Being one of the most popular games on the block doesn’t come easy for Call of Duty. Activision’s blockbuster games have long courted controversy, primarily by the sole virtue of their being games about war. Granted, they’re not to be confused with war games, but their games are most certainly about war, and they revel in it.
Gamers, the argument goes, are largely male and conservative, have interests in video games pertaining to their interests in the real world: guns, freedom, and personal excellence through competition.
The glorification of war is a contentious choice for many, especially after years of fatigue with the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and the ongoing hostility of forces abroad that don’t have America’s best interests at heart. It’s this same glorification of war that’s allowed countless game journalists, the self-appointed adjudicators of the medium, to weigh in with their two cents (however qualified or otherwise) to declare that games that glorify war should not get made.
Anita Sarkeesian, the feminist influencer whose emergence into the video game industry coincided the height of the feminist influence in gaming during the 2010s, once complained that games were designed too explicitly for men and that games needed to change to be more welcoming of a more diverse audience.
“Traditionally, advertisements for mainstream games were almost exclusively aimed at men and boys. When women and girls appeared, typically it was either as eye candy or as annoying girlfriends. The games often reinforce a similar message, overwhelmingly casting men as heroes and relegating women to the roles of damsels, victims or hyper-sexualized playthings.”
By men, of course, Sarkeesian means gamers. It’s an assertion that’s often made by members of the enthusiast press. “The era of white male games for white male gamers is ending,” declared Quartz’s Damon Packwood. Polygon’s Colin Campbell attempted to explain “gaming’s toxic men.” Kotaku’s Alistair Jones complained about how there are still too many straight, white males in gaming.
Gamers, the argument goes, are largely male and conservative, have interests in video games pertaining to their interests in the real world: guns, freedom, and personal excellence through competition. This of course says nothing of the fact that video games have always been a welcoming space, for both male and female gamers, who have a broad range of interests. From puzzle games to run-and-gun first-person shooters, video games have always offered options. The existence of Call of Duty, for instance, does not preclude the existence of Stardew Valley, a simulation where players get away from the hustle of the city to tend a small farm.
Nothing is stopping various games from peacefully coexisting. Nothing, that is, except for the imposition of “change” upon games from a media class that demand they cater to an audience they were never really designed for.
CULTURE WARRIORS: UNARMED BUT JUST AS DANGEROUS
By now, Call of Duty has established a firm place within the niche of military-themed first-person-shooters. It knows what it is and who it caters to, and remains wildly popular for that reason. As part of the ongoing franchise, its creators at Activision have recently announced the debut of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, which is set—as you’ve already guessed—during the Cold War period of the 1980s.
Capitalizing on this theme, the game’s reveal trailer prominently features Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov. Bezmenov’s interviews have helped theorize a coherent understanding of the socialist left’s “Long March through the Institutions” of the capitalist West, which has culminated in the emergence of cancel culture, cancel campaigns, and the widespread leftist-tinged riots that have swept through the United States of America in 2020.
To set the scene, Bezmenov’s words in the trailer are interspersed with stock footage of major world events during the 1980s. As Bezmenov explains, leftist agitators—who might be called “influencers” in today’s social media landscape—use “active measures” that, in theory, are used to destabilize and dismantle capitalist systems without the involvement of the military by way of inserting themselves into positions of authority.
After all, bullets needn’t be fired when you can wield metaphorical guns that can enact just as much damage—and prove just as effective.
Efforts to destabilize the status quo and commit leftist insurrection are plainly visible in the effects of left-wing activism in colleges and universities across Western democracies. Ideologically-driven protests, boycotts, riots, virtue signaling, and cancel campaigns are the new normal. The prominence of this kind of political thought is bolstered by teachers’ unions, college administrators, professors, woke athletes, celebrities preaching social justice in all its forms, and so-called diversity officers. It’s also gaining ground in the government, where Presidential candidates get on their knees to show their support for Black Lives Matter. Cyberbullies cancel anyone who gets in the way of their crusade with social justice as their raison d’être. Books like Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility are now on bestsellers lists.
Nothing is safe, and there’s nowhere to escape to—not even video games.
While many gamers do not align themselves to politics one way or another, titles like Call of Duty do represent a bastion of conservative influence in the space. They also represent a threat to the growing sphere of left-wing influence that has swept through the gaming industry with the rise of woke games journalism, whose sole contributions to the industry appear to be complaints about how “problematic” everything is.
Nothing is safe, and there’s nowhere to escape to—not even video games.
Simply put, most gamers just want to play video games and be left alone. If religion was once the opiate of the masses, then entertainment—gaming being one of the most ubiquitous forms of it—has to be its newest incarnation since the decline of Christianity in the West. Tampering with the formula is the best way to awaken those otherwise asleep to the reality of politics in 2020. That’s why controversies like “GamerGate” are events I’d consider a red pill for the politically unaware. It’s best to let sleeping dogs lie, but social justice agitators just can’t help themselves.
Sure, Call of Duty subtly primes its audience by uplifting the words and ideas of Yuri Bezmenov’s quotes in the game’s trailer. The designers risk enticing gamers to look up who he is, and why the words he says resonate as they do. After all, the specter of communism has never been more profound in 2020 when far-left agitators from Antifa are now dominating the news cycle amid the most contentious presidential election to date.
