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The appearance of the White Helmets, made famous in the Syria Civil War, is a disconcerting addition to the new Call of Duty. This is why.
The official trailer for the latest Call of Duty was released a few days ago, and it features the Syria narrative management operation known as the White Helmets depicted in heroic roles. Characters wearing the organisation’s signature headgear are seen clearing rubble in part of the trailer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
To give you an idea of how popular the CoD franchise is, as of this writing the official YouTube version of the trailer has 27 million views.
To be clear, the characters in the game are most certainly intended to resemble the White Helmets of Syria, and their presence there is most certainly intended to increase support for and interest in that group. How do I know? The writer of the game has explicitly said so.
“Kurosaki (the writer) says he wants ‘Call of Duty’ to be spoken of as on par with the best war films, and he hopes ‘Modern Warfare’ will inspire fans to check out the harrowing and eye-opening documentaries ‘The White Helmets’ or ‘Last Man in Aleppo,” the LA Times reports.
The White Helmets are what legendary journalist John Pilger describes as “a complete propaganda construct”, an operation designed by a former British army officer and private military contractor James Le Mesurier to manipulate the narrative about what’s going on in Syria. This excellent half-hour mini-documentary by James Corbett clearly outlines the way the operation is used to create footage implicating the Assad government in the slaughter of civilians via chemical weapons attacks and other camera-friendly war crimes, the mountain of evidence of their ties to literal terrorist organisations in Syria, and the western funding and media manipulations that have been pouring into elevating the outfit.
It’s a brilliant invention, really. Have a purportedly neutral group filming on the ground in “rebel”-held areas (where the White Helmets exclusively operate), and you can ensure an endless supply of footage which can be used to paint a longtime western target for regime change as a barbarian who needs to be ousted. And indeed, the extremist jihadist factions which overran Syria with the backing of the US and its allies nearly succeeded in toppling Assad prior to Russia’s intervention, and we may be certain that the agenda to control who rules over the geostrategically crucial region remains as intact as ever.
It’s this whole closed-off world that is manipulating minds with very little scrutiny compared to other forms of media, which is troubling, because the video game industry is so vast that for many years its earnings have eclipsed those of the movie and music industries combined.
The pro-White Helmets propaganda is not Call of Duty’s first foray into US military narrative management. As noted by journalist Max Blumenthal in April, an earlier CoD game depicted the assassination of the leader of Venezuela and, bizarrely, attacking Venezuela’s hydroelectric dam and energy grid with the goal of causing power outages like the ones the nation has been struggling with. Citing public information, Blumenthal documents how such games have been “developed with substantial input from America’s military intelligence apparatus”, as well as the CoD designers’ involvement with the Pentagon and the NATO narrative management firm the Atlantic Council.
People playing these games, mostly impressionable young men, are manipulated into desiring to accomplish the goals that are laid out for them in order to win, all of which involve killing and many of which happen to align with preexisting US military agendas. They are desensitised to mass military violence, trained to support and identify with US military campaigns, and taught that being a member of the military might just be a fun and noble way to spend one’s future.
Propaganda in video games doesn’t get the kind of pushback you see against propaganda in news media and movies, largely because the content in the games is generally only viewed individually by those who are engrossed in playing them. It’s this whole closed-off world that is manipulating minds with very little scrutiny compared to other forms of media, which is troubling, because the video game industry is so vast that for many years its earnings have eclipsed those of the movie and music industries combined.