Boston Herald columnist (and police bureau chief) Michele McPhee approvingly notes that City Councilor Mike Ross, "along with nearly two dozen healthcare experts, youth advocates, street workers, ministers, child psychiatrists and even teens," is asking the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to stop carrying ads for Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games. McPhee is "all for First Amendment rights," but not when freedom of speech means that teenagers will be "staring at advertisements for video games that promote spilling innocent blood" at a time when Boston is experiencing an upswing in gun violence, some of it involving teenagers. "The question MBTA officials have to ask themselves today," says McPhee, "is whether any of these kids learned how to shoot playing violent video games."
They may also want to ask themselves whether they want to get into another pointless court battle by turning down ads with messages they don't like. The last time around, the MBTA wanted to keep ads promoting drug policy reform off its trains and buses, something a federal appeals court said it could not do, since it had created a "designated public forum" in which discrimination based on viewpoint is constitutionally forbidden. The group behind those ads, Change the Climate, won a similar victory in D.C. While the Change the Climate ads were overtly political in a way that Grand Theft Auto is not, the basic situation is the same: People want to ban messages that offend them. By endorsing that mentality, McPhee suggests she is against First Amendment rights only when they really matter.
[Thanks to Michael Graham for the tip.]