Gamers Give Flowers
For two decades Jack Thompson has staked out the moral high ground, heaping derision on foes like Luther Campbell and Janet Reno in the late Eighties and Ice-T and Howard Stern more recently. His campaigns have led to the arrest of 2 Live Crew in Broward County and to Warner Bros. Records' dropping Ice-T and "Cop Killer" from its roster. Back in 1988, after losing a race for state attorney to Janet Reno, he even accused her in various media of being a closeted lesbian deranged by medication for Parkinson's disease.
But the white-maned 55-year-old Coral Gables attorney/activist has special scorn for his current culture-war combatants: almost everyone associated with adult-oriented videogames manufacturers, retailers, and even players, whom he has dubbed "pixelantes."
Since 1999 Thompson has sued purveyors of adult-oriented videogames in Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida, claiming their product incites violence in minors. Three of the lawsuits reference actual killings. The Florida claim delayed the release of the videogame Bully by Take 2 Interactive, makers of Grand Theft Auto. His suit in Alabama, filed on behalf of the survivors of two police officers and a dispatcher killed by an eighteen-year-old gamer, is close to reaching the state's supreme court. (It will do so without Thompson because a judge, citing the Gables lawyer's outlandish media blitz comparing Grand Theft Auto III to Pearl Harbor revoked his Alabama law license.)
Many of Thompson's critics dismiss him as a right-wing loon, but some pixelantes think Thompson is worth taking seriously. "We were actually just out having dinner and talking about this guy and how offensive he was," says nineteen-year-old University of Michigan student and army reservist Alyson Burch. "A lot of people threaten him and prank him, and we thought, Wouldn't it be cool to send him flowers? There's no way he could get angry at that."
On January 21 Burch and fellow student and gamer George Ettinger created a Website (flowersforjack.livejournal.com) that included an explanation of their intent to send Thompson a pretty bouquet along with a letter, in hopes of opening "a rational dialogue."
"We hoped to raise 50 or 60 dollars, but within days we had hundreds of dollars from people all over the world," Burch says. By February 1 the duo had collected $1050 in donations and requests from 250 people in 40 states and 10 countries to include their names on the letter.
They say they are donating $750 to a charity for sick children. The rest will be used for an impressive arrangement to be delivered to Thompson soon.
The Gables anti-gamer, as ever, glowers down from the high ground: "They can send me all the flowers they want. I'll send them along to the families of the slain policemen."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.