Dr. Walid Phares: Video Games Don't Create Terrorists

January 28, 2011 -

Dr. Walid Phares, the security expert cited by Russia Today in its report on Modern Warfare 2 and a recent Russian airport suicide bombing, has penned an editorial telling his side of the story.

The overall theme of his editorial is at least positive to video game proponents: video games do not create terrorists, Jihadi ideology does.

First he tackles the tenuous link that Russia Today tried to make between the bombing and the "No Russian" scene in Modern Warfare 2:

So far the report attempts to make a direct link between people who have played the game and those who have perpetrated the actual attack on Moscow's airport. Obviously such a charge is global, and generalizing, even though the scenes in the game and in the terror attack are at first sight, comparable. The critics, mostly from the US but many other countries counter-charged that a game by itself is not responsible for bloodshed in any particular country. This heated discussion has to be backed by research, data, psychologists and social scientists. The direct relation between a video about war, strikes, and in general terms violence, and acts of violence in the real world is a discussion that needs its own experts, assuming the equation is about individuals who play games and individuals who commit acts of violence.

He then sums up his opinion on this particular case, which basically is, if these terrorists were inspired by video games, then they were probably produced by groups such as Hamas. He does not discount the fact that some terrorists infiltrate certain online games to train among the world's masses (there is an extensive explanation of this in the article that is interesting to read).

In the first set, we're all very familiar with the computer games created by Hezbollah and Hamas. They are available online. Some Salafist groups have also produced theirs. These aren't commercial series but they are part of the organizations' propaganda machines. Children and young adults are encouraged to watch them and play so that they harden their convictions. This has nothing to do with regular videogames produced by companies for the purpose of entertainment. The Jihadi videogames are aimed at real world killing with very precise characterizations. While the war-like videogames such as "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare," "Rise of Nations" or "Counter-Strike," even though very graphic and in some cases silly, are just games played by teens and older people. They aren't directly and ideologically inciting and aren't connected to real world organizations.

But getting back to the story at hand - Russia Today - Phares says that he was specifically asked by the network to offer "background analysis "on the possibility that individuals could have been inspired by 'Call of Duty (an American produced game) scene "No Russian" to perform the massacre in Moscow." Phares claims that his answer to that question in a long interview with the network was clear:

"Games (any warfare or violence game) could eventually influence a crazy guy who may go on a rampage, but games do not create terrorists. And those who attacked Moscow's airport (the people who decided, prepared, and executed) aren't isolated gamers but part of an ideologically motivated network. In several other interviews that evening I argued that Jihadists both originating from the North Caucasus and beyond are waging a war not just on Russia but on the US, Europe, India and parts of the Muslim world."

The abridged version of his interview was this:

"Indeed it is a trouble to look at the game and reality. The issue is we need to know if terrorists or extremists are using these videos or DVDs or games to basically apply the model," Walid Phares, Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said.

He closes his article with a swipe at the New York Times, because he feels that the article they wrote did not accurately reflect the views he espoused during the interview. He blames some of the misunderstanding on New York Times writer Robert Mackey, who wrote the article "Russian Media Points to Moscow Airport Attack in U.S. Video Game." More from Phares:

This branding of my statement as an "endorsement" of the RT argument, while I was arguing otherwise, triggered a chain reaction in the blogosphere –which was amusing and educational- with many video-gaming bloggers unhappy with my distorted comment, thinking wrongly that I am arguing that this videogame "Call of Duty" is an inspiration to the Moscow attack by some player. I wrote this piece to set the record straight and reiterate my point: games don't create terrorists; the latter are the ones who use games to enhance their capacities.

In this piece I also achieved two goals: One is to educate my readers about the real use by Jihadists of video and cyber training and two is to admonish the New York Times "trick" and warn readers from drawing conclusions too fast at the reading of this media's production.

Source: Family Security Matters


Comments

Re: Dr. Walid Phares: Video Games Don't Create Terrorists

How is that this man is not the king of the world already? He basically can kill any anti-videogame propaganda with these comments withe ease.

The only part I disagree is this: "Indeed it is a trouble to look at the game and reality."

No, it´s not. If you want to take a piece of fiction and turn it in a threat to society, it´s because you want to believe it or because it´s on your interest that everybody should look it as a threat to gain something. This can be applied on games, movies, books, music, etc.

Only very little children have problems distinguish fantasy from reality.

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Re: Dr. Walid Phares: Video Games Don't Create Terrorists

 I would even argue that very small children can easily distinguish fantasy from reality when it's in a game.  The part children have trouble with is when adults are telling them things like "those people are evil and want to kill us, so we have to kill them first."  Children are trusting and don't know any better.   But when it comes to pixels on a TV screen, are very keen to the fact that it is bogus, like a Saturday morning cartoon.

 
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