On Friday, March 7, Bonnie Goldstein of Slate.com wrote about a furious battle going on between a Florida attorney on one side and the Florida Bar and Florida Supreme Court on the other.
Any bets on how this one comes out?
The attorney is Jack Thompson, who has a long history of trying to police violent and sexual content in the media. You can reasonably take the position that at least some examples of that are a problem, but Thompson's thinking has evolved way beyond reasonable positions.
According to the Wikipedia article on Thompson, which is heavily documented (132 footnotes), Thompson has been involved in decency crusades since the 1980s, pushing for boycotts of, among others, 2 Live Crew, N.W.A., and Madonna. Eventually, he took on video games, claiming for example that vibrating PlayStation 2 controllers are designed to encourage violence because the "pleasurable buzz [delivered] with each kill" is a form of behavior-modification conditioning.
Last April, he claimed the Virginia Tech killer had been driven to kill, and trained to do so, by playing the game "Counter-Strike." "[T]his is not rocket science," Thompson said. "When a kid who has never killed anyone in his life goes on a rampage . . . he's a video gamer." That does seem pretty conclusive, although the official report on the Virginia Tech shooting found that none of the games the shooter played "were war games or had violent themes," although he did play "Sonic the Hedgehog."
There is no evidence that any rocket scientists contributed to that report, however.
Thompson has also taken on the Florida Bar, saying that ethics complaints against him are frivolous. Some of the complaints involve attacks Thompson has made on other attorneys and judges in Florida, and that's what got Thompson in trouble recently. In what he said was an effort to prove that an opposing attorney's website contains links to pornographic images, Thompson filed pleadings in federal court that included the same images he said he was complaining about. The court was not amused.
In February, the Florida Supreme Court issued an order to show cause why Thompson should not be sanctioned. That was prompted by a pleading Thompson filed that he described as a "children's picture book for adults," which he said was necessary because the court couldn't seem to understand his arguments without pictures. The pictures included swastikas, cartoon squirrels, a judge with the head of a donkey, and an album cover used to argue that the validity of Thompson's position "should now be so clear with this filing that even could see it."
On March 20 -- after Thompson filed a response that called the order "bizarre" and "idiotic" and asking the court to "make [his] day" -- the court sanctioned him. As a result, Thompson cannot file any more pleadings unless they are "signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar other than himself." Further insulting pleadings, which are almost certainly forthcoming, may lead to contempt charges.