Call Of Duty Trailer Recklessly Promotes Far-Right Conspiracy Theory

Call Of Duty Trailer Recklessly Promotes Far-Right Conspiracy Theory
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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s debut trailer — which has already attracted controversy — gives a lot of airtime to Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov and his views. Views which have, in recent years, become a dangerous rallying cry for far-right conspiracy theories and the people who peddle them.

The teaser, which was released last week to hype up the more recent reveal, intersperses stock footage of major world events with a 1984 interview of Bezmenov, who claimed to have been an informant for the KGB before defecting to the United States. During the interview, he describes the Soviet Union’s alleged use of “active measures” that, in theory, are meant to destabilize opponents without direct military conflict by way of changing a society’s power structure and economy. In short, Bezmenov’s suggestion in the full interview is that extending equality to the United States’ non-white, non-male population made it ripe for Soviet invasion.

The official Call of Duty trailer refers to Bezmenov’s claims as a “chilling warning,” and implores viewers to “know your history,” which sure feels like a tacit endorsement of the man’s deeply flawed ideology.

The person interviewing Bezmenov in the footage is far-right conspiracy theorist G. Edward Griffin, who has since made a name for himself in HIV/AIDS denialism and alt-right recruitment. As a member of the John Birch Society, a famously anti-Communist organisation focused on establishing a more conservative government in the United States, it makes sense that Griffin would peddle Bezmenov’s claims about Soviet interference by way of social progress without any critical analysis. In the Call of Duty trailer, Activision presents Bezmenov’s words bereft of this important context.

As the name suggests, Black Ops Cold War deals with the decades-long struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, which engaged in various forms of political and proxy warfare as the globe’s prevailing superpowers after World War II. While Bezmenov’s warnings seem like obvious fodder for amping up that conflict in the game, his appearance in the game’s advertisement has functioned as a sort of dog whistle to legions of reactionaries who consider attempts at establishing social equity to be proof of a far-right conspiracy theory known as “Cultural Marxism.”

Cultural Marxism is a modern spin on the notion of “Cultural Bolshevism,” which was a tactic used by the early Nazi party in Germany to discredit supposed dissidents — usually among the Jewish population, as was its wont — as dangers to so-called “traditional values.” In this way, diversity and societal growth away from prejudice were treated as divisive and insidious, clearing a path for the country’s eventual acceptance of Nazism. The falsehood of Cultural Marxism has been used ever since to embolden a growing white nationalist movement in blaming society’s ills on the fictitious boogeymen of marginalised populations, rather than the people in power who actually exploit the world and its most vulnerable inhabitants.

“White nationalism is a variegated movement, but most groups see the future of white America as threatened by the liberalizing forces of Cultural Marxism,” write Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, and Kevin Hicks, professor of English at Alabama State University, in Hate Crimes, Volume 1. “Ultimately, this […] has come to embody […] feminists, homosexuals, secular humanists, multiculturalists, sex educators, environmentalists, immigrants, and black nationalists.”

The term more recently gained popularity in gaming circles thanks to (what else) GamerGate. The specter of Cultural Marxism is routinely conjured to decry anything that doesn’t adhere to the straight, white, cis male perspective that has dominated the video game industry for decades, such as the introduction of playable female characters in Battlefield V and LGBTQ+ representation in The Last of Us Part II. Seeing Bezmenov promoted by Call of Duty in such an uncritical way feels like a winking acknowledgement of those bullshit complaints.

While never invoking Cultural Marxism by name, Bezmenov’s warnings ran parallel to its core tenets. In his various lectures and interviews, Bezmenov said that any attempt to establish social equity for women, for Black folks, or for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States was merely a Soviet ploy to weaken American society from within. He frequently criticised leftists, feminists, and those involved in the equal rights and anti-war movements as “useful idiots,” or pawns whose demands were an opening for the Soviet Union to destabilize the United States. That term was used in the very same interview from which Activision pulled footage for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War but, again, the trailer glosses over that part of the discussion.

While everyone has been happy to share the Black Ops Cold War video far and wide purely as a piece of marketing, the implications of Bezmenov’s appearance haven’t been lost on far-right figures like Carl “Sargon of Akkad” Benjamin, a popular anti-feminist YouTuber who, during his failed attempt at getting elected to the parliament of the European Union, joked about raping a British politician. In an August 20 video entitled, “The New Call of Duty Game Mainstreams Yuri Bezmenov,” Benjamin is absolutely giddy about the prospect of impressionable viewers being taken in by Bezmenov’s Cultural Marxism-adjacent ideology.

“This is the overall plan that Yuri Bezmenov gives us for ideological subversion,” Benjamin says while ranting about anti-police brutality demonstrations and worker unions. “Really, there is no such thing as equality, as Yuri points out in his lectures. Equality is […] a ridiculous goal.”

“We actually have to thank the makers of Call of Duty for popularising Yuri Bezmenov to the normies,” Benjamin adds later. “This is wonderful. It’s important to have people listen to the things he’s saying.”

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.

Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, pictured here in 2017, killed 77 and injured hundreds due to his belief in far-right conspiracy theories like Cultural Marxism. (Photo:  Lise Aaserud / Stringer, Getty Images) Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, pictured here in 2017, killed 77 and injured hundreds due to his belief in far-right conspiracy theories like Cultural Marxism. (Photo: Lise Aaserud / Stringer, Getty Images)

That’s not to say that Call of Duty publisher Activision is free of these kinds of gaffes, intentional or not. This is the same series that, for example, hired Oliver North as an advisor on 2012’s Black Ops II. North, formerly a Fox News host and president of the National Rifle Association, is a controversial figure in American politics. He earned the national spotlight in 1986 as a key figure in the Iran-Contra affair, which saw the United States covertly sell weapons to Iran in order to fund right-wing death squads in Nicaragua as a way of destabilizing that country’s elected socialist government. North also made a cameo appearance in the game itself. When interviewed by Kotaku in 2012, Black Ops II’s developers hand-waved away concerns about North’s involvement.

More recently, 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare courted controversy by attributing its fictionalized version of the very real “Highway of Death” massacre — during which an American-lead coalition bombed a convoy of retreating soldiers and civilian refugees in 1991’s first Gulf War — to the game’s Russian antagonists. These instances show that Call of Duty is no stranger to flirting with far-right sentiments and even papering over American war crimes in an effort to present the United States as an idealised “good guy.” Black Ops Cold War and its promotion of the Cultural Marxism farce is just the latest in a string of decisions that are questionable at best and actively dangerous at worst.

There is no Jewish plot to destabilize America by burning bras or marching for equal rights. Our society won’t crumble because kids are told it’s ok to be gay. But in publicizing Bezmenov this way, with little criticism or scrutiny of the far-right sensibilities his nonsensical world view invigorates, Activision has given its fans a direct path to his philosophy while also leaving out crucial contextual details that explain its origins and the dangerous effects it has already had on the modern world.

At the time of writing, Benjamin’s video has over 146,000 views. His right-wing commenters, not to mention reactionaries who already understood the history behind the footage the Call of Duty trailer utilises, are quite happy with the way in which Activision’s choice to uncritically feature Bezmenov in its advertising campaign has the potential to greatly expand the reach of both the Soviet defector’s ideology and the conspiracy theory of Cultural Marxism.

“People who’ve never seen Yuri’s interview before thinks [sic] this is just a game,” one popular comment under IGN’s upload of the trailer reads. “But everything he said was an actual warning for what is happening now.”

Activision did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.

Comments

    • I mean that’s just lazy. At least have the stones to openly stand behind your beliefs.

      But of course the issue is you know they are repugnant and you’re afraid of possible censure, so this neckbeard edginess is as close as you get.

      I mean at least actual fascists aren’t afraid to celebrate their nastiness, it’s the cowardly bootlickers who enable them who really are the bottom feeders.

    • I mean I know you can’t hide your bootlicking but seriously my dude,

      ‘HAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHA’

      could you at least try and not look so deranged just for decency’s sake?

      Maybe go post some more lame Nintendo videos to calm your issues?

      • Oh the irony of you saying I look deranged.

        You are just as funny as Ian worrito. It’s impossible to take your comments seriously lol.

        • Yeah, you do look a bit deranged. But in your defense, it’s more your normal approach than anything specific to this article or thread.

    • I wonder which country they will blame the upcoming election loss on?
      They are already stating Biden should not accept a loss, something they attacked trump for stating in the 2016 election.

  • Ian, if you want to be considered a serious journalist, here’s a tip – don’t use adverbs in your headlines. This is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to push your point of view. These single-minded diatribes show an almost endearing intellectual naïveté; you seem blissfully unaware that your intolerance of any views other than your own are the epitome of fascism.

    • The idea that journalism is supposed to be sold kind of cold, clinical recitation of facts with zero engagement or analysis is the most childish garbage imaginable.

      • The ‘most childish garbage imaginable’? Your imagination seems severely limited.

        Sorry. I mistook your hyperbole for something worth reading. Just like this article. But don’t let me stop your self-righteous indignation. Carry on.

    • Pretty sure you have the wrong website. This is a gaming blog, crammed full of opinion pieces, nobody’s ever pretended that it’s some kind of ‘objective’ news site.

    • So what you’re saying is you don’t actually understand what fascism is but blindly use it as a label for things you don’t like?

    • “intolerance of any views other than your own are the epitome of fascism.”

      I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  • Wow, you triggered a couple of RWNJs. This is why I don’t play games like that. Somehow liches, zombies and necromancy seem more wholesome fare than fetishising real world hate.

    • Considering “zombies” have a MASSIVE racist beginning and history, I suggest you stop playing any games that have anything to do with the like, make a formal apology to any and every black person you know and don’t know, donate money to one of the numerous black organisations in apology for, unknowingly, furthering racist ideals and then join a rabid mob… you know… so you can keep on white-knighting with a clear conscience.

        • look.. a white-knight for the white-knight.. have you paid your penance so that the rabid mob will give you membership? Although.. being a hypocrite… you may still not qualify.