But even if the trailer isn’t enough to radicalize gamers, the controversy around the trailer is sure to do the job.
No institution is safe from social justice indoctrination and calls for America to embrace leftism have never been louder than they are now. It’s cool, even profitable to be woke, and games journalism has answered the call enthusiastically. And, the more adamantly they condemn and criminalize gamers for their media consumption choices, the more agitated these players become—ever more aware of, and enraged by, the War on Western Civilization that these journalists play footsoldier to.
KOTAKU’S WAR ON CALL OF DUTY
It seems that the culture warriors at Kotaku, one of the pre-eminent gaming publications, can’t leave leftist political commentary out of video games. In Ian Walker’s piece for Kotaku, the author takes issue with the inclusion of Bezmenov’s speech in the new Call of Duty trailer, claiming it “recklessly promotes” the “far-right conspiracy theory” of Cultural Marxism.
“It’s not clear what role, if any, Bezmenov plays in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. The ideology he espouses in the trailer might actually serve as the game’s antagonistic force. Who knows! Whatever the case may be, it’s irresponsible for the developers to disseminate his ideas without context, especially by way of a game that is already popular among impressionable adolescents and disaffected men with far-right tendencies like Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who murdered 77 people, many of them children, to “save Norway […] from Cultural Marxism.”
“Cultural Marxism” is a catch-all term often used to describe views forwarded by mid-20th Century philosophers like the Frankfurt School of Social Theory and Critical Philosophy—a thinktank for leftist concepts, with the practical goal of promoting and disseminating Marxist ideals throughout the West. Though the origins of the term is contestable, it’s taken on a particular meaning in the past 20 years as an anti-Semetic trope. The argument is that those critical of the market penetration of Marxist thought in Western culture—especially if they use the phrase “Cultural Marxism”—are critical because they harbor anti-Semetic sentiments.
It’s important to note that Bezmenov never uses the phrase “Cultural Marxism.” Not once. But in his effort to discredit Bezmenov, Walker intentionally uses the phrase and attempts to tie Bezmenov’s beliefs to “Cultural Bolshevism,” a concept used by the early Nazis in Germany to discredit their communist opponents. Walker warns that “Bezmenov’s warnings ran parallel” to the core tenets of the concept of Cultural Marxism. There is clearly a dog-whistle here, but it’s not for anti-Semites. It’s for woke gaming critics chomping at the bit to dismiss gamers as white supremacists.
For his part, Bezmenov describes how the leftist process uses fractious social issues such as race, class—and in the 2020s, gender identity—as a means to weaken the social structure, creating upheaval and paving the way for a leftist revolution.
“The most efficient methods of demoralization is semantic manipulation of population, or word pollution, whereby the normal true meaning of the words and traditionally accepted meanings are being gradually replaced by Orwellian type surrogates, partly or totally opposite to the reality.”
Bezmenov described the process of ideological subversion as “a great brainwashing,” made up of four basic stages: “demoralization,” “destabilization,” “crisis,” and “normalization.”
In a Wikipedia article on the Frankfurt School cited by Kotaku, we learn that proponents of the movement intended to undermine and destroy Western culture and its values. Essentially, what Bezmenov warns. Leftists and their media are extremely critical of claims that this is an active project in the West, dismissing those who recognize “Cultural Marxism” for what it is as conspiracy theorists. But a quick look at Black Lives Matter’s own website states that several of their goals include the disruption of the “Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” The movement, unapologetic in its leftism, refers to collaborators as “comrades.” Or consider a new book by Feminist theorist Sophie Lewis, profiled by The Nation in an article titled, “Want to Dismantle Capitalism? Abolish the Family.” There is a clear connection between the subversive politics espoused by Frankfurt School thinkers, the widespread proliferation of their methods (media criticism), and the instability we are encountering in the Western world.
Bezmenov was right.
In the age where rioting has become the new normal and supporters of President Trump are hunted down and executed, Bezmenov’s words are more important now than ever before.
Walker, however, spends the rest of his time tying in efforts to resist leftist influence with the evils of white nationalism by conflating beliefs about white racial supremacy to conservatism. He cites progressives like the SPLC’s Heidi Beirich, and decries the fact that political YouTuber Carl “Sargon of Akkad” Benjamin celebrated the mainstreaming of Bezmenov in a recent video. The writer doesn’t hesitate to discredit Benjamin by citing controversies that dragged at the YouTuber’s political ambitions.
This isn’t just bad journalism—it’s a smear job directed at Call of Duty fans.
Activision’s decision to feature Bezmenov so prominently in its biggest game of the year will resonate with anyone who isn’t already paying attention to the news cycle. No amount of semantic manipulation will work on anyone aware of the machinations of leftist culture warriors. After all, the media can only describe a riot as a “fiery, but mostly peaceful protest” enough times before viewers recognize what’s going on.
But it’s games media’s response to Bezmenov’s inclusion in Call of Duty that serves as the red pill, not the vignette itself. For those who are just interested in Call of Duty to play a video game, seeing so much political outrage levied against the hobby, in typical wokian fashion, is irritating. There’s nothing more dangerous than a man denied his peace of mind.
In the age where rioting has become the new normal and supporters of President Trump are hunted down and executed, Bezmenov’s words are more important now than ever before. Even if the creators of Call of Duty never intended to disseminate such profound political commentary, gamers would be wise to pay attention.