Grand Theft Menino

1205851727When I opened the paper yesterday and saw this, I planned on letting it go. After all, what real authority does Mayor Tom Menino have to ban violent video games for children under 17? And even if he did manage to institute a ban, would anyone expect it to actually work in the real world?

No, I figured it was nothing more than a political countermeasure, a transparent attempt to distract everyone from the fact that his challengers are closing in on him.

Look over here! I’m trying to save our children! Re-elect me!

I think I’m right about his motivations, but I was obviously wrong about his resolve. Menino isn’t letting this thing go. Instead, he’s pushing forward. Today, the Mayor takes his proposal to the State House.

In a word, ugh. The earnest, it’s-about-our-kids argument behind video games isn’t new (although it is nauseating). Hillary Clinton tried this three years ago. She was so outraged by the content in the games that she even joined forces with arch conservative former Senator Rick Santorum — an unnatural alliance if there ever was one.

Now, as then, this is less about what’s right for our kids than it is about political opportunism. Back then, Clinton needed to find something that would push her closer to the center as she geared up to run for president. Menino, meanwhile, is worried that he might lose the next election, which is why he’s popping off about video games and anything else he can think of that might appeal to voters (like “fixing” Storrow Drive and creating more “green space”).

Of course, just like the Storrow proposal, the Mayor hasn’t offered many details. And, incidentally, why stop with violent video games? Why not ban movies, television programs and music, too? Hell, books like Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies have gobs of violence. Perhaps we could throw a bonfire while we lace up our jackboots.

Or maybe we could just encourage parents to do some parenting.

The best commentary I’ve seen about any of this came from the Herald editorial board. They absolutely nailed it: We should spend less time combating virtual violence and more time preventing the real-world version.