Many years ago, the History Channel learned a lesson: Too much of a good thing ain't necessarily a good thing. The network's penchant for Second World War programming led people in short order to begin calling it, both affectionately and derisively, "the Hitler Channel," because for awhile, particularly in the late '90s, it seemed as though you couldn't surf past it more than three times consecutively without bumping into Der Fuhrer himself. And while the History Channel has over the years cut back on the Last Good War, the moniker lingers.
In much the same way, videogame news sites are beginning to butt up against a similar situation: to wit, the long, strange journey of the Jack Thompson Circus of Questionable Behavior. And while it's hard to deny that "news is news," the question we should perhaps be asking ourselves is a more fundamental one: Is Jack Thompson news?
Or more to the point, is he news we need to hear anymore? Thompson's antics continue unabated, peaking recently with the inclusion of explicit gay pornography in a court motion filed in September. While it's difficult to imagine topping that particular maneuver, he seems to be trying: In response to Judge Adalberto Jordan's request to explain why he shouldn't be referred to the court's Ad Hoc Committee on Attorney Admissions, Peer Review and Attorney Grievance, Thompson filed 14 different responses and motions, none of which addressed the question at hand but did accuse Judge Jordan of lying and threatening him with legal damages. Needless to say, Thompson is expected to be paying a visit to the Ad Hoc Committee.
Does it matter? Thompson is facing disbarment over previous activity, and as his hearing grows nearer, his behavior seems increasingly bizarre and desperate. Whether he believes these may be his last few weeks to draw attention to himself as a practicing lawyer or that his actions will lead him down the path to vindication and redemption is academic; his erratic and combative stunts continue to draw attention, and as a result, Thompson is in the news, day after day.
You might say it's better to have Thompson on the front page, where we can keep an eye on him, than buried in the back section, where he can more easily carry out his agenda unmolested. But the point is valid only as long as you accept that Thompson's agenda is valid, or at least sane; once that line is crossed, however, legitimate news reporting begins to leak over into base voyeurism. If Thompson were a run-of-the-mill wacko, with a scruffy beard, dirty housecoat and a placard held over his head proclaiming, "THE END IS NIGH," we'd avoid his gaze as we approached, maybe cross to the other side of the street and otherwise pay him no attention at all. But because Thompson is a lawyer, and because for years he was trotted out by various news organizations as a videogame "expert," and because videogames remain such a complete mystery (and perhaps a bit scary) to the vast majority of the general public, he continues to carry far more gravitas than he has any real right to. And we, as a result, end up with simplistic sensationalism instead of reasoned debate.