Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Homefront" Video Game: The Bully's Whine

Back in the 1980s in the dying days of the cold war, the right wing had an aggrieved fantasy of the communist threat. In B-movies such as the absolutely hideous "Red Dawn," which depicted homegrown heroes fighting off a Soviet invasion of the United States, the right wing acted out its political paranoia in the cultural sphere. Actually it was more than paranoia: it was a bully's feigned cry of outrage, the bully pretending it was wounded as it laid its jackboot on the neck of its opponent. The end of the cold war revealed what an unequal contest it had been as the Soviet world disappeared into the ether.

A poster in the subway caught my eye this past week; it was a version of the graphic above (click on the image to see it in larger detail). It's a compelling image of a wounded rugged American blindfolded by a North Korean star: in the background North Korean flags hang off the Transamerica building and the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. It's a poster for a new shoot-em-up video game from Kaos called "Homefront." It turns out this a distopian science-fiction video game about a near future where North Korea (!) has taken over the western half of the United States, resisted by brave rebels like the one shown. The game's story is actually written by right-wing activist John Milius, one of the writers behind the old "Red Dawn." Milius is a board member of the National Rifle Association.

Curious, I browsed the elaborate website for "Homefront." It's a slick production. Interspersed with clips from the ultra-violent game itself are fake news documents and films about the North Korean occupation, its brutal oppression of real America, and the war of resistance. Below is a screenshot from an amusing faux propaganda film showing little blonde children in occupied Des Moines wearing North Korean sashes and reciting a pledge of allegiance to the North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. In another film a professed liberal explains that his wife has just blown herself up in a suicide bombing against the occupying North Koreans and promises to emulate her shortly. There are faked up pictures of North Korean occupation of the U.S. including walls covered with Kim Jong Un's visage. And lots and lots of violence and explosions.

All in good fun, right?

Not so fast. I was reading an excellent post on the "We Are Respectable Negroes" blog ("The Rotten Heart of White Conservatism or Are White Americans Oppressed?") about how white conservatives have a whole elaborate persecution complex that they are the new victims of racism. The pose acts as a cover for their anger and resentment at the changing world. Something similar is well-documented on gay blogs about how the Christianist right plays the oppressed victim at the hands of advocates of gay civil rights or marriage-equality advocates.

Well this game is straight out of those playbooks. It's almost Freudian in what it reveals about right wingers; how they need to justify their worldview in their own minds. And clicking around the slick "Homefront" website, one realizes with some disbelief that the "bad" guys are all Asians and the "good" guys are all white and blonde. It turns out "Homefront" has generated some controversy. It's banned in South Korea, and a Japanese version of the game was scoured of references to North Korea.

Here's the truth: the United States is the most powerful military machine the world has ever known. The world is its playground. Its military budget is larger than that of most of the other world's nations--combined. North Korea, run by an unattractive family dictatorship, is nobody's idea of a real socialist paradise. But it's also a tiny, tiny country. Its posture of militant defiance toward the United States might be bravado or might be foolhardy or might be legitimately necessary: the U.S. war machine has been camped out literal inches away from North Korea for fifty years. If the North Koreans may have developed nuclear weapons, it's guessed that they have a half dozen of these weapons. There's no evidence that their missile systems can accurately target anywhere further away than Japan (which it might be mentioned, brutally occupied Korea for fifty years). On the other hand, thousands of American nuclear weapons might be aimed at North Korea with the flip of a switch. Presumably hundreds of these weapons are already pointed at North Korea from American submarines hovering in international waters. It is absolutely laughable to suggest that North Korea might invade the United States. It's also obscene: the United States is actually, in the real world, the country with a record of invasion of smaller weaker countries including Korea.

So what is this game exactly? It's clearly part of the rightwing's propaganda juggernaut, in this case aimed at young people ill-informed about the real facts of world politics and of convenient military recruitment age. This game comes from the same impulse behind Republican rep. Peter King's witch-hunting congressional hearings against "the radicalization of the Muslim community" that began this week. It comes from the same impulse that has white Teabaggers blaming the economic crisis on ACORN and poor people, or blaming high unemployment on immigrants. These rightwingers have a pathological need to pretend to be the victims. But don't be fooled by this deflection: don't be distracted the flashing lights and pretty colors. This is the work of people trying to rationalize their own brutality, racism, entitlement, privilege and pro-imperialism.

For all these rightwingers' professed fear of brainwashing, here is a real example of a brainwashing tool. Just say CTRL-ALT-DELETE.


  1. Not surprised....can you sense my bad mood, ish?

  2. Is it time for me to post pictures of kittens, Annie?

    That's actualy a trick I have for myself at work. When I get stressed out I look at pictures of cute cats. I can feel my bloodpressure returning to normal.

  3. Oh...kitty cats...yes my new mantra. Actually on a serious note I was thinking about going to the shelter and looking at cats, maybe the time has come... a blending of mutual needs.

  4. I can see right away what the writer is saying about this game. For years I had mocked up "Red Dawn" as being simply cold-war hysteria and right-wing propaganda but it was not until the DVD was finally released and interviews were done that someone (Milius perhaps?) said it was written when looking at the photos of young Afghanistani youths forced to fight on the front lines of the Soviet Invasion, something we simply wouldnt see in America. So Red Dawn found new life in my eyes as an excerise in "what if".
    Let me be frank. Im a liberal. I hate the NRA. I get sick to my stomach when "privilaged: folks in America cry "racism", "unfairness", and "intolerance" when they themselves have been plenty busy dishing it out in the past.
    As if a wolf has any right to play the sheep...

    But Im buying this game. And Im going to play it. And, I might add, I feel slightly better about NOT buying another first-person-shooter where "muslim" or "middle-easterners" are the "badguys".

  5. Wow you just sound like a whining gay black man give it a rest

  6. Anonymous #2 I'm sure you meant that as an insult. Which says a lot more about you than me.

    If I was a sociologist I'd say it was interesting to note how Americans respond with rage when an aspect of their dream world e is subjected to real-world criticism. But I'm not.

    Ooooh look at the pretty flashing lights!