On January 12, they are burning “violent videogames” in Southington, a Connecticut town not far from Newtown, scene of the Sandy Hook massacre.
Is there a more irresponsible, historically ignorant, un-American, First Amendment-offending, foolish, ignorant and ugly act than burning speech and art because you object to their content? They burned rock and roll records in the Bible Belt during the 1950s—that was stupid, disgusting and frightening. Hitler, you may recall, burned books; the USSR too. In 2013, consigning electronic media like videogames to the flames is indistinguishable from burning books. I would expect American citizens of normal intelligence to immediately realize that.
I guess I would be wrong.
The local group organizing the bonfire has put out some rationalization for it. I could not care less what sad reasoning and warped values motivate their book-burning. It is a symbolic insult to freedom of thought.
No question: book burnings are legal and protected speech. It is also conduct redolant of mob rule, ignorance, intolerance, fear, hate, and Ray Bradbury novels. Some activities have earned permanent revulsion, legal or not, in American culture because they are the traditional tools not of democracies, but of totalitarian governments, the enemies of democracy and free thought. Book burning is one of them.
And burning videogames is exactly the same thing.
Update: The news accounts eventually make it clear that the group will collect the various forms of violent entertainment in a dumpster, which will also include movies and recordings, and that the actual incineration will be performed by city workers, as part of their rubbish disposal duties. Is this better? Worse, because now the town government is participating? I don’t think it is useful or enlightening to play parsing games. I see this event as indistinguishable from a book-burning, and while The Guardian’s description of it as such could be called misleading (or inflammatory?), I salute them for correctly diagnosing what this is in its essence.