December 8, 2004
Kennedy assassination game in poor taste
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
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
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