On Saturday, the Editor of the Courier Mail David Fagan addressed a Brisbane journalism conference organised by the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA). My notes from the conference show Fagan declaring that newspaper journalism consists of great pictures with good words attached. As if readers want the kind of stuff Little Golden Books were made of. Fagan also declared that his paper was not in the business of inciting prejudice.
On the same day, buried on Page 22 of the Courier Mail, was a story headed "Muslim game outrage". The headline on the online edition was "Anti-Muslim computer game stirs wave of anger". On the Saturday archive index, the headline is "Computer game riles Muslims".
Yep, no prejudice here. Just another story about those bloody Muslims yet again getting angry (and possibly violent) about being criticised. Heck, why be offended by a computer game where players get to engage in "modern religious genocide"? What's wrong with a game about "killing as many Muslims as possible, ranging from terrorists and civilians to Osama bin Laden, even the prophet Mohammed and Allah"? As if Jews or Christians would be offended by a game about massacring them.
But Mr Fagan will insist that the various headlines to this story weren't written to generate such responses. Try believing that once you've read the 100-plus comments left on the Courier Mail website, the bulk of which refer to Muslims getting unnecessarily sensitive, hating free speech, invading our country, killing us if they had a chance, why don't they get as angry as when one of them blows up a church? etc etc.
The game's developer describes it as intending to
... mock the foreign policy of the United States and the commonly held belief ... that Muslims are a hostile people to be held with suspicion.In other words, it was all satire, a case of Team America becoming Game America. Just like the Lindsay pamphlet, only worse. At least one computing magazine disagrees.
The game's instructions made reference to the "Muslim race". The developer now says he doesn't believe Muslims have racial or genetic defects. I sure hope no one at the Courier Mail believes this either, even if their ultimate employer seems to.
First published in the Crikey daily alert for Monday 15 September 2008.
Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf