Video Gamers vs. Cable News Pundit

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

I’ve previously written about the peculiar merit system that governs cable news punditry. Shamelessness and pithy soundbite delivery are highly valued. Truthfulness and accuracy, not so much.

I think I briefly mentioned this story in a “Morning Links” post a while back, but it’s nice to see a crappy pundit get some comeuppance. Over at Forbes, Kashmir Hill writes about psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, who has been “Amazon bombed” by video gamers incensed about Lieberman’s comments to Fox News linking video games to violence and sexual assault.

Psychiatrist Carole Lieberman has written three books, but were you to check them out on Amazon, you might be discouraged from buying one. They all have a host of negative reviews and sorry ratings of a star and a half (out of five).

If you were to look closely, you might note that the majority of the reviews for the books (written in 1998, 2006, and 2010, respectively) all started pouring in on February 8, 2011. One reviewer calls “Coping with Terrorism” (2006) an “an offensive piece of garbage.” Another calls “Bad Boys” (1998) “the worst book I’ve ever read.” Another reader claims “Bad Girls” (2010) is “the worst piece of crap in the history of mankind!”…

The hundreds of reviews that flooded Lieberman’s Amazon pages last month came as a result of a controversial statement she made to Fox News about video games desensitizing players to violence and causing rape. The statement inflamed video gamers, and they soon set their violent sights on her books. The nasty reviews are part of a new tactic in the war of ideas on the Internet: “Amazon-bombing.”

Hill is fairly sympathetic to Lieberman, whose expertise in media violence includes authoring the books, Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live with Them, and When to Leave Them, and Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets. I’m not sure she deserves it.

Here’s what Lieberman told Fox News:

Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist and book author, told FoxNews.com that sexual situations and acts in video games — highlighted so well in Bulletstorm — have led to real-world sexual violence.

“The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games,” she said.

See a fun bit of digging into the anatomy of the Fox story here.

It’s unclear what Lieberman means by “increase in rapes.” According to both victim surveys and reported cases, rape has been in dramatic decline since the early 1990s. It’s now at its lowest level since the government started tracking the statistic. This would be same period over which video games started to become more violent, more realistic, and more sexually suggestive.

In a subsequent interview with Wired, Lieberman explained her comment:

When shown these figures, Lieberman said the “statistics do not reflect all the rapes, since many go unreported and others relate to child abductions.” When asked for statistics showing an increase of rape in recent years, Lieberman said she did not have time to pull them up.

That’s because they don’t exist. If anything, the stigma associated with rape has decreased in recent years. I’m sure there still are rape victims who are too afraid or embarrassed to report the crime, but there’s no reason at all to think they would be less likely to file a report today than, say, 30 years ago. And it’s flat absurd to argue not only that the rape stigma has increased in recent years, but that it has increased enough to compensate for a 60 percent drop in reported rapes since 1993. It’s a far safer bet that Lieberman simply has no idea what the hell she’s talking about.

It gets better. More from Wired:

“Obviously I know what I’m talking about or I wouldn’t be called upon to testify in front of Congress,” [Lieberman] said.

Persuasive! And John “Bo Duke” Schneider is an athority on constitutional law.

More:

“I’ve been doing this research for over 20 years…. It’s all about violence, it all applies to rape. And it has been done on videogames less violent or less sexual than the current one that we’re talking about.”

On Friday, several days after our initial phone interview, Wired.com asked Lieberman once again if she had found time to dig up a specific study linking videogames to rape. She once again referenced the “Violent Video Game Effects” study and failed to name specific games with sexual content that might encourage rape.

“Over the years, I have read hundreds of studies linking videogames to violence. Rape, as a violent act, is implied in them,” she wrote in an e-mail. “When videogames are violent and sexual, it causes the players to become desensitized to rape and think it is a ‘game.’”

The study referenced above found that some children tend to play more aggressively after playing violent games, but it did not find (or try to find) any link between video games and rape or violence. Wired then spoke to some folks who do actually study media violence, and none could come up with a single study linking video games to rape or violence. Back to you, Dr. Lieberman:

“There are thousands of studies,” Lieberman said. “I’d have to look through them or recent ones as far as finding one that specifically speaks about rape, and I don’t have the time to do that right now.”…

At this rate, Lieberman may soon get her own TV show.

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56 Responses to “Video Gamers vs. Cable News Pundit”

  1. #1 |  Enyap | 

    What is it with people named Lieberman being antigaming fucks?

  2. #2 |  Michael Chaney | 

    When shown these figures, Lieberman said the “statistics do not reflect all the rapes, since many go unreported and others relate to child abductions.”

