Radical Extremism: Now on a console near you

After theterrorist attacks in Moscow’s largest airport, not even terrorism experts really have a clue as to who carried out these attacks, or why they occurred. Naturally, as is usually the case when issues of unprovoked or particularly gruesome violence come to pass in the national or international spotlight, experts have been quick to blame video games for planting the seeds for this terrorist attack. This time, the game under fire is 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which most conveniently –for critics, anyway –features a chapter, entitled “No Russian,”in which the player carries out a terrorist attack on a fictional Russian airport. However, despite the overt links between the two scenarios, terrorism experts are dead wrong in accusing a fictional scenario of “training”terrorists to commit real life acts of violence. Yet that is just what is happening, as Fox News Terrorism Analyst Whalid Phares was quick to state: “I think those who have been radicalized already […] they look at the games and say these games will serve them to train.” The Russian media also seems to support this view, as state sponsored news reports showed footage of the game being played side by side with actual footage of the terrorist attacks. However, there are a number of inherent problems in saying that a fictional piece of interactive media inspired or even trained terrorists to kill real people and cause real damage. This reaction by the media can only be explained as a lack of real answers to the questions of “who?”and “why?”, as they pertain to the attack. First of all, it is ludicrous, perhaps even insulting to the terrorists, to suggest that a game played largely by whiny teenagers and 40-year-old cellar-dwellers would serve as a training program for something so complex and well-organized as an international terrorist cell. Furthermore, to suggest that by sitting down in front of a TV and pulling a fake trigger to fire a fake gun at fake people in a game that allows the player to absorb multiple fatal bullet wounds would be adequate training for something as delicate and demanding as a terrorist attack on an international airport sounds equally ridiculous. Perhaps the question that should be asked is: Are we taking these terrorist groups seriously enough if we look at a carefully orchestrated act of public violence and blame it on an unrealistic video game? I believe this response represents a loss for words by the government of Russia and the experts who supposedly study this type of thing. We should be talking about further security measures, such as more security guards or metal detectors at the entrances to airports, rather than a purely coincidental link between a real-life tragedy and a fictional and impractical situation in a piece of interactive entertainment.