This is not a ban of Liam Fox

by scotslawstudent

In a by now traditional move for the controversial series our defence secretary reports that he is “disgusted and angry” about the upcoming, unreleased Medal of Honor game (that he couldn’t possibly have any personal experience of since it’s not out yet) because it is “un-British“. That seems fair enough to me, in Medal of Honor (note the spelling) you play as an American soldier and it’s made in the US. It’s not British. It’s not meant to be British.

He therefore wants it banned. That bit doesn’t seem fair enough to me.

I’ll admit the idea that our defence secretary thinks that things that aren’t British are bad, and proverbially so, is a little terrifying. That may bode poorly for our foreign and defence policies.

The particular thing that Liam Fox doesn’t like is that the multiplayer mode lets you play as the other side (EA point out that every game has an other side – cops and robbers is the example they use) and EA’s right about that. No matter how much of a racist you are you’ve got to concede that in chess someone has to play black. I don’t like the idea that, in Fox’s world, you’re not even allowed to imagine yourself from the perspective of the other side.

It’s this “imagine” word that is particularly significant in this issue because it’s easy to forget that we’re not actually talking about a war, we’re talking about a video game about a war.

This is not a pipe. This is not a pipe, it is a picture of a pipe.

I don’t like people dying so I’m not a big fan of war, though that’s not a particularly unusual or controversial position. I have a suspicion that the only people who genuinely like war are just fundamentally not going to be like me. I do quite like video games and that’s not a contradictory position because, firstly, not all video games are even about people dying and secondly people don’t die in video games. If people actually died in a video game we would call it real life.

The idea that it is somehow wrong or un-British to play a video game in which one team is called NATO and one team is called Taliban and you both pretend to be soldiers and you both pretend to shoot each for points is ludicrous enough but the particular idea that you should ban a video game because of the names of the teams is just insane.

I have friends in the Army and I don’t like the idea of them being in harms way. I really hate it, and that’s why I really, really want UK forces out of Afghanistan but there is no “our boys in harms way” in this game. It’s a game. If you don’t like the idea you shouldn’t play it but there’s nothing in the game that endangers soldiers or is disrespectful or even involves war. The picture above is an image of a painting by René Magritte called The Treachery of Images which points out that, yes, it’s a picture of a pipe but it’s not a real pipe. Video games show a increasingly detailed portrayal of war but it is not a real war.

At the end of the day Liam Fox has no power to ban this game and he know he has no power to do that. It isn’t even the biggest thing that Fox has on his plate today. This is just him exercising his position of responsibility as an MP and as defence secretary to get in the paper and complain about stuff. Fundamentally this is someone using the deaths of British soldiers to push his agenda. You might agree with the agenda he’s pushing or you might not but either way that’s utterly disgusting behaviour. I’m very confident that no British soldiers gave their lives in Afghanistan so that a politician could stay at home and complain about computer games.

This is not a ban of Liam Fox, this is a post saying that we should ban Liam Fox.