    Right. And, years ago, 100% of rapes were reported. Hell, that alone probably explains this “drop” you’re talking about – fewer rapes are reported now. Yeah, that’s it!

    “There are thousands of studies,” Lieberman said.

    So it should be all the easier to find a single one, right? I’ve seen this hilariously false argument trotted out by losers all the time on the internet: “The evidence against you is so overwhelming that I wouldn’t even know where to start!” Oddly, when you suggest they start wherever they want and show a single example, they run…

  3. #3 |  SJE | 

    Being an “authority” and knowing what you are talking about are not the same, Dr. Lieberman. Recognition as an “authority” often relates to how “authoratative” you sound, and how doggedly you defend your position, rather than being open and honest about the facts. You see it in academia, media, and politics all the time.

  4. #4 |  Dave Krueger | 

    At this rate, Lieberman may soon get her own TV show.

    Best line in the entire article.

    Parker is leaving CNN’s Parker-Spitzer, so they are looking for a substitute. Surely Lieberman’s credibility would rank on at least the same level as Elliot Spitzer…

  5. #5 |  Jim | 

    I have not looked up Dr Lieberman practice at all but from her books it does not seem she is an expert in child development or media influences. These are distinct fields and while she might have more insight than an average person her claim of reading thousands of studies in a field that is not her practice seems rather well bullshit.

  6. #6 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    Sounds like the Sarah Palin approach: “Dr. Lieberman, exactly which studies are you referring to that link video game violence to rape?”

    “ALL of them!”

  7. #7 |  Nick T. | 

    Great post, Radley.

    And a good job by Wired pinning her down to her ridiculous positions. If only major media folks did this same type of confrontational interviewing/journalism with our national politicians.

  8. #8 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Dear Carole Lieberman;

    I take what happened to Jack Thompson a hopeful note for your future employment prospects.

    Yours Sincerely;
    An employee in the Games Industry.

  9. #9 |  Mister DNA | 

    This article is already being referenced in the Wikipedia entry on Dr. Lieberman. That’s fast!

  10. #10 |  freebob | 

    So on one hand the rape stigma has recently increased enough to compensate for a 60 percent drop in reported rapes since 1993, but at the same time video games are desensitizing kids into a new generation of sex craved fanatics.

  11. #11 |  Andrew S. | 

    Multiple logical fallacies and a gish gallop. That’s pretty impressive there, Ms. Lieberman.

    We sure she’s not just Joe in a dress?

  12. #12 |  Mike T | 

    You ought to comment on this when you get some time…

    Wisconsin Police Union members are threatening an insurrection if Walker doesn’t back down…

  13. #13 |  LJ Taylor | 

    The spirit of Wertham’s legacy lives on…

  14. #14 |  notsure | 

    Don’t mess with teh gamers, they pwn the internets

  15. #15 |  SJE | 

    Wow, Mike T, thanks for the link. Perhaps the GOP will reconsider its fetish with “law and order.” OTOH, this is not entirely different to what has happened in Calif and Colorado, where the state police will arrest people for marijuana possession under federal law, and thus defying state law, or in any state, where the cops seem to make up the law as they like it.

  16. #16 |  Mike T | 

    If Walker wants to score some RTKBA points, he should threaten the police union with calling up the militia. As governor, he can do that. It would be awesome to see Walker march on the protesting police union at the head of a 2k-10k member armed state militia like Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion.

  17. #17 |  Aaron | 

    @Mike T: As far as I can see *one* member is threatening to not enforce orders of highly questionable legality. Wisconsin’s constitution “free assembly and petition clause” has been interpreted as forbidding the exclusion of any person from the capitol.

    (And I thought people around here generally *liked* the Whiskey Rebellion).

  18. #18 |  The_Chef | 

    As a gamer and a person that enjoys a good violent videogame…

    Dear Dr. Lieberman,

    Fuck you.

    Sincerely,
    The_Chef

  19. #19 |  Jozef | 

    Dear Dr. Lieberman,

    Fuck you.

    Sincerely,
    The_Chef

    That’s clearly threatening her with rape! Arrest this guy!

  20. #20 |  Mattocracy | 

    It could’ve been worse. She could’ve blamed rapes on dicks and vaginas and advocated banning both.

  21. #21 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Unless you’re a Lvl 70 Wizard, you are a noob and not a gaming expert.

    Hey, didn’t Elmo testify in front of Congress?

  22. #22 |  Gonzo | 

    Ah, I dunno. There might be some credence to this. I spent a large portion of my childhood believing I was an Italian plumber, and sustained numerous head injuries in pursuit of mushrooms, stars, and shiny gold coins.

