Disbarred and disgraced though he may be, former attorney Jack Thompson still seems to have some traction in Utah, where he’s convinced a state legislator to introduce a bill he’s authored that seeks once again to regulate the sale of videogames.
Rep. Mike Morley has introduced the bill, apparently at the urging of Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative group Utah Eagle Forum. Thompson has “roughed out” the bill for Ruzicka, according to Glen Warchol of the Salt Lake Tribune, and apparently believes that unlike past attempts at legislating game sales, this one won’t be hung up by pesky First Amendment concerns.
“It doesn’t define what content is ‘harmful to minors,’ so we avoid the phony First Amendment arguments Hollywood loves to make,” Thompson wrote in a recent Deseret News article. “The bill simply states: If you promise the public you don’t sell adult-rated entertainment to kids, then you had better be telling the truth, because if a parent catches you selling this stuff to his or her kids, then you’re guilty of fraud under the Truth in Advertising Law.”
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who Thompson demanded be impeached back in 2007, said he understands that the new bill will be different than earlier versions but is apparently having trouble nailing down any details because “they keep changing the language.” He did note, however, that the “evidence” Thompson quotes in his assertions that games turn kids into cop killers haven’t held up in court.
Thompson’s support base appears to have eroded to the point where only the most extreme groups are willing to give him the time of day. While Utah has a reputation as being perhaps a bit on the fringe of U.S. states, the Utah Eagle Forum, described as “ultra-conservative” by GamePolitics, stands out from the crowd in its support of only the most far-right political causes, including opposition to the United Nations, universal health care and vaccination for children and the teaching of evolution in schools. The group was formed in 1972 by Phyllis Schlafly, a political activist best known for her stance against the Equal Rights Amendment, feminism, the Red menace and numerous other issues.
Of course, Thompson’s claim that the new bill will avoid “phony First Amendment” concerns is nothing new: Most of his previous efforts to legislate game sales were accompanied by similar statements, and all were declared clearly unconstitutional by the courts – but not before costing thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees and damage awards. This, unfortunately for residents of Utah, will almost certainly be more of the same.