Religious Warfare Stocking Stuffer
Religious groups and individuals from both the left and right have protested the sale of "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" and a growing coalition has called for a consumer boycott of the game, but those are moral objections and, rightly so, have no legal force. So, this video game - that depicts religious warfare in New York City and in which players can command fundamentalist Christian paramilitary forces with the mission of converting to fundamentalist Christianity or else killing the residents of the Big Apple - is on store shelves, waiting to take its place under festive Christmas trees.
The problem with religious warfare is that it's not really very tidy. Not that warfare in the absence of religion is tidy. Far from it.
OK, now :
As some of you might know, Talk To Action was threatened with legal action by the Left Behind Games Company for illustrating posts on the Talk To Action site concerning the "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" video game with screenshots that had been widely distributed by that company to promote the game. So, for this occasion, I have chosen to illustrate this piece of writing not with screenshots from the "Left Behind : Eternal Forces" game.
No. Because the new video game represents warfare waged in a major world city, arguably against that city's inhabitants, I have illustrated this piece of writing with sketches by Goya, from his "Disasters Of war" series and also with photographs from the "Rape Of Nanking".
Both sets of images are in the public domain.
Why would the Left Behind Games company be so sensitive ? Well, the Talk To Action series on the video game, by Jonathan Hutson, has been viewed so far by several hundred thousand people on the internet. Talk To Action's analysis of the game is bad PR, and the Left Behind Games Company wants its introductory flagship product product to succeed.
But let me spell this out quite plainly :
Research has shown that average humans can be conditioned to carry out mass, genocidal violence and that process works by dehumanizing targeted societal groups, stripping them of their humanity. That makes the killing easier.
"In the years up to 1994, many journalists allied themselves with Hutu extremists who planned and carried out the genocide. A magazine called Kangura, or Wake Him Up!, published screeds denigrating Tutsis as a subhuman race that aimed to destroy Rwanda, and urged Hutus to arm themselves. As the genocide got underway on April 6, 1994, the radio station RTLM filled the airwaves with vitriol, even broadcasting the names of individual Tutsis and their hiding places. Confirming the media's murderous role, the UN war crimes tribunal for Rwanda in December convicted key figures from the magazine and the radio station of incitement to genocide."
That process - by which average people become mass killers - has now been documented, and so we have an obligation to act on that knowledge.
"Left Behind: Eternal Forces" functions to condition human beings to kill demonized societal groups.
"The conversion of socialized people into dedicated fighters is achieved not by altering their personality structures, aggressive drives or moral standards. Rather, it is accomplished by cognitively redefining the morality of killing so that it can be done free from self-censure. Through moral justification of violent means, people see themselves as fighting ruthless oppressors" - Albert Banduras
I am not not alone in my opinion of the game : in fact, my view is shared by a number of experts who have spent decades researching fringe political movements including hate groups.
According to Talk To Action contributor Chip Berlet, who has written a multi part series on Tim LaHaye's ideology that underlies the "Left Behind" books :
The real scandal involving the violent video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces is that the demonization of enemies, bloodthirsty dualism, and murderous rampages on the computer screen are accurate reflections of the apocalyptic theology espoused by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in their Left Behind series of novels which have sold more than 70 million copies.
Berlet is in good company :
James Waller's 2001 groundbreaking work, "Becoming Evil : How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing", was based in part on extensive interviews with both the victims and perpetrators of mass political violence, from many of the notable outbreaks that have marred the 20th Century : The Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia, the mass killings by government death squads in Central American during the 1980's, and other such incidents.
As you may know, this new video game - currently on store shelves in time for Christmas - depicts religious warfare waged in the heart of New York City. Players command Christian paramilitary forces in an apocalyptic struggle in which the citizens of New York City have no choice but to side with the forces of good or evil. Screen shots from the game in play distributed by the game's producer show bodies littering the streets. The war depicts a war of absolute good against absolute evil, and in the game fundamentalist Christianity represents absolute good.