          Funny how you joke about the RWNJ’s being easily triggered… Pretty sure if you look around the world atm.. it’s you people that are the ones that are “triggered”… bullying, threatening, inciting violence, mob rule… yeah…

          You lot are nothing, if not hypocritical.

          • What’s the opposite of a “white knight”? “Thrall of Darkness”? I know which I would rather be.

          • @cybernetichero

            Is virtue signaller a better term for you then? I mean.. Let’s be honest… We all know you don’t *really* care about what you supposedly preach.. if you actually did, you’d know your comment was steeped in racism, outright stating, whether by ignorance or stupidity that racism isn’t “real world hate” (Somehow liches, zombies and necromancy seem more wholesome fare than fetishising real world hate.)

            Run along hypocrite… You’re no better than those “RWNJ” you label… in fact.. I’d say your worse, you’re a hypocrite

          • christ, nuffman. maybe you should calm down. you’re just being aggressive and mean and searching for a gotcha. you’re proving his point completely.

          • Better to signal virtue than what? Abject fear of change? A paranoid fear of difference? A psychological need to hate? Like @andye said, you’ve made my point for me. Thanks.

          • @andye: Don’t need to “search for a gotcha”. It’s right there in his comment. Everyone knows the racist history and ideology behind the concept of “zombies” and here he is, basically calling it “wholesome” compared to “real world hate”.

            @cybernetichero: Still being a hypocrite I see. At least you’re being consistent at it.

          • I’m not the one trying to equate IMAGINARY creatures with real world far right conspiracies that have got people killed only this week.

          • @cybernetichero

            https://ds-pages.swarthmore.edu/zombies-reimagined/understanding-of-racism/

            https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14791420.2017.1338742?af=R&

            https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/how-america-erased-the-tragic-history-of-the-zombie/412264/

            Also the book: Race, Oppression and the Zombie: Essays on Cross-Cultural Appropriations of the Caribbean Tradition

            You may equate them to imaginary creatures, but to many black people, they are analogous to them and their history.

            See, hypocrite. Discounting the impact and the history of something, that you deem “imaginary” because it’s not real to you.. talk about faux-woke.

          • Wow! you really know how to flog a strawman to death. The undead do NOT exist. I have always known about the derivation of the word zombie but hey, words change meaning over time and It’s no more racist to talk about fictional zombies than it is to talk about fictional leprechauns. Your sad attempts only highlight your OWN hypocrisy in trying to make me out to be a racist when you are supporting a conspiracy that says non whites should not be given the franchise. That’s the gulf between our arguments, one is hair splitting over usage and the other is an insidious threat to the rights of anyone not white (or male, let’s not forget the misogynist aspect of this in your distraction tactic) enough to qualify.

          • I never said I was woke, you bestowed that title upon me. Thanks for all the nice praise, calling me woke and a white night, such lovely images. flatterer.

          • @cyberntichero

            Sorry.. where did I say I supported any thing in this article? Can you please clarify and quote me on that. Thanks. You have nothing but assumptions under your belt.

            Interesting how you automatically think I’m white… Talk about racist… How dare a non-white person not fall in line with the current rhetoric.

            And as for your… well.. poor attempt at any sort of argument… well… I suggest you do some light reading… Because you clearly have zero idea about the connotation between black people and the idea of zombies in media, especially in their historical portrayal, simply labelling it a “derivation”. Typical of people like you. Take it from a non-white person

            Also… never called you “woke”… But that just adds to the fact that you only see what you want to, and anything else you just ignore.

          • @nuffman – did you actually read any of the zombie articles you posted?

            The first is honestly the best example of cherry-picking I have seen for a while. They look at the earliest zombie movies like White Zombie, and then jump straight to the Walking Dead – completely ignoring 60-70 years of the evolution of the genre just because it suits their narrative a bit better – they say that the move from Voodoo Magic to viral apocalypse as the cause of zombie reflects changes in racism, but completely gloss over the fact that Richard Matheson did it in the 50’s in I Am Legend, which was adapted as a movie in the 60’s and was the major influence behind Romero’s zombie films.

            Obviously the history of Zombies is in Haiti is tragic, and was closely linked with subjugation and slavery… but inferring that any reference to the living dead has its roots in racism is a bit absurd. Matheson’s creatures were conceived as Vampires, but for all intents and purposes they were zombies. Even earlier, Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Reanimator was written as a parody of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which drew its influence from everything from Paradise Lost to the French Revolution – but neither of these have anything to do with Haiti or racism.

  • The moment people start throwing around ‘far right’ or ‘far left’ I roll my fucking eyes. The fact that ‘professional journalists’ do it ad nauseam these days is a fucking disgrace.

    It has lost all meaning at this point. It’s nothing but people throwing labels around purely to discredit others they simply dislike as they scream, “They’re the bad guys!” and point.

    It’s like the anti-mask crowd screaming about tyranny, draconian laws, etc… Most of them wouldn’t know the definition of tyranny if you asked them.

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