Interview: Wafaa Bilal casts himself as terrorist in Virtual Jihadi


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By Brian Boyko
Contributing Writer, GAS
and Editor of Network Performance Daily

You may not remember the name Wafaa Bilal, but you probably remember the Iraqi-American who locked himself in a room with a paintball gun controlled by random individuals on the Internet for thirty days – that was him, and it’s now nine months later and he’s unable to sleep at night without medicine. Now Bilal has a new controversial art piece that has caused the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s College Republicans to call the college’s Arts department a “terrorist safehaven” for exhibiting it.

In 2003, a forgettable budget first-person shooter game called “Quest for Saddam” was released by a programmer using the Duke Nukem 3D engine. “Quest for Saddam” featured ethnic stereotypes, crude ethnic slurs, and “humor” characteristic of those who find Ann Coulter funny. The developer, Jesse Petrilla went on to found the “United American Committee,” which is most famous for hanging Osama bin Laden in effigy outside a mosque in Culver City, California.Wafaa Bilal as “Virtual Jihadi.”

This game should have faded into obscurity, except that a group called the “Global Islamic Media Front” transformed “Quest for Saddam” into “Quest for Bush” by replacing all the textures. Press coverage immediately slammed “Quest for Bush” as an Al Qaeda recruiting tool, while generally ignoring the content of the original “Quest for Saddam.”

Gameology has more information in a well researched article on both “Quest for Saddam” and “Quest for Bush,” as well as this line:

“Creating a game that repeatedly portrays the killing of a specific individual or ideology and then distributing that game in a context that sincerely advocates the killing of that individual or ideology precludes any claims about that game’s facetiousness.”

That line should be plastered above the door of every FPS shooter game development company as a litmus test.

Bilal’s new art installation takes the game and hacks it to create “The Night of Bush Capturing: A Virtual Jihadi.” Through the game, which will be revealed this Wednesday night, March 5th, 2008 at Rensselaer, Bilal casts himself as a suicide-bomber.

Here’s a description, from RPI’s Arts Department:

After learning of the real-life death of his brother in the war, he is recruited by Al Qaeda to join the hunt for Bush. This work is meant to bring attention to the vulnerability of Iraqi civilians to the travesties of the current war and racist generalizations and stereotypes as exhibited in games such as Quest for Saddam; along with vulnerability to recruitment by violent groups like Al Qaeda because of the U.S.’s failed strategy in securing Iraq. The work also aims to shed light on groups that traffic in crass and hateful stereotypes of Arab culture with games like Quest for Saddam and other media.

I’ll admit that even I wasn’t comfortable with the medium and thought that the message might be lost in the controversy over Bilal casting himself as would-be assassin in work of interactive fiction. Still, I sat down for a phone interview with Wafaa Bilal about the project – and its decidedly controversial nature.

I’m still not sure if I’m comfortable with the work, but at least I know more about the thought process that went into it.

You can find that interview below.

Brian Boyko, GAS/NPD: So, last time we talked you were in a room with a paintball gun pointed at you. What’s happened since then?

WAFAA BILAL: Well, what’s happened since then, I mean, I’m still under – I’m going through – after I left the room, it’s just – it had a huge mental impact on me. On a daily basis, I’m suffering from post-traumatic [disorder] syndrome – a lack of sleep even seven months later, I can’t sleep without taking sleep medication.

GAS/NPD: I’m sorry to hear that. Still seven months later?

BILAL: Yeah, it’s more than seven – it’s about nine months – and still impacted with vivid nightmares, so, yeah, haunted on a daily basis. But the worst is literally lack of sleep… without medication I would not be able to sleep at all.

Yeah, so since then, it’s been really – I never was really able to recover, and resisting the idea of getting some counseling for it, just because I think that part of the project is the aftermath of it. Since that’s what American soldiers are going to go through when they come back. And I wanted to experience this – I wanted to go through it so I could talk about it to other people, and I very much describe it as, “We are, in America now, in the eye of the storm. We don’t see the storm yet. And we’re only going to see it when the soldiers come back.”

I’ve been also writing about the project, and there is a book coming out in the fall, called “Shoot an Iraqi: Life, Art, Resisting, Under the Gun.”

