Killing Atheists and Jews … Oh, Wait

This is really a cautionary tale for bloggers and blog readers, about checking your sources, starting with the dates.

I came across a link to a story on ParentDish, about a Left Behind video game, based on the Rapture novels of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. ParentDish reported the game involved Christian militia that slaughtered Jews and atheists on the streets of New York.

In Left Behind: Eternal Forces, kids will assume the role of a member of a “Christian” gang wandering the streets of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, killing or converting as many Jews, Atheists, and other unsavory types in the employ of the Anti-Christ as possible to get to the next level. If the heathen won’t convert, the character can kill them. The company is offering a free demonstration model to churches. “We see it as a beacon of light that could shine in the dark world of video games,” said Jerome Mikulich, “director of outreach ministries” for the company. “The most important thing is that it helps kids realize there is power in the spirit world, and that by praying they can endure and get through their real-life situations.”

There appeared to be an issue worth blogging about. I checked several reviews of the game, which varied between “good in some ways” and “laughably dull,” and then came across a bit of story about the parent company charging reviewers and writers with lying about the actual events of the game, allegedly portraying it as more violent and misrepresenting the nature of the violence.

Several of the reviews seemed to agree about the low level of violence, as opposed to the portrayal in ParentDish, but also faulted the game, set in New York City, for a character set consisting solely of white men, with the exception of a few cardboard-cutout women, who lacked even names to make them seem human.

Still, it seemed like something worth writing about.

Until I went back and re-read the original ParentDish piece. And noticed the date — 2006. The original story was five years old.

That didn’t completely shut it out as blog-fodder. But this bit did: The story had gotten airtime on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, plus print coverage in the San Jose Chronicle, Newsweek and Wired, among others.

It’s probably happened to me a dozen times over my blogging career that I’ve gotten interested in a story and then discovered at the last minute before firing off a post that it was old, old news. It happens even to bloggers a lot bigger and smarter than me.

Anyway, if you happen to catch one of us at it, be kind in giving us a heads-up, knowing the Web is a place where stories can reside timelessly for decades, and where the best of us can make the mistake.

But also be careful, in your own reading and responding, to start by checking story sources. There’s almost always a little something extra worth finding out, before you decide how to react.  Or even if you need to.

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  • Rob

    On the other hand, I just responded to a FB post that was utilizing an edited video of SENATOR Barack Obama. So the usage of old material to beat the gullible over the head with isn’t going away. I also saw those reports back when they came out about that game. The only thing I heard was the irony of killing being done by Christians. I never cease to wonder at the ignorance of history….

  • Phillip IV

    It seems the game has spawned three sequels up to now, the most current on apparently just published – so I guess the story still has a degree of relevancy, or could be worth a revisiting.

    A fun bit from the Wikipedia article on the game:

    Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a Christian real-time strategy game developed and published by Inspired Media Entertainment (formerly Left Behind Games)

    I’m usual not a big proponent of rebranding, but the switch from “Left Behind Games” to “Inspired Media” is a clear improvement. Discovering “Left Behind Games” in the discount bin at GameStop must have caused many giggles.

  • rational jen

    Minor correction, that’s going to be either the San Jose Mercury News, or the San Francisco Chronicle–two very different papers.

  • rational jen

    Ahh, I don’t know why this commentary is coming up from “rational jen”; if there is such a registered user, the tech staff at FtB may want to note that I am not them. Let me know contact details if you want any added information to unwind how this happened…

    • Joven

      Pretty sure ‘rational jen’ is the screen name of Jen Peeples from The Atheist Experience.

      Did you post as a logged in user? or just using the anonymous-type version (just name+email thing)?

      Although not sure why Im asking since Im in no way able to help, just curious I guess.

      • rational jen

        I logged in on my longstanding Yahoo account; these are actually my first postings.

        Interesting (in a bad way) that I can masquerade as ‘rational jen’ at will, as I just re-logged into that Yahoo account and I’m still coming up as ‘rational jen’

        –Unrational Jen

      • Anonymous Atheist

        In various posts on other FTB blogs the past couple days, I’ve seen several other commenters complaining about the wrong name showing up on their posts. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s not just you, ‘Unrational Jen’.

  • Trebuchet

    Just last week on FTB there was a post about a Molson’s Canadian beer ad campaign — one ad in womens’ magazines showing a sensitive looking guy with a puppy and a beer, and one in mens’ magazines saying “Look guys, we’ve done all the work for you. Just hold a Molson’s and women can’t resist you.”

    The blogger was offended, I just took it as a joke. The part that’s relevant to your post is that a Molson’s rep showed up in the comments, pointing out that a) it was a joke, and b) it was from ten years ago.

  • anthonyallen

    Hank, I sympathize, buddy.

    I tend to be out of touch with most things, even things around here. I’m even behind on games – I’m only just starting the first Mass Effect – and so, obviously, I had never heard of this game before.

    But wow! A game whose primary mechanic is “convert or die?” They might as well have called it “Spanish Inquisition,” but I suppose no one would have expected that.

    • jinxmchue

      But wow! A game whose primary mechanic is “convert or die?” They might as well have called it “Spanish Inquisition,” but I suppose no one would have expected that.

      Um, no. The games absolutely do not promote “convert or die.” That was a big, fat, hairy lie made up by a big, fat, hairy blogger by the name of Jonathan Hutson on the Talk To Action website (which got caught adding blood to screenshots of the game) — a lie which was unquestioningly regurgitated by others. Game Reviewers such as IGN, Ars Technica, GameSpy, GameSpot and X-Play all cited the anti-violence nature of the game. Even the Anti-Defamation League — while criticizing the game’s “exclusionary theology” — recognized that the game does not promote any sort of violence towards anyone.

  • Randomfactor

    One thing to check FIRST is the date of the source. Lots of folks are getting knickertwisted by stuff that’s years old.

  • june antonio

    Damn, I can’t seem to get the pictures to load properly on your webpage. I am using firefox 3.4… yup I really need to update, but several of my add-ons are not capatable with the latest version of firefox. Anyways, I thoguht I’d let you know of the ptoblem. Late.

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