  23. #23 |  CyniCAl | 

    My favorite minarchist Jacob Hornberger has your back:

    http://www.fff.org/blog/index.asp

    OT, but related to a previous blog post.

  24. #24 |  Bergman | 

    So she’s been doing this research for 20 years has she? No wonder she’s motivationally biased on the matter. The realization that she has utterly wasted 20 years on being wrong would destroy the woman.

  25. #25 |  StrongStyle81 | 

    Playing Final Fantasy 13 was like experiencing anal rape. Long, slow anal rape that made no sense. You didn’t know why it was happening, it just was.

    In January, Speed Demos Archive ran a live marathon stream to speed run video games for charity. Despite having zero mention on any major gaming website and a small, niche following they managed to raise nearly $40,000 for a cancer prevention charity. Their goal was 25,000, but I know they got at least 35.

    This is exactly the kind of thing websites like Kotaku and 1up should be highlighting, supporting and nurturing but you see very little of it. While 30-40,000 might not seem like a lot compared to other more high profile charity work, it is impressive considering the small but dedicated following speed running has. A link if you are interested in seeing what it was all about. If you watch just one, watch the NES Metroid one. The finish was awesome.

    http://speeddemosarchive.com/marathon/schedule/

  26. #26 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    People like this feel viscerally that video games must be bad for kids, because they don’t understand the games, the gamer subculture, or the computer subculture either. They feel threatened by the computers that are allowing people to bypass the Intelligencia’s position as fonts of all wisdom. ultimately there are the little PC types who looked down on the computer geeks, and it infuriates them that the Geeks now seem to run the world …. that’s supposed to be the job of the Intellectual Elite! So they hate the games, and do “research” to “prove” that they are bad, because deep down they understand that the games promote independent thought, problem solving, and whatever the opposite of a victim mindset might be called.

  27. #27 |  StrongStyle81 | 

    BTW my point was when gamers do something positive and good, it never gets reported. Sometimes even getting ignored by major game websites.

  28. #28 |  freedomfan | 

    I’m sorry, but this woman is just a joke. She clearly has not spent 20 years doing research in this area. She isn’t even a research psychologist; she’s a therapist who has gotten into the advice book business. In all likelihood, her foray into punditry gave her an opportunity to have her books mentioned on TV and maybe even made her hopeful that there is a market for a panicky book about video games.

    If she has ever done any real scientific research (she has an ordinary medical degree, not a research PhD), she doesn’t seem to see it as important enough to mention. Her official website (warning: web theme sponsored by Pepto Bismol) doesn’t have a list of peer-reviewed papers, as any real researcher is likely to have. Indeed, there is no mention of any actual research she is doing. Instead, there is a lot of preening about her celebrity connections and, of course, there is this gem

    Dr. Carole combines her traditional psychiatric training and experience with a spiritual perspective – going beyond “The Secret” to the far reaches of the Amazon jungle where she learned the timeless ‘secrets’ of the universe from shamans.

    Uhh… yeah. I wouldn’t trust her to research the connection between canine salivation and exposure to bacon.

    And, I also have to agree that testifying before congress doesn’t establish one’s bona fides for anything. People are quite often called to testify, whether they are legitimate experts or not, because they are known to have an opinion that serves the interest of some member of the committee. If someone is looking to kick up a stink about video games (and secure the campaign support of those who want more regulations or of those who are worried about more regulations), then call up Dr. Carole.

    BTW, I am not a fan of Amazon bombing someone’s book page without having any idea what’s in the book. But, I think it’s quite fitting that she might see economic consequences for claiming to be an expert on something where she is, frankly, beyond clueless and then getting her ass handed to her over her undisguised inability to provide anything approaching credible evidence to back up her claim. If she doesn’t want to lose money on her advice-for-the-lovelorn books, then she should avoid discrediting herself on national media. The next time FoxNews or CNN or whoever wants her to appear as an expert on the (non-existent) video game rape connection, instead of jumping at the opportunity to get her face in front of the camera, she might consider just being honest and telling them that this is not her area of expertise.

  29. #29 |  Mike T | 

    Playing Final Fantasy 13 was like experiencing anal rape.

    So what you’re saying is that Final Fantasy 13 is a $20 “Scared Straight” program for parents and schools facing a budget crunch…

  30. #30 |  Alex | 

    “There are thousands of studies.”
    I love that! There is a zero percent chance that there have been “thousands” of studies about video game violence.

  31. #31 |  The_Chef | 

    I’m trying to figure out what “violent games that encourage rape” existed in 1990….

    F-Zero? Commander Keen? Oh! Super Mario World?

    Hell DOOM wasn’t released until 1993 and Wolfenstein 3D was 92….