GAS/NPD: I never had a chance to apologize to you in person – our [Network Performance Daily’s] coverage of that ended up on Digg and that made your life a little bit worse…

BILAL: Oh, Brian, you shouldn’t apologize. You – I wanted to thank you for all your writing and feedback because I think that’s what we need – is to expose these issues, and there’s no exposure unless we engage, and I think your writing is incredible and brought so much attention to the project – so that’s one of the objectives here – to engage people.

GAS/NPD: So could you tell me a little bit about the new project you wrote me about?

BILAL: Well, the new project is called “The Night of Bush Capture: Virtual Jihadi.” And what happens – well, a person named Jesse Petrilla wrote a program called “Quest for Saddam.” (He made one before: “Quest for Al-Qaeda”) So, in 2003, he released this game. I’ve seen the game, and I had played through it, and it enforces stereotypes of Iraqis as very much similar terrorists, and you could hunt them, and they only speak one word. So, nobody made any big deal of it, but then, the Islamic Media Group, associated with Al Qaeda, took the game, and reskinned it. They didn’t change any of the code, but they just replaced the skins of the Iraqis, which, by the way, they all look alike, they all say one word, which is absolute nonsense.

So, then after Al Qaeda took the game and switched it around by changing the skins – changing Saddam’s skin to President Bush’s skin, the game was labeled “a terrorist recruiting game.” It was a huge deal two years ago, and so now, I wanted to bring attention to the duology of treatment, to hypocrisy and to games that are used as recruitment tools. That’s one side. The other side – I wanted to show the vulnerability of Iraqis becoming involved in Al Qaeda, because there’s no protection in Iraq, and they switch allegiances according to power switches on the ground.

BILAL: We see this even in our [American] inner cities, in gangs, when police don’t protect the people – the people ally with the gang members in that community. I wanted to show the effect on the Iraqi people through this game. I insert my life story as a teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I’m happy here until I hear the news of the death of my brother and the death of my father, and through the game, Al Qaeda recruits me, and I become a suicide bomber, and attack President Bush.

GAS/NPD: Did your brother actually die, in Iraq?

BILAL: Yes, that’s how the idea of the paintball project came to life, because he was killed in my hometown of Kufa by a drone plane. And I watched the news after a year after his death, and a soldier in Colorado controlling these planes and dropping missiles in Iraq and when they asked her whether she had any remorse over people’s lives, she said “no,” because “these people are bad people, and I have complete trust in my government.”

GAS/NPD: What do you think people would be taking away from “Virtual Jihadi?”

BILAL: Well, I think it casts a light on violence in video games, also bringing attention to the Iraq issues – things we see being slowly pushed aside. And it casts a light on the vulnerability of the Iraqis, suffering on a daily basis.

GAS/NPD: How did you change the game? Did you just change the textures?

BILAL: No. That’s part of it. I didn’t just change the texture, I created a character, animated and scripted, and at the end of the game you could recruit the character of the first shooter, and he would blow himself up next to a Bush character. It’s hacking the game.

GAS/NPD: Why did you use “Quest for Saddam” instead of “Battlefield 2” which also deals with war in Iraq and is better known?

BILAL: That’s a really good question, because this is about a specific game. And it’s been switched a few times. When I learned about [Quest for Saddam] I thought to myself: “That’s a silly game.” Hunting for Saddam, right? But then I want to the Web site of the “United American Committee” [who made the Quest for Saddam game] – and it’s very disturbing. There’s a link called “Jihad chat” – a look at it will show how disturbing these people are. [Ed: No link will be provided to the United American Committee site due to the nature of the content.]

GAS/NPD: But speaking of disturbing – a lot of people would say that – that casting essentially yourself, or a likeness of yourself in a game where your objective is to blow up the President – a lot of people would say that crosses a moral line.

BILAL: I don’t know if it crosses a moral line, because it’s still virtual, right? So, if games like “Call of Duty” or other games are fine, why should this be any different? When Jesse [Petrilla] made the game to go after Saddam, that’s also crossing the line, so what’s the difference?

GAS/NPD: Well, I think that’s an important point, but it seems to be like a burning in effigy. And perhaps, if this was crossing the line to make the “Quest for Saddam” game – I have to ask, is this not lowering to their level?

BILAL: No… I think it’s a strategy of engagement. I don’t see it as crossing the line at all – but rather calling attention to something really disturbing, this game and the Web site, and the rhetoric as well.

GAS/NPD: Video games are a newer medium, but this isn’t the first example of political subjects being addressed in video games. Do you think we’ll see more of that as the media matures?

BILAL: Yeah. I absolutely agree with you. We’re going to see more and more of games as a tool to capitalize on political issues, and as people, and the medium, become more sophisticated, we’re going to see more and more of this.

GAS/NPD: I remember before the 2004 election, there was this game called “Bushgame.com” which also had – at the end, you fought your way through Republicans and eventually beat George W. Bush – but that was two dimensional game play, where you’re playing these silly characters like a fat He-Man and John Kerry as Voltron, and basically – your game, doesn’t to me, (and I may be wrong,) sound like parody. Do you think that there is a line there – that there’s something to be said there?

BILAL: I think the way we see it – we’re leaving a comfort zone, when stereotyping “the other” is normal, but when the stereotype goes against our beliefs and our education– What Islamic Media Group did was simply change the skins – and all of a sudden it becomes “a recruiting tool.” But when Quest for Saddam was released, it was “fine.” I’m not trying to push buttons so much as call attention to it. It might look like it’s a parallel to the other games, but whatever strategy that you take overall to it – it’s still a peaceful approach…

GAS/NPD: Because it’s not real.

BILAL: Exactly. I mean, that’s the same argument that people use in the games like military games that are out – it’s not recruitment games, it’s very harmless, right?

GAS/NPD: Well, I think the big difference is that when you’re playing something like Battlefield 2, you’re playing a nameless soldier versus a nameless enemy. Here [in "Virtual Jihadi"] you’re playing as a named, real person, against another named, real person – you [Wafaa Bilal] versus the President. Does the humanization make it taboo?

BILAL: It’s very possible. We see that more and more these days. When you go to Second Life, we play our fantasies, so we cast ourselves as people who live in a virtual world, but there are all indications for real life. So this is very similar. More and more virtual work– it is going to be dynamic and sometimes reflect reality, and sometimes placing itself in real-time.

GAS/NPD: Do you think that a lot of this has to do with the idea that video games immerse you in a way that video and text cant?

BILAL: Oh, totally. Overall, we are engaged by them because we are enacting fantasies. We can participate in them – whether the game has an ability to change its direction, such as Second Life, where you can be a participant and change the narrative, and sometimes we involve in a mental interaction when we play an [FPS] shooter or other games, so there’s a level of engagement beyond video and writing because video and writing are passive media. Games are more active. You’re a member of the cast of the narrative.

GAS/NPD: Do you think the development of games as political speech – does that really coincide with the advent of ubiquitous broadband?

BILAL: Yeah, I mean I’m very positive that at some point, we’re going to see more [political] games online than we do right now. This is just the beginning of it, but we will see more political and aggressive games in this direction.

GAS/NPD: I do have to ask you this – you’ve mentioned a couple of times the idea of games as wish fulfillment or fantasy fulfillment. And in this game [Virtual Jihadi] – you have a character who looks like you, who has your name, who, for all purposes, is you. And his main goal is to attack the President. Is that your fantasy?

BILAL: No, it’s not. It’s a [communications] strategy – that’s it. You know from my old art project that I’m a very peaceful person, that I advocate all the time for nonviolent resistance, and I see this as nonviolent resistance as well.





56 Responses to Interview: Wafaa Bilal casts himself as terrorist in Virtual Jihadi

  1. The ignorance and delusion of the average American never ceases to amaze me.
    It’s ART. It isn’t some terorist recruiting tool. Your country is in the shit up to its eyeballs again and as time goes on, more fingers are being pointed everywhere else except in the mirror.

  2. “Good idea. If I see another film or game glorifying the American army, I think I might just bust a nut in anger.”

    – Then you must not like playing shooters very much, considering that outside of games that glorify the U.S. Military, there isnt alot of subject matter out there left, other than the tired “One man against the world” scenarios over and over.

    But if you want Battlefield type combat, you draw your material from the real world examples.. and sadly, other than the British or AMerican military, there are no other real players on the world stage WORTH emulating in video games. Americans fight at least for NOBLE causes, even if there are questions about the methods or the direction: WHo thinks that fighting terrorism is a BAD thing? Sure maybe the way we are going about it is up for debate, but honestly, who disagrees that terrorists are bad guys who need to be fought tooth and nail and eradicated?

    Americans are also the only military force that is truly fighting in a number of different theaters, as opposed to just one region. Sure, you could make a game about being in the IDF or Hezbollah or a Rwandan Army soldier.. but seriously, who wants to play a game where you use substandard outdated military equipment with poor squad communication, and where your entire fight is literally a guerilla campaign in the same city or region day after day year after year? After about the 15 ‘desert level’, most gamers will be LONG gone to play COD4, which by the way is one of the greatest shooters ever made, regardless of your feelings of the U.S. military, which incidentally is also the most advanced military in the world.
    I dont see the Taliban calling in air strikes or using drones to identify enemy combatants.

    It reminds me of how when i was a kid, i actually preferred to get Cobra toys instead of GI Joe.. why? Because sure, GI joe was the GOOD GUY, but COBRA had all the bad ass vehicles and figures. GI joe had ‘standard military vehicles’ but Cobra had the armed to the teeth, technologically advanced, far out stuff that just looked cool to play with.

    Of course, one thing i think the FPS genre can do with is a bit of fresh material in other genres. The WWII thing has been done LITERALLY to death, and futuristic/sci fi games are hit and miss because sometimes the weapons just dont really fill that visceral action jones.
    But I definately think there are areas that are sorely under explored.. such as the wild west, the vietnam era, and even World War I, the Civil War.. although the last two are not popular choices because one shot guns and trench warfare isnt exactly a recipe for thumb-blazing action.

    As for Waffa, i dont see anything wrong with his game. I’m not quite sure i’d call it ART, because there really isnt any ART involved.. just a political statement. The game isnt revolutionary or ground-breaking and outside of what looks like amazingly boring and broken game-play, the only reason this game would even been noticed is because of the highly offensive nature of the content. There is no lesson here, no philosophical thoughts, no message for peace or the betterment of mankind, no new concepts, nothing but a malicious fantasy of killing an effigy of a real man because you disagree with him. Would anyone buy this game? Probably not. Is it worth the publicity it’s going to get because of the end-game content? No.

    What effect will it have?
    A decidedly negative one.. on the gaming industry. THe only thing this will accomplish will be to bring the eye of the specter back onto video games and the need for regulation of the field.
    As a gamer, that is all the reason i need to denounce this idiot’s game. It’s asshats like this that have people crying to the government because of ‘sexual scenes’ in Mass Effect, or exposed breasts in God of War.

    But at the end of the day, it comes down to this simple thing:

    If you dont like it, dont play it.
    End of discussion.

  3. The ignorance and delusion of the average American never ceases to amaze me.

    It's ART. It isn't some terorist recruiting tool. Your country is in the shit up to its eyeballs again and as time goes on, more fingers are being pointed everywhere else except in the mirror.

  4. "Good idea. If I see another film or game glorifying the American army, I think I might just bust a nut in anger."

    – Then you must not like playing shooters very much, considering that outside of games that glorify the U.S. Military, there isnt alot of subject matter out there left, other than the tired "One man against the world" scenarios over and over.

    But if you want Battlefield type combat, you draw your material from the real world examples.. and sadly, other than the British or AMerican military, there are no other real players on the world stage WORTH emulating in video games. Americans fight at least for NOBLE causes, even if there are questions about the methods or the direction: WHo thinks that fighting terrorism is a BAD thing? Sure maybe the way we are going about it is up for debate, but honestly, who disagrees that terrorists are bad guys who need to be fought tooth and nail and eradicated?

    Americans are also the only military force that is truly fighting in a number of different theaters, as opposed to just one region. Sure, you could make a game about being in the IDF or Hezbollah or a Rwandan Army soldier.. but seriously, who wants to play a game where you use substandard outdated military equipment with poor squad communication, and where your entire fight is literally a guerilla campaign in the same city or region day after day year after year? After about the 15 'desert level', most gamers will be LONG gone to play COD4, which by the way is one of the greatest shooters ever made, regardless of your feelings of the U.S. military, which incidentally is also the most advanced military in the world.

    I dont see the Taliban calling in air strikes or using drones to identify enemy combatants.

    It reminds me of how when i was a kid, i actually preferred to get Cobra toys instead of GI Joe.. why? Because sure, GI joe was the GOOD GUY, but COBRA had all the bad ass vehicles and figures. GI joe had 'standard military vehicles' but Cobra had the armed to the teeth, technologically advanced, far out stuff that just looked cool to play with.

