Foundation Watch

Intellectual Dishonesty

By Lane Davis

Multiple experts who have had prominent roles in connection with the MacArthur Foundation have made clear that the kind of video games that offend feminists do not actually harm—or render violent—their mostly male users. Constance Steinkuehler, for example, is a well-known academic and former Obama Administration official who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from MacArthur. She told The Capital Times that “the data linking video games to violence is tenuous at best. There just is not an empirical basis for that claim.”

Similarly, Mizuko Ito, who has had multiple books underwritten by MacArthur and who holds the MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning at U.C., Irvine, writes in one of those MacArthur-supported books: “Some have accused games of promoting violence and sexism. Despite very little empirical evidence that games lead to antisocial or violent behavior, popular perception persists in painting a picture of the aggressive, isolated, compulsive gamer” (Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media, p. 196).

If Ito is puzzled why that “popular perception” persists, perhaps she could ask some of her MacArthur program officer friends about the millions the foundation has given to Common Sense Media, run by Jim Steyer, the older brother of billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer.

The elder Steyer not only uses harsh rhetoric about the “dangers” of gaming, he helped pass a law in California banning the sale of such games to minors. The law violated First Amendment principles so egregiously that the U.S. Supreme Court threw it out in 2011, with a majority opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia that was joined by the three furthest-left justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Ito’s book reveals why feminists and other leftists are obsessed with getting girls into “hardcore gaming”: because they see gaming as a gateway to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields and “digital literacy.” So the gaming world must be forced to create games that girls like, to hire women, and otherwise to diminish the prominence of men in these areas. And if that crusade requires lying about the imagined dangers of games that the male of the species likes, they’ll either lie themselves or subsidize others who will.

Incidentally, one of the best studies of women and tech, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that it’s not men in gaming who are bigoted against women. Quite the opposite. It’s women who are bigoted against the kind of men often found in gaming and other digital industries; specifically, women reject “masculine-geeky” objects like Star Trek posters, video game paraphernalia, and empty Coke cans. So the MacArthurs of the world must make war on geek culture in hopes that women will choose to take the path of gaming to reach the heady world of STEM.

Lane Davis is a freelance researcher and writer as well as senior political analyst for