  32. #32 |  perlhaqr | 

    So, she’s full of shit and factless, and when called out on it, she decided to double down.

    Man, she could be big in Congress!

  33. #33 |  skunky | 

    Yet Radley, you legitimize Fox “News” by continuing to appear on the network? Shouldn’t you use you personal leverage as a coveted pundit yourself to enforce some journalistic standards?

  34. #34 |  freedomfan | 

    Skunky, the issue isn’t FoxNews versus some other news channel. There isn’t a mainstream news outlet around that doesn’t do scare stories and which doesn’t hire dimwitted “experts” who are willing to buy into the panic of the week in order to get on the air. (You might want to check the link at the beginning of Radley’s post to see a nice example of the phenomenon.) I hope that you aren’t taking a Team Red vs. Team Blue view of this, because it would really be missing the point to think that there is some other mainstream news outlet that doesn’t allow (and encourage) idiots like Dr. Clueless to go on the air and lend legitimacy to whatever non-story their correspondents have stumbled across.

    And, it wouldn’t matter if there were. Radley can speak for himself, but I think he is doing the right thing in agreeing to any appearance which allows him to increase awareness of the issues in which he actually has some expertise. The problem arises when someone is so desperate to get face time that they are willing to go on the air with a position for which there is no legitimate support and presume expertise which they do not have in order to make sure their book gets mentioned or that their web site gets a plug. That latter role is what most of us think of as being a hack and I have never seen Radley in that role. If some network – pretty much any network that is willing to let him have enough time to make his point – is interested in his views on criminal justice, police militarization or any of the areas in which he actually articulates a cogent viewpoint, then I don’t see a problem with it. Waiting for a “pure” media outlet in the present day equates to either never expressing your view or expressing your view in a medium that, statistically, no on will ever see.

  35. #35 |  megs | 

    It sounds to me like her books deserved to be amazon bombed regardless of the situation. They sound like anti-feminist, mansplaining BS masquerading as something good for women.

    You know what is good for women? Video games. Love ‘em. And the sexiest, most violent one I played last year, Dragon Age, has tons of female fans.

    I know I haven’t been around for more than 30 years, but I’d much rather come forward with a rape now than 20 years ago when the prominent accusers of harassment were loudly all proclaimed to be liars and loose women. Even with the progressives being complete hypocrites and assholes supporting Assange and Roman Polanski, there is loud support for victims and safe and supportive groups for survivors. There is no way known cases are down.

  36. #36 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Even with the progressives being complete hypocrites and assholes supporting Assange and Roman Polanski,

    Do you really think Assange and Polanski are equal? One has had his day in court, the other has not…plus a bunch of other differences in the cases.

  37. #37 |  Leah | 

    #35 – Amen. And props for working “mansplaining” into the comments.

  38. #38 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Dr. Lieberman’s Website is nauseatingly pink – Psychiatrist to the stars!

    http://www.drcarole.com/

  39. #39 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    “#31 | The_Chef | March 3rd, 2011 at 12:36 am ”

    Surely it was Commander Keen that led to the uptick of sexual assaults.

  40. #40 |  Mike T | 

    I know I haven’t been around for more than 30 years, but I’d much rather come forward with a rape now than 20 years ago when the prominent accusers of harassment were loudly all proclaimed to be liars and loose women

    That’s because a large percentage of rape accusers are liars. Something like 40% of them are either proved to be false or recant. Do some research on Google if you find it hard to believe.

    This is an explanation of why rape is so hard to prove today within the boundaries of the Bill of Rights.

    Of course, it would help if women who are proved to make false claims of rape would get prosecuted. 10 years for him? 10 years for her. That would make it a lot easier to get around the hangups about whether it was consensual or not.

  41. #41 |  witless chum | 

    “Do you really think Assange and Polanski are equal? One has had his day in court, the other has not…plus a bunch of other differences in the cases.”

    I think damn sure they’re equal in getting a lot more support from liberals who’d be louder in denouncing in them if they didn’t help run Wikileaks and direct “Rosemary’s Baby,” which is what I took megs’ point to obviously be.

  42. #42 |  Bronwyn | 

    I’ll just point out that there are not “thousands” of studies on anything. What a life she must lead, so thoroughly self-deluded.

  43. #43 |  Rob in CT | 

    I play Civilization. I am therefore more likely to be a genocidal maniac?

  44. #44 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    Oh, my, are there really “psychologists” who buy the feminist propaganda that rape is violent but never sexual despite the fact that 65% of rape victims are between 12 and 30 and 29% between 12-17, and the rape rate for girls of 16-19 is four times that of women in general? Not to mention the fact that rape rates decrease in every country where prostitution is decriminalized: http://www.independent.org/pdf/working_papers/50_prostitution.pdf.

