War Games

Meant to blog this yesterday, based on something we saw on ABC's Nightline, but it's also reported on by InfoWorld. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a hearing on May 4. Among the speakers was a specialist whose company we taxpayers are paying more than $7 million a year. Their job: to scour the Internet for instances where al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are recruiting new members online. So this specialist tells the committee that his group had recently discovered that terrorists are taking the popular Electronic Arts (EA) video game Battlefield 2, rejiggering it internally and re-broadcasing scenes that had American troops flushing out terrorists in some godforsaken village to appear as if the terrorists were going all Black Hawk Down on our boys. These terrorists had even layered in new, anti-American dialogue to further entice impressionable young people to the evil cause.

Those beasts!

Faced with this threat anyone can access free on the World War Wide Web, congressional Republicans on the committee leaped at the chance to say how revolting the recruiting film is, how steps must be taken to prevent it from spreading (good luck with that one) and how we've got to--all together now--PROTECT THE CHILDREN!!!

Too bad it all turned out to be total bullshit--and definitely a waste of some of that 7 large we're doling out to the specialists.

See, no one "re-jiggered" anyway. As Nightline and InfoWorld report, with Battlefield 2 anyone can set the images on screen to represent different armies from around the world--the same as players can to pit one team against another in video soccer, football or Grand Theft Auto: Bloods vs. Crips, Yo! Further, you can play in such a way--and capture the action for later video streaming--to purposely make one side (like the American military) lose.

But it gets even better. That aforementioned new dialogue? It wasn't from some terror cell's Death to the Infidels Open Mic Nite. It was from the South Park creators' movie Team America.

But it gets even better. Nightline found the young man who made this Internet film, and for reasons that will become quite clear, he did not want his name or location (outside the U.S.) revealed. See, he did not make this as an al Qaeda recruiting film. He made it for shits and giggles to run on one of those many sites that encourage users to share their homemade movies. And though the nascent filmmaker is not American, he argues his work was no slanted against U.S. troops; the Team America dialogue Nightline played from the film was of an American character giving one of those cliched, "I'm fighting for truth, justice and the American Way"-type speeches.

But then this story gets much worse: confronted with the evidence, the specialist does not fess up, apologize and deduct the amount of taxpayer dollars his company has raped, er, reaped for this error. No sir! He says it doesn't matter what the creator's intentions were, it is still a recruitment film (even though there is no link to click to al Qaeda, Al Bundy or Al & Ed's Autosound). He considers bringing this . . . uh, harmless piece of nonsense? . . . to Congress a job well done--and worth every penny of that 7 mil. Is it any wonder the film's creator won't go public?

But then the story gets much . . . stupider? Is that even possible? It is: As if not having a clue at all about what the story that was just played even meant, Nightline's Cynthia McFadden concludes that even if terrorists did not make the film, that's not a video game some people would want their children playing. Uh, way to end with a mixing apples with orangutans editorial comment that had nothing to do with the issue at hand.

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