Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Could This Possibly Be Any More Stupid?

Our hero, Max Blumenthal, recently wrote a nice article in The Nation about Stephen Baldwin, the star of some outfit called "Operation Straight Up" (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military.
[...]As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq. OSU is also scheduled to embark on a "Military Crusade in Iraq" in the near future.

"We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region," OSU declares on its website about its planned trip to Iraq. "We'll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."

The Defense Department's Chaplain's Office, which oversees OSU's activities, has not responded to calls seeking comment.
What a surprise. Continuing...
With the endorsement of the Defense Department, OSU is mailing "Freedom Packages" to soldiers serving in Iraq. These are not your grandfather's care packages, however. Besides pairs of white socks and boxes of baby wipes (included at the apparent suggestion of Iran-Contra felon Oliver North, according to OSU) OSU's care packages contain the controversial Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game. The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye's and Jenkins' books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to "everlasting punishment" while the evangelicals are "raptured" up to heaven.

The Left Behind videogame is a real-time strategy game that makes players commanders of a virtual evangelical army in a post-apocalyptic landscape that looks strikingly like New York City after 9/11. With tanks, helicopters and a fearsome arsenal of automatic weapons at their disposal, Left Behind players wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who, according to LaHaye's interpretation of Revelation, represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a Left Behind player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, "Praise the Lord!" To win the game, players must kill or convert all the non-believers left behind after the rapture. They also have the option of reversing roles and commanding the forces of the Antichrist. (Video preview here).

The video game is abysmally bad as first-person shooters go, or so my crack sources in the industry tell me, so I'm not sure I'm going to be overly worried about the psychological effect all that "Kill Or Convert" fantasizing going on.


Our friends at Ars Technica may have found another reason to be concerned.
Now, as if the game itself was not controversial enough, it has been discovered that the publishers, Left Behind Games (a publicly traded company, even) have added money-changers to their particular temple. The game comes fully loaded with what some would term built-in spyware, in the form of in-game advertising that tracks the amount of time ads are seen, how often the game is played, and the player's geographical and personal information. It then sends this data back to the advertiser's servers.
Isn't that great? At the bidding of the Pentagon Chaplain, Stephen Baldwin's freakhead friends are distributing a video game to the troops in Iraq that comes bundled with spyware that tracks their personal information, including things like their movements in and out of various parts of the combat theater. Look on the bright side, Drieuxster... it's the Christian taliban tracking the movements of your brothers in the field instead of those idiots in Waziristan doing it.

I'm sure there's no reason to be alarmed. The military is extremely diligent about running bluecoats on all their networks boundaries. Nothing to worry about, right? The contractors hired to build out the military IP networks in Iraq are millions of times more competent at network security than, say, your average high-tech startup... right?


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