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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