingly, and as an aside, it brings us right back to the point about parents we discussed in the comments about the lip balm issue in North Carolina.

However, the point of the Will article is who it is that is constantly attempting to impose bans and restrictions on the rest of us and why. The money quote is:

Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives’ agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise – an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism’s itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon – the Pecksniffian progressive.

Indeed, I agree that progressivism is faith based – AGW being the most recent example of faith in science replacing the healthy skepticism one should always bring to any scientific inquiry. Will points out that scares, such as the video game one now being pushed by the Democratically controlled California legislature, are all too common in our past and were inevitably pushed by progressives and based in questionable science.

As an example, Will points to Fredric Wertham’s crusade against comic books in the early ’50s.  Will describes Wertham as “Formerly chief resident in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, he was politically progressive: When he opened a clinic in Harlem, he named it for Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx’s son-in-law who translated portions of "Das Kapital" into French, thereby facilitating the derangement of Parisian intellectuals.”

Since 1948, he had been campaigning against comic books, and his 1954 book, "Seduction of the Innocent," which was praised by the progressive sociologist C. Wright Mills, became a bestseller by postulating a causal connection between comic books and the desensitization of young criminals: "Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry."

Wertham was especially alarmed about the one-third of comic books that were horror comics, but his disapproval was capacious: Superman, who gave short shrift to due process in his crime-fighting, was a crypto-fascist. As for Batman and Robin, the "homoerotic tendencies" were patent.

This is important because if you read this carefully, you can identify within this old progressive campaign the blueprint for almost every other that has followed it.  Based on pseudo-science and faith in that pseudo science,  progressives feel both the right and duty to do what is necessary – by whatever means – to save us from ourselves.  Never mind, as in the case of the great comic book scare and many other subsequent scares have never panned out as feared.  That faith remains undiminished as witnessed by the the California legislature’s attempt to do precisely what the New York legislature tried to do back then – take control of the process and only allow what government deems to be “safe” to be produced “for the children”.

This is the lip balm story writ large.  And even if passed, it only means minors wouldn’t be able to pay for these games at the retail counter.  It doesn’t mean older brother or sister of legal age couldn’t buy it for them.  Or that they couldn’t rent it elsewhere or any of a huge list of ways minors could and would gain access.  It seems as if the law is more for the lawmakers to feel good about themselves instead of actually accomplishing anything.  Much like AGW – most scientists note that even if we were to put drastic limits on CO2 and implement an extensive and horribly expensive cap-and-trade system, it would hardly make any difference at all.  That doesn’t keep the progressives from continuing to pursue that goal though, does it?

Will’s article is another glimpse into the progressive psyche and his observation is dead on.  They are Pecksniffian – always have been.  No surprise there.  The hypocrisy doesn’t bother them.  They simply know better than do you.  And they certainly know how to better raise and protect your child. 

“For the children” is a fairly recent catch phrase for the progressive left – but, as is obvious, they’ve been trying their “for the children” gig for quite some time.  They’ll trot it or a form of it out at the drop of a hat.

But it’s not about the children.  It’s about, as Will notes, building a “perfect social environment”.  One they define as they wish, not you.  They have all the faith in the world they can build that utopia and they’re bound and determined to do so by any means necessary.  “Science” is their anchor to credibility in their pursuit.  Science, after all, simply can’t be disputed – except when it contradicts the wanted outcome.

It is indeed interesting to apply the comic book scare of the ‘50s to the various more recent attempts to apply the same sort of tactical blueprint to other progressive causes.  It helps one understand where they’re coming from and what their aim is.  And it isn’t freedom, liberty, or smaller and less intrusive government by any stretch.

~McQ