This video game nominally discourages killing, but although characters in the game lose strength as they kill, that stength can be restored when the digital characters "pray". To trigger that behavior, gamers press a "prayer button" and - as one reviewer from Wired Magazine wrote, "....In the thick of a really hectic Left Behind battle, I'd click the prayer button so instinctually that I pretty much forgot I was, well, praying."
The makers of "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" also chose to depict a population of looks nothing like the actual inhabitants of the real New York City - the game's virtual characters seem to be from some region of middle America ( or maybe Idaho ) with close to zero ethnic diversity. It's like a type of virtual ethnic cleansing really. New York city is NOT populated by the general mix you'd find at a football game in Boise, Idaho. So, why depict it that way ?
Well, it might have been hard to market a game in which women, children, and the elderly, Hasidic Jews, latinos, blacks, Wall Street securities traders and janitors, the entire melange of ethnic, cultural, age, and occupational differences that make up the diversity in New York City shows up as corpses piling up in the streets. That would have been yucky and un-marketable. So, the game makers sanitized their product. Why base the game in New York at all ? - well, the readers of the Left Behind book series would have expected it.
Regardless of such commercial justifications, the "ethnic and cultural cleansing" of New York City residents depicted in "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" will serve to dehumanize New York residents, to reduce them to generic cardboard cutouts who can be more easily rubbed out, and the sanitizing of violence in the game, along with the "prayer button" that magically removes the stains of murder, will serve to make the game easier to play out by obscuring the reality of what players are enacting - a war against a civilian population that has real faces, with real emotions and real blood, guts, brains and feces that tend to spray about in warfare, a population that would feel terror, horror, rage and despair and which might - quite justifiably - fight back against forced religious conversion.
The "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" game is targeted at teenagers and young adults. As Talk To Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson has pointed out, the game is the only video game existing that "indoctrinates children in the ideology of religious warfare" and, as I have recently written, there is a case to be made that the game functions to reduce the inhibition of players towards mass violence against targeted societal groups - non fundamentalist Christians, "secularists", liberals, gays, muslims, Jews, and other minorities of all decription : all who do not subscribe to Biblical literalist, fundamentalist Christianity.
In the "Left Behind : Eternal Forces" video game, characters shot at close range do not bleed and although they do seem to die, their corpses do not remain but, instead, gradually fade away : that depiction of violence has gained the game a "T" ( suitable for teenagers ) rating but also may serve other functions as well. Teenage players of the game will learn that role playing religious warfare is sanctioned by their parents and by relevant religious authorities. They will learn that the act of imagining religious warfare is a wholesome enterprise.
Although the game takes pains to depict warfare sans bloodshed, it is based on Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" book series that describes extraordinarily bloody divine vengeange visited upon non-Christians for nothing more than their religious beliefs. LaHaye's theological views - that underly the "Left Behind" series on which the new video game is based - hold that hold that in the final battle of Armageddon, non-fundamentalist Christians will be torn limb from limb, split asunder by the very word of Jesus Christ. LaHaye holds public education to be satanic and has also stated that "Some of the greatest evil in the history of the world was concocted in the Jewish mind".
That is the context of this video game now on sale for Christmas.
New Scientist, Nov. 24, 2004 ) "All humans are capable of committing torture and other "acts of great evil". That is the unhappy conclusion drawn from an analysis of psychological studies. Over 25,000 psychological studies involving eight million participants support this finding, say Susan Fiske and colleagues at Princeton University in New Jersey, US. The researchers considered the circumstances surrounding how individuals committed seemingly inexplicable acts of abuse in the midst of the US military's torture of Iraqi inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and 2004. "Could any average 18-year-old have tortured these prisoners? I would have to answer: `Yes, just about anyone could have.'", Fiske says.
"Ho ho ho, the mistletoe....."
Religious Warfare Stocking Stuffer | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden)
Religious Warfare Stocking Stuffer | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden)