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On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2002, Resistance Records, a white supremacist multimedia company, unveiled its newest enterprise: Ethnic Cleansing. Part of a wave of white supremacist video games, Ethnic Cleansing claims to be the “most politically incorrect video game ever made.” Offering players the option to virtually embody a Klansman or a skinhead, Ethnic Cleansing provides game enthusiasts (and racists) the opportunity to become a white supremacist from the privacy of one’s home. Specifically, players are able, according to the game’s own description, “to run through the ghetto blasting away various blacks and spics in an attempt to gain entrance to the subway system… where the Jews have hidden to avoid the carnage. Then if your [sic] lucky you can blow away the Jews as the scream ‘oy vey’.” The premise of the game is, thus, that an average American city—which resembles New York City—is under the control of “subhuman gangs” and their Jewish masters. Together they are working towards world domination and the annihilation of the white race. The Jewish plans for world domination can be seen in the subway along with a sign reading ‘Diversity: It’s good for the Jews’. Your task is, thus, to battle those gangs in order to seek and destroy the Jewish mastermind. Clearly, the game reflects dominant white supremacist ideas of violent hordes of people of color—you, the sole protector of the white race, must battle the endless number of black and Latino savages and the manipulating Jew.
The stereotypes within Ethnic Cleansing are not surprisingly extreme and ubiquitous. The black gangsters, wearing red shirts emblazoned with the words Nigzs, make monkey and ape noises each time you shoot them. Not to be outdone, the game advertises real “negro voices,” on its front cover. The Latino characters wear ponchos and sombreros, uttering, “I’ll take a siesta now” or “Ay Carumba” as you approach them in preparation or murder. While there are no close-ups of either the black or Latino characters’ faces (dare I say they all look alike), the game provides visual detail of the Jews, as it relates to white supremacist imagination. Throughout the game, posters of the “stereotypical Jew,” hooked nose and all, appear on screen. The evil Jew is in control of this imaginary world, using his scheming mind and ability to manipulate the violent masses to control and destroy the white race.
Resistance Records recently released its second pathetic attempt (the games are awful in terms of graphics and game playability), with White Law. The premise of White Law, like so many games, is that of a lone wolf battling the evil dregs of society. The game takes place in 2021, following a terrorist attack that leaves Washington D.C. in shambles. America’s capital is relocated in New York State, in Kapitol City, which “was to be a beacon of light for other cities to follow and the most ‘diverse’ city in the nation.” According to the game, under the rule of Police Chief O’Mally, Kapitol City experienced the highest minority arrest rate in the nation, resulting in his firing and the creation of an all-minority “Equality Police”. Unfortunately, the “Equality Police” left the city under the control of people of color, resulting in mass levels of violence and chaos, not to mention almost $4 dollars per gallon for gas. You have the opportunity to become Michael Riley, formerly of the KPD SWAT team, to reclaim Kapitol City as a place for white Americans. Traveling around the city on foot, your task is thus to kill until the city is back under control of the white race.
If the premise alone does not elucidate the white supremacist message of White Law, its opening sequence makes clear connections between the state of America, race and anti-Semitism. The game begins with its title circling around a Star of David, only to stop with this symbol of Jewishness explodes into many pieces. Notwithstanding, this game is far less racialized than Ethnic Cleansing (this is not saying much). Taking cues from mainstream video games, White Law embraces racist messages and ideologies without the blatantly racist images and music of its baby brother. That being said, it should be clear that the game successfully integrates racist images, with the black characters wearing red sweat suits with the Chronic symbol, donning beads, and always dancing and rapping. The game is disturbing, and reflects the growth in the burgeoning white nationalist movement.
The reaction to these games, while relatively silent within the popular media, has been relatively strong from liberal America. Shocked by the message and content, these games have been too easily dismissed as extremist venom that only reflects a small segment of the American population. While necessary to excoriate racialized projects of hate and white supremacy, the condemnation of Ethnic Cleansing and White Law locates racism as an isolated phenomenon particular to these games. Similar to the Jerry Springerization of racism within talk shows, which leads to popular ideas that racism only manifest itself in extreme forms, the response to the release of Ethnic Cleansing denied the more subtle forms of racism within a majority of video games. Abraham Foxman, the national Director of the Anti-Defamation League, initially led the protest against this wave of white supremacist games, making clear that these new incarnations have little in common with their more popular brethren. “Once again, racists are finding new ways to exploit technology to spread their message of white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and hate to a mass audience…. The difference is these games are loaded with blatantly racist messages and themes.”
Foxman surely has not analyzed the racial contents of GTA III or NFL Street, both of which contain blatantly racist messages and themes, albeit with more sophistication, panache, and depth. In fact, the virtual body of black men within both NFL Street and Ethnic Cleansing are almost identical, with emphasis on savagery, violence and animalistic features. White Law and Freedom Fighters have the identical premise with America’s capital falling under control of an evil enemy (minorities and Communists), only to find its savior in an average white Irish American. With each game, players attempt to save the nation from evil through hard work and intelligence. While the aesthetics are different and Freedom Fighters embraces a colorblind tone, these games are more similar than they are different. Likewise, the common depiction of America’s cities as jungles, overrun by the savage other, in need of domestication links these extremist games with their mainstream brethren. The visual appeal of urban spaces as dark and dangerous plays on America’s racialized fear and our obsession with the always-growing criminal justice system. While it is easy to dismiss Ethnic Cleansing and White Law as extremist garbage not to be feared, it reflects notions of white supremacy that are found in all segments of society.
The video game industry is doing its best to disassociate itself from these more honest games, using Ethnic Cleansing and White Law as evidence for the righteousness and usefulness of popular games. “The Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA) finds these games abhorrent and condemns these kinds of sick efforts to abuse the wonderful technology of video games to peddle racist and anti-Semitic garbage,” writes Doug Lowenstein, President of IDSA. Despite the efforts of Foxman and Lowenstein to legitimize popular video games for not only their quality, but because of their progressive political (racial) message, a sophisticated analysis of games reveals that Ethnic Cleansing and White Law are not unlike its popular counterparts. The similarity of games reveals the powerful connections between colorblind and white nationalist racism.