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Tuesday, February 21, 2017 

The time when Gerard Jones defended violent entertainment in Mother Jones

Over 15 years ago, before the now disgraced comics writer/historian Gerard Jones was arrested on charges of uploading child pornography to the web and suspicion of assault, he wrote an op-ed in Mother Jones where he defended violent entertainment as good for children, which does not work well coming from him after what he was caught doing recently:
Then the Incredible Hulk smashed through it.

One of my mother's students convinced her that Marvel Comics, despite their apparent juvenility and violence, were in fact devoted to lofty messages of pacifism and tolerance. My mother borrowed some, thinking they'd be good for me. And so they were. But not because they preached lofty messages of benevolence. They were good for me because they were juvenile. And violent.
Awfully rich coming from somebody who turned out to have a very juvenile view of children in real life, and what he may have done to at least one in Britain. Never mind that as things stand now, he's run the gauntlet of giving Hulk comics a bad name, what's disturbing is that Jones seems to think juvenility and violence are literally positive ideas. And while Bruce Banner as the Hulk ultimately did do more good than harm when he fought all those larger than life supervillains, some people could probably wonder if Jones was influenced in all the wrong ways by what he read. After all, on the surface, the Hulk was construed by the army/government/press in the MCU as a crook only interested in committing vandalism on large scales, and didn't have exactly the same reputation as Spider-Man, who was able to rise above J. Jonah Jameson's smear tactics more easily. It's unfortunate if Jones misread any of these books and their messages, but that's the takeaway you could inevitably get when you view this in light of the recent discoveries. Which is a shame, because I do consider even the Hulk to be a Marvel production with value, and now, he's led to a situation where anybody who's read the recent news could think they influenced him in all the wrong ways. He went on to quote a psychologist who also defended violent showbiz:
"Fear, greed, power-hunger, rage: these are aspects of our selves that we try not to experience in our lives but often want, even need, to experience vicariously through stories of others," writes Melanie Moore, Ph.D., a psychologist who works with urban teens. "Children need violent entertainment in order to explore the inescapable feelings that they've been taught to deny, and to reintegrate those feelings into a more whole, more complex, more resilient selfhood."
In light of the recent findings about Jones, one has to wonder if maybe this whole defense of violent entertainment really is the right thing to do. Do children really need violence? If anything, it shouldn't be the only thing. They should be taught to appreciate drama and comedy to boot, for example. And they should be taught that violence is wrong except if you have to defend yourself or another innocent being against violent bullies and criminals. For now, what's abundantly clear is that Jones has proven unqualified to make arguments about violent entertainment.
I'm not going to argue that violent entertainment is harmless. I think it has helped inspire some people to real-life violence. I am going to argue that it's helped hundreds of people for every one it's hurt, and that it can help far more if we learn to use it well. I am going to argue that our fear of "youth violence" isn't well-founded on reality, and that the fear can do more harm than the reality. We act as though our highest priority is to prevent our children from growing up into murderous thugs -- but modern kids are far more likely to grow up too passive, too distrustful of themselves, too easily manipulated.
By any chance, does he consider Islam to be one form of violence-inducing education that's led to violence against innocents? Recalling his leftism, I wouldn't be shocked if he doesn't have a critical opinion on the Religion of Peace, and probably never did.

And look who's talking about "inspiration": he sure was "inspired", wasn't he? As of now, he's filled me with pure disgust, and I'll never be able to look at many of the books he wrote years ago the same way again. How does he think it's helped? If he was against defeating Saddam in the early 2000s, for example, and the Viet Cong during the 60s, then I'm not sure how he believes it helped. As for youth violence, what about adult violence, as seen in what he was trafficking on his computer when he was arrested by the SFPD?
We send the message to our children in a hundred ways that their craving for imaginary gun battles and symbolic killings is wrong, or at least dangerous. Even when we don't call for censorship or forbid "Mortal Kombat," we moan to other parents within our kids' earshot about the "awful violence" in the entertainment they love. [...]
And yet nobody seemed to send Jones the message that what he was storing in his cottage industry is wrong, or tragically failed to. As I'd noted earlier, he once complained he thought turning Hal Jordan into a tyrant was a cheap plot twist and had some fallouts with the editors, but now, who knows how much of that was true? How do we know he didn't leave voluntarily and was just trying to please the standings of GL fans who felt betrayed?

