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Thursday, November 06, 2008 

Offended about offence.

Talking as we were of politicians without a clue what they're going on about, here's Keith Vaz, moral crusader against video games on his latest high horse:

AN MP wants a sick computer game — where players carry out suicide bombings — hauled off the internet.

Labour’s Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game “devalues human life” and contains an “unnecessary” level of violence.

Quite so; what sort of video game which has suicide bombing as its theme should contain violence at all?

Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game is so popular that searching for Kaboom on Google doesn't bring it up on the first page (search for Obsolete and this pathetic blog even manages to turn up 4th). It does however now bring up the Daily Mail's story on Vaz's rage as the 8th result. Having then thusly succeeded in bringing Kaboom to a wider audience, it's only correct that we further extend its popularity by linking to it.

Kaboom is then a really rather poor, even by the standards of Flash, game in which the aim is to kill as many passers-by as possible. Perhaps I'm just sick in the head, but it's faintly amusing and fun for about five minutes to try and get the highest "score" you can, although killing more than six people with your Kim Jong Il lookalike cartoon bomber seems to be fairly difficult. Strangely, rather than distributing the detritus of the bomber over a large distance, the only gore which emerges when you detonate yourself is that of the victims, who always respectively lose their head, one of their legs and what looks vaguely like a badly drawn heart. It may scare and repulse very small children, but even your average 8-year-old is not going to be scarred for life by coming across this during an unsupervised web jaunt. It's completely harmless, pretty unlikely to be used by potential terrorists for training purposes, unless they too, instead of heading off to meet their 72 virgins in paradise can miraculously reform and explode over and over again, and possibly only likely to offend those who have nothing better to do than get offended about stupid things on the internet.

You have to wonder if Vaz has even actually bothered to play the game, which unlike playing the likes of Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt, which he's usually campaigning against, costs nothing to do. It instead seems likely he himself is just picking up on a bandwagon started by the UK Bali Bombings Victims Group, which four years after the game was first created noted its existence and demanded it be removed from the internet. Vaz though has put down an early day motion, which is parliament's ultimate form of narcissism: utterly pointless, but it makes you look like you actually do something (charges of hypocrisy can be made in the comments). Printing these out costs in the region of £627,000 a year, and it's little wonder when the likes of Ann Cryer, the most prolific signer of lost and ridiculous causes has currently during this session, which ends shortly, put her signature to a staggering 1,863, including Vaz's one on Kaboom. Other notable ones she's signed include Blackpool Tower and Strictly Come Dancing, the Rugby League World Cup, which you'll be pleased to learn the House welcomes, Salvia Divinorum (Drug! People daring to enjoy themselves on said drug! Ban it!), Scout Membership Increases and Bethlehem and Banksy.

Maybe it's just the current mood, but pronouncing yourself offended about something that doesn't affect your life in the slightest possible way seems to have suddenly came back en vogue, having previously festered under the other outrage, which is when political correctness goes mad. The relationship between them can be incredibly slight: 5cc points out that Donal Blaney, who wanted Ross and Brand to be sacked over their calls to Andrew Sachs, thought that the "storm" about Jeremy Clarkson's remarks about lorry drivers and their propensity to kill prostitutes was all about leftists who had waited years to get him, except that err, the Daily Mail, not usually the natural home of "leftists and ecofascists" was the main one kicking up a fuss. The Sun also didn't see why anyone should be offended; it was just a joke after all, and that they employ Clarkson is neither here nor there. The Sun isn't so dismissve, equally strangely, about online jokes involving dead babies. That they are on Facebook, which directly competes with the News Corporation owned MySpace is also completely irrelevant.

It would be too much to expect our politicians to approach every subject rationally, consider whether it genuinely affects anyone other than those instantly likely to be offended because of misfortune which has sadly befallen them, and then decide whether action is necessary, mainly because they have to respond to public anxiety, and if public anxiety, or rather, what masquerades as public anxiety i.e. the front pages of the nation's tabloids is currently decreeing that Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross should be lynched in public, they have a direct duty to agree with that public anxiety. That is after all how the political system works. You'd just like on occasion to come across just one of them that does the exact opposite of following the crowd. I would vote for the first politician that comes out, for example, and tells Rupert Murdoch to go fuck himself. Until then, we'll just have to make do with Keith Vaz.

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I'm waiting for my satirical jibe at Charles Clarke's "glorification" law to draw fire from the usual nutters. It would seem the makers of this video game have already discovered it:

Suicide bombing is glorious
We love to kill and maim
If suicide wasn't fatal
We'd blow up ourselves again


I'm also curious as to how Vaz plans for this to be "hauled off the internet" if it's being hosted on a UK server then sure we have jurisdiction over it, but by the time that's happened it'll be mirrored all over the world.

Dammit don't we have just one politician who understands how the internet (or even the world economy) works and will stand up and explain just what a complete load of rubbish and a waste of time this motion is?

There's a particular name for the name for the phenomenon of "trying to censor something results in higher coverage of it", the Streisand effect:

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