R18+: Rationality Is Dead

A discussion is only rational when both sides can accept the possibility of change. If a point or position has been shown to be false, with evidence, you must concede. You can’t reuse the same argument, you can’t continue to make statements that aren’t backed up with evidence. You move on. You accept defeat with humility — and change your viewpoint accordingly.

Sadly, there is no such thing as a rational debate when it come to the R18+ issue in Australia. When it comes to R18+ rationality is dead.

When someone, in the face of overwhelming evidence, refuses to adjust his or her opinions, you have to ask yourself — is this really a discussion? Or is it something else entirely — something far more insidious. A discussion involves both sides listening to one another, and responding in kind. From what I’ve seen, those on the other side of this ‘discussion’ have done a whole lot of talking, but they clearly haven’t been listening to a word we’ve been saying. How could they be?

We’ve been told more public consultation is needed on the issue. How so?

We had a public consultation, with 58,437 responses. More than any other public consultation in Australia’s history — overwhelmingly in favour of an R18+ rating. Apparently that wasn’t enough.

Game and PALGN tabled a record breaking petition, with 89,210 signatures — more signatures than any petition ever presented in parliament. Still, that wasn’t enough.

Then the Federal Government commissioned an independent survey. In said survey, over 80 per cent of Australians claimed they were in support of an R18+ rating for Australia. Nope, still not enough.

In the face of this concrete evidence — as concrete as it gets — what gives anyone the right to say that more “public debate” is required? How is this rational? How can we call this a ‘discussion’ or a ‘debate’, if you are not willing to accept the facts and figures placed in front of you?

Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby claims that ‘academic research’ shows that games are more harmful to children. What academic research? Where is this research? A government literature review of all relevant research has shown that games are no more harmful than any other medium in that regard. All credible research has shown this. All literature reviews on the issue have confirmed this.

There are claims that “vested commercial interests” are attempting to force an R18+ rating through with “propaganda”. There is next to no commercial gain here — Australia is a tiny market, and a miniscule amount of games are refused classification. In the grand scheme of things video game publishers couldn’t really care less whether an R18+ rating is passed or not — in fact, before the matter was raised again last December, publishers had informally agreed to stop pushing for one. Why? Because it doesn’t affect their business in any significant way.

Today, astonishingly, Robert Clark – the Attorney-General for Victoria – claimed that an R18+ rating would “legalise games with high levels of graphic, frequent and gratuitous violence, including violence against civilians and police”. Is he referring to Grand Theft Auto IV? A video game that can already be purchased in stores under an MA15+ rating? Did he not hear Brendan O’Connor when he said, repeatedly, that games already Refused Classification would not be given a new rating? Does he not understand that 99.9% of these games are already available in this country and, regardless, those that have been refused classification are easily accessible via online piracy or through importation?

Have we not already discussed this? Is this not a ‘discussion’?

These are the facts, backed by irrefutable evidence. If you make a point, which is subsequently made redundant through evidence, you must abandon that argument. That is simple logic. So why do we continually have to repel the same arguments? How can you call this a discussion? This is not rational. This is something else entirely.

This is not a discussion, it’s a process. A process that, in part, justifies the existence of Lobby Groups such as the ACL, a process seized upon by politicians seeking to avoid the broader issues, a process whose primary function is to sustain the position of people who do absolutely nothing of consequence.

And the problem with processes are – they tend to repeat themselves. Endlessly.

Since I’ve joined Kotaku, over a period of roughly six months, I’ve written 71 stories about this issue in Australia. 71. This will be my 72nd. In that time it seems as though nothing has changed. Round and round we go – endlessly – from point to point. The same old arguments, the same old people, the same voices. Where did it begin – when will it ever end?

This is not a discussion, this is not a debate – if it was it would have ended years ago, rationally.

But this is a process, and rationality is dead.

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