It's worth noting that he states in the op-ed he'd spoken with children, which should be cause for alarm after what he was discovered doing nearly 2 months ago.

Later, in 2006, Jones was interviewed by Gamasutra about a book he wrote further defending the practice called Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Superheroes and Make-Believe Violence, with violent video games added to the focus, and at the start of the piece, he said:
I think anyone who’s a decent person but who finds himself or herself attracted to aggressive or violent imagery is a little troubled. Why do I like this? It’s not really something that we’re taught in life to examine. It just sort of sneaks up. So I think a desire to understand what’s happening inside ourselves is a big part of it. People in the games business are particularly inclined that way, being, for the most part, a gentle group in a medium where violence has become so prominent.
He's putting it very lightly, all without even looking at himself in a mirror. This article too now stands as a goldmine of irony. When the interviewer points out how comic books haven't actually become mainstream unlike the movies and other merchandise, he says:
GJ: Comics, in their early days, were pretty much ubiquitous. There was a point where almost every kid at least read them occasionally. But comics is one medium that never really hit the mainstream, which I think is the carry-over from that furor in the fifties. That’s one case where I think the alarmism really did change the direction of the field. Also, I think when T.V. showed up it pulled a lot of that kid time and attention elsewhere, and left comics as sort of a geek thing.
Did it ever occur to him another reason they didn't, and, courtesy of his evil acts, might still find it hard for a long time to come, is because they remain nailed on a now disastrous format, the monthly pamphlet? That the publishers practically withdrew into the shadows, stopped selling in bookstores and prices jumped as a result, making comics far less affordable? This, I realized, is another weakness of Jones: he's never complained about the formats and how it's sinking the medium because the publishers won't switch exclusively to trades and abandon all those horrible company wide crossovers, at least a few, IIRC, which he participated in during his time with the Big Two, and never seemed bothered about. As a result, one can rightly ask: what good did Jones ever really do for comicdom if he couldn't unambiguously point out some of the biggest elephants in the room like the pamphlet format and the crossovers? And that doesn't even begin to describe all the grave errors a lot of publishers made even today. There's also the jarring violence which he, in all his hypocrisy, sure hasn't made much of an effort to call out as terrible mistakes, if at all. Still later in the interview, he even said:
[...] This word violence is rather old, but the way we use it now to mean physical damage to someone’s body is pretty recent.
Damage he aided, abetted, and may have committed himself, tragically enough. Then, another moment of hypocrisy comes up:
GS: Do you see a larger relationship between video game violence and video game sex?

GH: Very much. There is a certain absurdity that parents make peace with Grand Theft Auto, until naked women appear in it. It has something to do with the fact that it was snuck in. In that way, it’s similar to people’s reaction when S&M is introduced in mainstream porn. Bondage gets a lot of heat. It’s okay to watch human sexuality, but when you bring power relations into the equation...

With violent games, we’re learning to accept it. Your kids’ friends have these games too. But then our threshold for violence has always been higher than for sex.
Not when he's the one giving sex a bad name, as he demonstrated for who knows how long. Sex is one thing, but rape and sodomy of minors is another, and he had the sick nerve to traffic that porn crap on his computer and disks. At the end, they even brought up a certain presidential candidate of recent:
GS: So if you had Hillary Clinton in front of you now, what would you say to her on the topic of video-game violence?

GJ: Well, I’d want to be sympathetic. I understand that she’s trying to appear morally upright, and not let the Republicans steal that. But I’d tell her to remember that so many things that we now understand to be good were once attacked at this level, and that things look differently from the outside than the inside when you’re not used to them. In my experience with kids and adults who have played video games, they’ve turned out fine. So I’d say, let’s take another look at this material as part of the upbringing of decent people.
As he confirmed some months ago, he's a Democrat and on her side, so I wouldn't be shocked if even back in 2006, he wasn't particularly interested in protesting whatever issues the woman who defended a child rapist in 1975 had to say about video game violence, which would only come across as hypocritical in light of her own reprehensible conduct as a lawyer.

These op-eds and interviews Jones gave now come across as limp in their points, and won't hold any water when one considers what a wolf in sheep's clothing he really was.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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