    “Desensitized,” my foot. :-(

  45. #45 |  Mattocracy | 

    @ #43

    I totally LOL’d at that.

  46. #46 |  johnl | 

    @44 Women in their 30s are less likely to be in situations where they are vulnerable than a teenager (because they are richer, smarter, better connected, more likely to be married, …). So them being attacked less doesn’t tell us much about the motivation of the attackers.

  47. #47 |  dhex | 

    Rock, Paper, Shotgun has been all over this

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/bulletstormgate/

  48. #48 |  omar | 

    I play Civilization. I am therefore more likely to be a genocidal maniac?

    Maybe. I prefer to think of myself as more likely to build a spaceship.

  49. #49 |  J.S. | 

    I played world of warcraft yesterday, then watched a violent movie last night. I’m scared of myself and what I might do next…

    As for Assange and Polanski… gimme a break. Assanage may be an ass if thats your politics but his “rape” case is a complete and utter joke. Its a case of two bitter Swedish feminists upset he played them for a roll in the hay.

  50. #50 |  Rob in CT | 

    #48,

    Oh, sure. After the slaughter of one’s neighbors, one can build that nifty spaceship. ;)

  51. #51 |  CK | 

    @43 only if you play as Churchill, or Lincoln, or Stalin, or Mao, or Monteczuma, or Napolean, or Atilla, or Isabella, or …

  52. #52 |  CK | 

    I’ll try to maintain a veneer of seriousness here even though the topic is television infotainment shows. Radley does infotainment shows, I assume the checks he recieves for appearance fees do no bounce. People watch infotainment to be tittylated, to watch leggy blondes chatter, to have something to tut tut or harrumph about at their work the next day, except when Merkin Idle is on. Folks its a tv show, it has its regular cast and its guest stars and it sells soap, and services and prescription meds. Take the payment and smile. Is it not obvious that this talker and Fox have helped sell way more of this video game than any paid advert could?
    I remember doing a senior ( high school ) thesis on Dr Fred Wertham and his war on Comic books. It involved reading much trash including his magnum opiss Seduction of the Innocent. Change the sex of the talker/author and the media involved but the story is the same. Now excuse me while I go find some Satanic backwards music to enjoy.

  53. #53 |  varmintito | 

    @ 43, 48, 50, 51: Really, though, why bother building the space ship unless you want to slaughter and subjugate the inhabitants of the alien world after you arrive? Once I’ve broken the back of any serious rivals, the game becomes literally as thrilling as watching crops grow (yippee! I can turn everything into farmland and turn luxuries to 90% to maximize my happy population! Or I can turn science to 90% and accumulate generic future technologies! Hours of gaming where nothing happens! Yay!).

    Also, I have not played as a male leader/chief/praetor/minister/president in years. Not sure why.

    As for Dr. Carole, she is just the latest on the “bad tendency” thought crime gravy train. Video games > rape is a clever twist, if only because proving it has a higher degree of difficulty than porn > rape (or video games > violence).

    After all, the drop in the incidence of rape has coincided with the shrinking availability of porn over the last 20 years, amirite?

    I’ve been studying this phenomenon since I was about 13, and after exhaustive research, I have concluded that porn causes the following societal ills:
    1) calluses
    2) painful sores, especially during the Great Nivea Shortage of 1998
    3) a powerful urge to take a piss
    4) curiosity about the leftovers in the fridge
    5) sleep

  54. #54 |  Rob in CT | 

    #53, Oddly enough, I’m really a “builder” player at heart. As in I actually enjoy playing for hundreds of turns w/o war, just building up my empire… perfecting it (building Wonders, nifty city improvements, working the land, etc).

    It’s just that I found that it’s easiest to do that after I have driven my enemies before me, bathed in their blood and listened to the lamentation of their women… :)

    Seriously, the best time to be a “builder” is after you’ve destroyed or at least hamstrung the other civs on your continent (or at least those that are anywhere near you). Sorta like… well, US history. ;)

  55. #55 |  Kit Tostado | 

    It’s laborious to search out educated individuals on this matter, but you sound like you understand what you’re talking about! Thanks

  56. #56 |  Paul | 

    The only reason I even heard of Bulletstorm was because of Lieberman’s bullshit. So naturally, I made sure to reserve it and bought it on the day it was released. I guess Epic Games can thank her for at least one inadvertent sale.

    Incidentally, there are no sexual situations and acts at all in the game. Lots of gore and lots of swearing, but nothing sexual.

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