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Friday, October 14th, 2005

    Time Event
    GP EXCLUSIVE: National Institute on Media & Family Disavows Jack Thompson

    It appears that Jack Thompson's act is wearing thin lately, and not just among gamers.

    GamePolitics has obtained a hard copy of a blistering letter faxed to the Miami attorney on Thursday by Dr. David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family.

    Walsh has been a leading critic of video game violence, and stood beside Senator Hillary Clinton during her Hot Coffee press conference in July as Mrs. Clinton called for an FTC investigation into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

    The two-page document sent by Walsh to Thompson reads as follows:

    "Dear Mr. Thompson,

    I founded the National Institute on Media and the Family ten years ago to engage in research and education about the effects of media on children's health and development. Our original premise that "media are powerful" has been validated scientifically and socially many times over. Our work has been cited by organizations around the world and our credibility has been well established.

    One of the areas of greatest concern is the issue of violent media's effect on children. I know that you share that common concern and I am well aware that you have frequently cited me and our organization as a source of scientific information. However, over the past few months, I and members of my board have a growing concern that your use of our name, without our permission, has had a negative influence as we try to educate the public on this important issue.

    Your commentary has included extreme hyperbole and your tactics have included personally attacking individuals for whom I have a great deal of respect. I believe that respect is essential in all our dealings, including respect for those with whom we disagree. Some of the people that you have publicly criticized are not only people of integrity, but are people who have worked to improve the lives of children.

    Even though we have no formal relationship your use of my name and your inclusion of my name in correspondence have created the impression that we condone these tactics. We do not. The result is that our position and reputation as a research based, non-partisan, solution-focused organization has been jeopardized. Consequently, I ask that you cease using the Institute's or my name in any way that would give the impression that we support your efforts. I also ask that you remove the link to our website that appears on your site.


    David Walsh, PH.D."

    EDITOR'S NOTE: cc's listed on the letter include Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum; the governor and attorney general of Minnesota, Bill Gates, the CEO's of Target and Best Buy, Pat Vance of the ESRB, Doug Lowenstein of the ESA, as well as several other Minnesota political figures.

    GP tried to reach Jack Thompson (pictured at left) for comment. However neither a phone message nor an e-mail was returned by press time.

    UPDATE 10/14 8:30 A.M. Thompson acknowledges receiving the letter, and GP has received a pair of response letters from the controversial attorney to Dr. David Walsh. We will be publishing them.

    Thompson Fires Back at Walsh, NIMF

    Miami attorney Jack Thompson wasted little time in responding to a very public censure delivered yesterday by Dr. David Walsh, founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family.

    The controversial anti-game activist dashed off a pair of letters to Walsh, forwarding copies to GP. Thompson added increasingly scathing comments in several subsequent e-mails. In this post GP reproduces Thompson's letters.

    Thompson's First Letter:

    Sent: Thursday, October 13, 2005 6:01 PM

    Dave, I received your letter today. A couple of clarifications, if I'm allowed to do that.

    I have never given the impression that you are anything other than a remarkably talented and insightful professional who has been sounding the alarm for many years about the dangers of adult entertainment when consumed by kids. I started doing that in 1987. Not sure as to the precise date you started, but it has been a long time.

    I have never said to anyone that you and I are in league with one another. I did recommend that 60 Minutes and Reader's Digest talk to you about the Alabama wrongful death case. I think it is fair to say you would not have been on those programs if I had not recommended you. I was happen to do it. As you recall, I got you the video gamer to sit with in Tuscaloosa to show the violent content of GTA: Vice City. I was happy to do it.

    You will also recall that it was I that urged you to go forward on the "Hot Coffee mod" scandal. You repeatedly called me for legal advice and I freely gave it. As you know, I prepped Senator Clinton, per her staff's request, before she had her splendid "Hot Coffee" news conference. As you will recall, you called me to let me know you were on your way to Washington to do that press conference with her. I was happy for you.

