Integrity Matters
December 8, 2004

Kennedy assassination game in poor taste

Question: (E-157)

Dear Jim:

On Nov. 22, the 41st anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, an electronic video game was launched into the marketplace. It lets users re-enact that horrible murder as virtual assassins, taking aim where Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have been in Dallas on that morning in 1963. Must we allow poor taste and insensitivity to sink so low?


Freedom, free markets and democracy are powerful and complicated concepts.

Each demands courage to create, sustain and expand. Early in our nation's history, there were powerful examples of both differing opinions and a single-minded commitment to protect those who chose to believe, think and act differently. Perhaps these early leaders were remembering the counsel of Voltaire, the 18th-century French philosopher who is quoted: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." In the 1960s the expression was simply: "Different strokes for different folks," and it worked, most of the time.

When it comes to tasteless products, ultimately the marketplace will speak. But it's also appropriate to talk about social contracts. In business, if the "deal" is not good for all involved stakeholders, then probably the "financial proposition" is not sound. This model can be tested for communities, families, friendships, student-teacher relationships and in a whole world of transactions.

Somewhere in the midst of the conversations and activities, concepts such as character, partnership and graciousness are likely to appear.

Selling a video game about murder is tasteless. To seek another way to sensationalize and capitalize on a brutal and vicious event in American history exhibits no sense of propriety. Throwing into the marketplace yet another reminder of violence, for children and adults to "play" is nothing short of throwing gasoline on the fire of anger and frustration that fuel domestic violence, road rage, armed robbery and homicide.

However, there are controls. Just as they might turn off a distasteful or inane television program or click off the radio's "noise," so too can buyers opt to reject such "games." We are not required to listen to vicious and hate-mongering music or finance publications that run afoul of constructive values. Personal value systems shape decisions.

Some entrepreneurs are willing to cross the line to make a buck. How disappointing. On the other hand, were citizens not outraged, we would not know that yes, integrity still matters.

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