    Of course, one thing i think the FPS genre can do with is a bit of fresh material in other genres. The WWII thing has been done LITERALLY to death, and futuristic/sci fi games are hit and miss because sometimes the weapons just dont really fill that visceral action jones.

    But I definately think there are areas that are sorely under explored.. such as the wild west, the vietnam era, and even World War I, the Civil War.. although the last two are not popular choices because one shot guns and trench warfare isnt exactly a recipe for thumb-blazing action.

    As for Waffa, i dont see anything wrong with his game. I'm not quite sure i'd call it ART, because there really isnt any ART involved.. just a political statement. The game isnt revolutionary or ground-breaking and outside of what looks like amazingly boring and broken game-play, the only reason this game would even been noticed is because of the highly offensive nature of the content. There is no lesson here, no philosophical thoughts, no message for peace or the betterment of mankind, no new concepts, nothing but a malicious fantasy of killing an effigy of a real man because you disagree with him. Would anyone buy this game? Probably not. Is it worth the publicity it's going to get because of the end-game content? No.

    What effect will it have?

    A decidedly negative one.. on the gaming industry. THe only thing this will accomplish will be to bring the eye of the specter back onto video games and the need for regulation of the field.

    As a gamer, that is all the reason i need to denounce this idiot's game. It's asshats like this that have people crying to the government because of 'sexual scenes' in Mass Effect, or exposed breasts in God of War.

    But at the end of the day, it comes down to this simple thing:

    If you dont like it, dont play it.

    End of discussion.

  5. Sorry to be a bit off subject here, but do you realise your html newsletter is very difficult to read as apostrophes etc are corrupted at the users end.

    Otherwise good stuff.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

  6. Sorry to be a bit off subject here, but do you realise your html newsletter is very difficult to read as apostrophes etc are corrupted at the users end.

    Otherwise good stuff.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

  7. When did GAS turn to political BS?

    UAC is not a hate group. Their site is http://www.unitedamericancommittee.org/

    Its a 501c3 organization, just like Moveon.org

    And liberals love to equate Saddam to Bush like they are the same interchangeable person with the same ideals. They are NOT the same, no matter how your little minds wish it to be. Skinning the game to hunt down a rogue leader of a nation that sponsors terrorists is cool. Reskinning the game to promote jihadism and the deaths of Americans is not cool. Yes, there is a difference.

  8. Iraq: A Hopeless Cause

    It has been far to long and I am sick and tired of our country fighting a war we don’t need. With all the problems in our country, why are we concerning ourselves more with others. It has been 4 1/2 years too long and we need to take action NOW!!!! The Bush Administration needs to take a closer look at their Bible, “remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) While America has been paying attention to every other country, the U.S. has been experiencing economic problems, unemployment, a stalled housing market, and a growing deficit. Every day we fight this war all of those problems listed worsen, and as they worsen our country fails it’s citizens more and more. If we don’t end this war now it will never end. The world is moving to fast for us to waste time on meaningless conflicts.

  9. Iraq: A Hopeless Cause

    It has been far to long and I am sick and tired of our country fighting a war we don't need. With all the problems in our country, why are we concerning ourselves more with others. It has been 4 1/2 years too long and we need to take action NOW!!!! The Bush Administration needs to take a closer look at their Bible, "remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:5) While America has been paying attention to every other country, the U.S. has been experiencing economic problems, unemployment, a stalled housing market, and a growing deficit. Every day we fight this war all of those problems listed worsen, and as they worsen our country fails it's citizens more and more. If we don't end this war now it will never end. The world is moving to fast for us to waste time on meaningless conflicts.

  10. When did GAS turn to political BS?

    UAC is not a hate group. Their site is http://www.unitedamericancommittee.org/

    Its a 501c3 organization, just like Moveon.org

    And liberals love to equate Saddam to Bush like they are the same interchangeable person with the same ideals. They are NOT the same, no matter how your little minds wish it to be. Skinning the game to hunt down a rogue leader of a nation that sponsors terrorists is cool. Reskinning the game to promote jihadism and the deaths of Americans is not cool. Yes, there is a difference.

  11. Re: Belchspeak

    First, congratulations. The Internet is one of the few places where we can choose how people see ourselves by choosing our own names; the one you have chosen speaks volumes about you.

    Whether or not UAC is registered as a 501c3 organization or not is irrelevant to whether they are a hate group. That judgment is determined by what they say and what they do.

    Saddam and Bush are not the same people, nor did we make any claim that he was. Indeed, part of the art project, if you read the article, is pointing out that they are not.

    (I will put aside for the moment the few aspects – detention without trial, use of torture, wars of aggression, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths – in which they are frighteningly similar.)

    You stated: “Skinning the game to hunt down a rogue leader of a nation that sponsors terrorists is cool. Reskinning the game to promote jihadism and the deaths of Americans is not cool. Yes, there is a difference.”

    I think Bilal’s point is that both are “not cool” – that both are dehumanizing “the other” and that by overtly humanizing the protagonist and antagonist in video games, it makes people uncomfortable. But that point may be lost on you.

  12. Boyko, right out of the chute with a dig at my handle, eh? Cute! Your kind seems to hate George W Bush pretty badly, does that make you a hate group? Just because you disagree with a position, you are not allowed to label it as hate, Boyko, and by labeling them as such, you have allowed your bias to shine through on your article.

    What you call detention without trial I call internment of terrorists. There has been no proven torture under US law, and I question your sources as to the number of civilian casualties in Iraq, which was not the fault of the US invasion, but of Iraq not living up to UN mandates and laws. Just because liberals like you fail to prove your whining cases in a court of law doesn’t mean you can label those that disagree with you as hateful. You should grow up.

    You also seem to really like art that is politically motivated. Here is my art piece, and I welcome your donation: I have a self-flushing Koran. I want it to be powered by a green source, but I couldn’t find one so I salvaged the unspent carbon credits of Wafaa Bilal’s dead brother to power it. See how artistic I am? Think I could get taxpayer funding? Or should the government only fund art that libs like you like?

    My art makes people uncomfortable. But I think that point will be lost on you.

    • I don’t think anything I could possibly say here could illustrate my point more eloquently than what you’ve just written.

      — Brian

      • Yeah, because strapping bombs on yourself going on jihad to kill the POTUS isn’t offensive to anyone, right?

        Have you seen the rest of Bilal’s so-called “art?” It sucks. It has no artistic merit. He can try to justify it with lots of cerebral language about its purpose and its impact on society.

        Would my art as described be any different? What about Piss Christ? Are only christians and conservatives allowed to be upset by artistic portrayals?

        And if it helps you, my Koran is a “virtual” self flushing one. Just like Bilal’s “virtual” jihad. Feel better?

        • Here is my in-person interview with former prime minister of New Zealand Sir Geoffrey Palmer, conducted in Wellington, New Zealand. (Yes, he was knighted by the Queen of England.)

          http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-10046837

          He's just one of three former prime ministers, and one of 20 political leaders I interviewed as part of my documentary on New Zealand's political system. I've released the entire archive of raw footage to the Web for educational and historical purposes.

          I'm making the documentary to try to start a movement to improve America's political system so that more Americans – even Americans I disagree with, politically, can have representations and a fair say in how the government is run.

          What have -you- done lately for what you believe in?

        • more Americans – even Americans I disagree with, politically, can have representations and a fair say in how the government is run.

          Even the ones you disagree with? Like its up to you or something? How are you going to give more Americans representation? Allow the dead and the under-18 to vote?

          Heh. At least when I take on a project I don’t set a goal of failure. Is that why you hate America? Because you fail?

        • Actually, America uses in every congressional district and Senate race a “Winner Take All” system.

          This system excludes those who do not believe they are represented by either of the major parties (Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists, Right-wingers, etc.) because it only enters into a stable equilibrium when there are two major parties. Because there is little competition, there is more corruption.

          Moving to a multiparty system, like the one in New Zealand, based on proportional representation, rather than the Winner Take All system, would allow for more people to be represented. Because there would be similar parties under this system, and coalitions would need to be formed, no one has to settle for the lesser of two evils, or cast a vote for a “spoiler” candidate. In New Zealand, this has resulted in viable Green and Libertarian/free-market parties (though the Libertarian party there is called “Association of Consumers and Taxpayers”) There have also been various Evangelical Christian parties, but they’ve never been able to pass the 5% threshold of votes needed to get Parliamentary representation.

          As I said, even though I’d mildly disagree with the free-market Libertarians and strongly disagree with an Evangelical party, I still think that they should be represented.