    I certainly did, however, lose respect for Senator Clinton when she decided, after that, to attend a fundraiser thrown for her by the video game industry and by ESA's Doug Lowenstein. To me, that was a sell-out for campaign cash. It may be that because you raise money for your organization you understand the needs of fundraising, but to take money from the ESA is to take blood money. The parents I represented in Paducah would not understand, nor do I. I note you send Doug Lowenstein, your letter to me. That is quite odd, given the things you have said to me about him in the past.

    I am wondering just who, David, these people are whom I have criticized "who have worked to improve the lives of children." Do you have in mind the folks at Best Buy, one of whom you copied with your letter? I know you get money from people connected with these folks, David, but you do know that Best Buy is presently pre-selling, to adults and to children, the Columbine simulator game, Bully? You do know that, right, David? Of course you do. I told you Best Buy was doing that. So is the Target Corporation, whose Chairman Bob Ulrich you copy with your letter. I am wondering, David, what these men have to do to get on your bad side? Do they actually have to do the physical bullying of kids, as selling a bullying rehearsal trainer to kids is okay?

    Finally, Dave, I understand that your letter is more about protecting your funding sources than criticizing me, so I understand what you felt you had to do. But there is something else here. Your role in this fight is indispensable - or I should say has been, as you maybe have decided to go a different route now - and I applaud you for what you have done.

    But the thing that makes you feel uncomfortable with me is no so much that I have gone too far but that you have not gone far enough. The time for hand-wringing and trying to "persuade" the bad guys to stop being bad was over quite sometime ago. Now I understand the mindset of the upper Midwest, especially in the Twin Cities. Everybody likes to get along, assume that everyone "means well," and things will all just work out for the best in the end.

    I know, and you know, if you are being honest, that that is not how the world works. Evil people sometimes have to be stopped, or at least their evil has to be stopped. You can cite all the studies and all the findings and keep giving your video game report card to Congress, and it will not matter unless somebody gets into the trenches and stops these people. While you have been giving report cards on a bunch of sociopaths, the violent games have been getting more violent.

    Senator Lieberman, bless his heart, wants with Senator Clinton to fund a study with taxpayer dollars to find out if violence in entertainment really makes kids violent. That was decided years ago. It is a dodge from having to do something about the violence. The entire ESRB rating system is a joke. It is a tool for marketing violence to kids. It does not stop the sale of violence to kids. You know that. It would be better if we had no system, and then parents would not have been fooled for more than a decade into thinking that the system was actually protecting their kids.

    Liberals, like you, love to label things and then think that the labeling has accomplished something. If that had been the case, then Churchill's calling Hitler a Nazi would have ended the war. But no, people like me had to get into the trenches and stop the Nazis. And there were always those tut-tutting back home about what a nasty business it is to stop the bad people, and can't we all just "get along."

    Actually, Dave, and this is the point: We can't just all get along. You want to criticize retailers like Best Buy, while at the same time taking their money. That is what prompts your letter to me decrying my tactics and my hyperbole and so forth.

    I have been dismayed by your being on both sides of the fence, because it undercuts your credibility.

    Dave, it is laughable, it is absurd, that you have copied your email to Bill Gates, of all people. This is a guy whose Halo trained Malvo to kill in D.C. This is a guy who now has put all the Grand Theft Auto games on his XBox. This is a man who is going to release Bully when the coast is clear in the spring.

    Gates is a man who wants to be on both sides of a fence. Sound familiar?

    Regards, Jack Thompson


    Thompson's Second Letter:

    October 14, 2005

    Dear Dave:

    It is interesting that you sent your useful letter (useful to us) to Doug Lowenstein immediately after you received my request for an affidavit in Strickland v. Sony.

    If you shared this confidential affidavit with Doug Lowenstein, or with anybody else, as you shared your letter with the video game industry, then you have a problem.

    Unfortunately, Dave, you have opened up the issue of your organization's funding. Bad move.

    You liked your collaboration with me when I got you on 60 Minutes, but not when it inconvenienced your cozy relationship with Best Buy and the rest of the video game industry.

    You got some pretty bad legal advice in this, Dave, but that does not surprise. You're talking to attorney Elliott Kaplan, who sits on the Best Buy board.

    Regards, Jack Thompson

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