There's no way I'm going to match the humor in David's post about the Seventh Circuit's ruling upholding a ban on Dungeons & Dragons materials in prison, so I'm not really going to try. I'm only going to point out that the court's ruling in Singer v. Raemisch illustrates two trends, one alarming and one banal. The decision is here, if you want to read it.
First point: American judges remain credulous and compliant in the face of questionable "expert opinion" from law enforcement. Sure, now and then you see some skepticism. Now and then judges look for actual foundation — as when a court recently said "no, officer, actually we don't believe that you can hear the speed of a car. Sorry." But for the most part, judges consume whatever pseudo-science (or, worse, pseudo-social-science) people in uniform feed them. That's how, for instance, I was able to convince a federal judge back in 1996 or so to let me call a DEA agent to testify that there is no such thing as a blind mule — in other words, that drug couriers always by definition know they are carrying drugs, and that he could say so based on his training and experience as a DEA agent. In my defense, I was about 27 and didn't know better.
In this case, the junk science of the correction's "expert" is breathtaking, as is the court's gullibility in accepting it. I could quote you big chunks, but believe me, it's worth reading.
Second point: Nearly forty years after it was created, Dungeons & Dragons still continues to freak people out in hilarious ways. To anyone who has actually played it, the critics' preconceptions about the game and how it is played are simply bizarre alarmist rhetoric. Here the corrections expert seems to think the Dungeon Masters (for the un-geeky among you, that's the storyteller who runs the game and describes the imaginary events to which players react, and who adjudicates the application of dice rolls and convoluted rules to the player's imagined actions) has some sort of steely, cult-like command over the players, akin to a gang leader. My experience as a player and an occasional Dungeon Master (okay, okay, like you didn't know I was a huge geek already) was that players were generally fat, flatulent gits who stole my Doritos, refused to cease quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail during my attempts to depict tense scenes, and argued with me about the rules for hours on end.
We fear what we don't know, and we do not go beyond our fathers' sayings. That's how prison officials can look at people arguing over elves and goblins and see gang initiation rituals.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Hate Speech Debate on More Perfect Live - September 5th, 2017
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017