          And if a major-party supporter didn’t like the candidates your chosen party was putting up in a particular year, you could vote for similar alternatives just slightly to the left or the right, depending on your mood. A Labour supporter in New Zealand, might vote for the Green Party if they feel Labour’s leadership was too conservative, or the United Future party if they felt Labour’s leadership was too liberal.

          Finally, a proportional representation system means that every vote counts, and every vote counts equally. Right now, only the votes in “swing states” determine elections, and a 50%+1 victory counts as much as a 100% victory. If you’re 50%+2, you needn’t have bothered to vote at all. In a proportional representation system, the margin of victory is important, as each party gets representation proportional to the percentage of the vote they get. This can be seen in America’s low turnout rate (around 25% of eligible voters, I think?) compared to New Zealand’s high turnout rate (around 80%) – because New Zealanders know that their vote will make a difference in the representation of Parliament.

          It may not be the best system for America, but with the problems we have in corruption in the two party system, I think it’s something that should be evaluated.

          The project is coming along swimmingly, and even if I stopped here, I’d have created an interesting historical resource for future political scientists and historians. I’d like to do more, but it’s already, by any standards a success.

          Didn’t mean to go off on a tangent there, but you did ask.

  13. Re: Belchspeak

    First, congratulations. The Internet is one of the few places where we can choose how people see ourselves by choosing our own names; the one you have chosen speaks volumes about you.

    Whether or not UAC is registered as a 501c3 organization or not is irrelevant to whether they are a hate group. That judgment is determined by what they say and what they do.

    Saddam and Bush are not the same people, nor did we make any claim that he was. Indeed, part of the art project, if you read the article, is pointing out that they are not.

    (I will put aside for the moment the few aspects – detention without trial, use of torture, wars of aggression, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths – in which they are frighteningly similar.)

    You stated: "Skinning the game to hunt down a rogue leader of a nation that sponsors terrorists is cool. Reskinning the game to promote jihadism and the deaths of Americans is not cool. Yes, there is a difference."

    I think Bilal's point is that both are "not cool" – that both are dehumanizing "the other" and that by overtly humanizing the protagonist and antagonist in video games, it makes people uncomfortable. But that point may be lost on you.

  14. Boyko, right out of the chute with a dig at my handle, eh? Cute! Your kind seems to hate George W Bush pretty badly, does that make you a hate group? Just because you disagree with a position, you are not allowed to label it as hate, Boyko, and by labeling them as such, you have allowed your bias to shine through on your article.

    What you call detention without trial I call internment of terrorists. There has been no proven torture under US law, and I question your sources as to the number of civilian casualties in Iraq, which was not the fault of the US invasion, but of Iraq not living up to UN mandates and laws. Just because liberals like you fail to prove your whining cases in a court of law doesn't mean you can label those that disagree with you as hateful. You should grow up.

    You also seem to really like art that is politically motivated. Here is my art piece, and I welcome your donation: I have a self-flushing Koran. I want it to be powered by a green source, but I couldn't find one so I salvaged the unspent carbon credits of Wafaa Bilal's dead brother to power it. See how artistic I am? Think I could get taxpayer funding? Or should the government only fund art that libs like you like?

    My art makes people uncomfortable. But I think that point will be lost on you.

    • I don't think anything I could possibly say here could illustrate my point more eloquently than what you've just written.

      — Brian

        • Here is my in-person interview with former prime minister of New Zealand Sir Geoffrey Palmer, conducted in Wellington, New Zealand. (Yes, he was knighted by the Queen of England.)

          http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-10046837

          He's just one of three former prime ministers, and one of 20 political leaders I interviewed as part of my documentary on New Zealand's political system. I've released the entire archive of raw footage to the Web for educational and historical purposes.

          I'm making the documentary to try to start a movement to improve America's political system so that more Americans – even Americans I disagree with, politically, can have representations and a fair say in how the government is run.

          What have -you- done lately for what you believe in?

        • more Americans – even Americans I disagree with, politically, can have representations and a fair say in how the government is run.

          Even the ones you disagree with? Like its up to you or something? How are you going to give more Americans representation? Allow the dead and the under-18 to vote?

          Heh. At least when I take on a project I don't set a goal of failure. Is that why you hate America? Because you fail?

        • Actually, America uses in every congressional district and Senate race a "Winner Take All" system.

