Playing the killing game
When I first saw the Web site “America’s Army,” my nephew in Denver was playing it. The gunman stalking victims and shooting them with an automatic weapon looked like any other mayhem-inducing video game, but this one was different.My nephew was logged on to the official U.S. Army Web site for a free video game that’s played by millions of virtual reality warriors. I was shocked to learn that the U.S. government is encouraging children and adults to shoot human targets and get off on it.A few weeks ago, Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commanded Marine expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq, made public comments that characterized a bizarre style of barbarism.”Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot,” Mattis said, prompting laughter from some military members in the audience. “It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”Obviously demented, and unable to contain his deadly hubris, Mattis continued braying over his itch to kill. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis said. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”For kids like my nephew, it’s become a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them on video. “America’s Army” makes you an instant soldier armed with a variety of weapons and the intent to kill. The idea is to have fun doing it.Instead of killing time, kids these days are just plain killing … on video games. The U.S. Army hopes their Web site will entice new and young recruits who will just as willingly – and gleefully – kill for real in the field.Mattis was reprimanded for his unbridled enthusiasm over shooting people, but given the ambition of “America’s Army,” it figures that the high brass showered him with covert congratulations and the promise of a speedy promotion.It’s all part of a PR push to bolster faltering recruitment quotas. The U.S. military is aware that the killing and maiming of American troops is detrimental to gung-ho enlistments. It’s one thing to kill people in virtual reality, but it’s quite another to lose a limb or a buddy to an insurgent’s roadside bomb.”America’s Army” has so far cost U.S. taxpayers $16 million to develop the war games available free to America’s trigger-happy youth. “The game is a giant ad,” reports Time Magazine, “aimed at the public – at the 13-to-24-year-old demographic – and it has hit its target squarely.”Since the Web site was launched in 2002, more than 4.6 million players have registered to bloody the pixilated pavement with the spattered innards of whatever enemy the U.S. Army chooses. According to Time, 100,000 happy new killers join the ranks every month.For those bleeding-heart liberals who think that pleasure killing ought not to be condoned, rest assured that “America’s Army” provides an element of justice. If you shoot civilians or your own troops, you go to a virtual Fort Leavenworth to pay penance.The game is free, if you don’t compute the psychological fallout, and the Army prides itself on realism so that players can pretend they’re in a real battle. It’s like trying on a set of fatigues to see how they fit, and if you like it, you can join the fun.If you perform well and kill plenty of bad guys, and if you really get off on that satisfying squeeze of the trigger and the resulting thump of the impacting bullet, then bigger things await. You may click directly from the game into an Army recruiting site that offers the privilege of exchanging a video handset for a real assault rifle.Your performance record on the game may enhance your standing in the real Army, and the level of joy you exhibit over killing may even qualify you as officer material. Then you may join forces with some whacko like Mattis and feel the esprit de corps of a real blood bath.Paul Andersen thinks a one-finger salute is in order. His column appears on Mondays.
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