Gamestop has done an excellent job of setting up a strawprostitute in its recent article, Prostitutes call for ban on GTA. Tim Surette, the author, is pissed off that SWOP, the Sex Workers Outreach Project, has spoken out against Grand Theft Auto [GTA]. Pissed off enough, it seems to conflate the words ‘ban’ and ‘boycott’.
From the first paragraph of the article, he says [emphasis mine]:
The Grand Theft Auto franchise is getting attacked from all angles. Joining the ranks of politicians, policemen, and attorneys in their crusade to see the game lifted from shelves are the nation’s sex workers. On its Web site, the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA is asking parents to assist them in calling for a ban of Take-Two Interactive’s controversial game.
The two parts I have highlighted give the mistaken impression that SWOP is out to enact legislation that would bar GTA, and games like it, from being made and sold. He later on dismisses the repeated assertion from SWOP that it is “adamantly opposed to any and all forms of censorship” because they express the wish to speak out to parents. Given the tone of the article, this only serves to further conflate boycotting (and, dare I say, criticism) with censorship and banning.
So what, exactly, does SWOP say on this matter? Well, here’s the first paragraph from SWOP-USA Statement Regarding the Video Game Grand Theft Auto created by Take-Two Interactive:
Although SWOP-USA will always be adamantly opposed to any and all forms of censorship, as concerned parents ourselves, we wish to inform other parents of the potential danger extremely violent video games pose to children. And in the interest of furthering sex workerâ€™s human and civil rights to life and personal safety, we object to any media which represents sex workers as legitimate targets of violence, rape and murder. Censorship is a blight on the freedoms we hold dear but we wholeheartedly encourage citizens to vote with their dollars by refusing to purchase products which encourage the denigration and destruction of prostitutes. Since the video game Grand Theft Auto accrues points to players for the depiction of the rape and murder of prostitutes, SWOP-USA calls on all parents and all gamers to boycott Grand Theft Auto.
Notice the word ‘boycott’ and the conspicious absence of ‘ban’ or any call to legal action. This is a very, very important distinction that Surette (intentionally?) glosses over in his post.
I share the concern about the sensationalist backlash to video games, and other popular culture, but, and this is a big but, that’s not what SWOP seems to be aiming for. Do I necessarily agree with their cited research? Well, no. I haven’t read it, but I don’t need to because my agreement with their premise or not is immaterial. They aren’t advocating a ban, or anything like it; they’re advocating an informed boycott based on what they perceive to be a tangible threat to themselves. They have, and should have, that right.