          This system excludes those who do not believe they are represented by either of the major parties (Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists, Right-wingers, etc.) because it only enters into a stable equilibrium when there are two major parties. Because there is little competition, there is more corruption.

          Moving to a multiparty system, like the one in New Zealand, based on proportional representation, rather than the Winner Take All system, would allow for more people to be represented. Because there would be similar parties under this system, and coalitions would need to be formed, no one has to settle for the lesser of two evils, or cast a vote for a "spoiler" candidate. In New Zealand, this has resulted in viable Green and Libertarian/free-market parties (though the Libertarian party there is called "Association of Consumers and Taxpayers") There have also been various Evangelical Christian parties, but they've never been able to pass the 5% threshold of votes needed to get Parliamentary representation.

          As I said, even though I'd mildly disagree with the free-market Libertarians and strongly disagree with an Evangelical party, I still think that they should be represented.

          And if a major-party supporter didn't like the candidates your chosen party was putting up in a particular year, you could vote for similar alternatives just slightly to the left or the right, depending on your mood. A Labour supporter in New Zealand, might vote for the Green Party if they feel Labour's leadership was too conservative, or the United Future party if they felt Labour's leadership was too liberal.

          Finally, a proportional representation system means that every vote counts, and every vote counts equally. Right now, only the votes in "swing states" determine elections, and a 50%+1 victory counts as much as a 100% victory. If you're 50%+2, you needn't have bothered to vote at all. In a proportional representation system, the margin of victory is important, as each party gets representation proportional to the percentage of the vote they get. This can be seen in America's low turnout rate (around 25% of eligible voters, I think?) compared to New Zealand's high turnout rate (around 80%) – because New Zealanders know that their vote will make a difference in the representation of Parliament.

          It may not be the best system for America, but with the problems we have in corruption in the two party system, I think it's something that should be evaluated.

          The project is coming along swimmingly, and even if I stopped here, I'd have created an interesting historical resource for future political scientists and historians. I'd like to do more, but it's already, by any standards a success.

          Didn't mean to go off on a tangent there, but you did ask.

      • Yeah, because strapping bombs on yourself going on jihad to kill the POTUS isn't offensive to anyone, right?

        Have you seen the rest of Bilal's so-called "art?" It sucks. It has no artistic merit. He can try to justify it with lots of cerebral language about its purpose and its impact on society.

        Would my art as described be any different? What about Piss Christ? Are only christians and conservatives allowed to be upset by artistic portrayals?

        And if it helps you, my Koran is a "virtual" self flushing one. Just like Bilal's "virtual" jihad. Feel better?

  15. Wow, for someone who hates the country so bad, its awful nice of you to try to saddle the US with an unworkable political solution before you haul ass to Canada or Timbuktu or where ever it is you want to flee too.

    So can the political parties be split among racial lines? How about by income level? Would that be fair, or are you going to enforce some other utopian split based on your elitist failed idealism? Of course your system wouldn’t allow parties based on race or income, so you would force people into some political party or your own design.

    Its interesting to note that this is the second time in this thread you have used a blanket accusation to accuse a group of corruption. First it was the Bush administration committing war crimes and now, each party in our two party system are corrupt? Again, you have no proof.

    And instead of fixing whatever corruption you imagine, you wish for 9 new political parties to show up on shiny blue unicorns which will of course be corruption free? Oh and it will also only split the parties that aren’t die-hard leftists, so while you imagine everyone finally having a “say” in government, they don’t get any of the power. They will be ruled by the Stalinist left. Problem solved! NOT.

    Nice of you to create this video political encyclopedia of FAIL Brian. Put it on the shelf with Mao’s little red book and Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

    And thanks for proving that you have a political bias to your posts.

    • The system I described works in real life, not just theory, and in fact, is the system used in Israel, which even you would have to concede is not exactly a hotbed of leftist, peacenik stalinism.

      I’d refute your other points but to be honest, you’ve kinda descended into self-parody.

  16. Wow, for someone who hates the country so bad, its awful nice of you to try to saddle the US with an unworkable political solution before you haul ass to Canada or Timbuktu or where ever it is you want to flee too.

    So can the political parties be split among racial lines? How about by income level? Would that be fair, or are you going to enforce some other utopian split based on your elitist failed idealism? Of course your system wouldn't allow parties based on race or income, so you would force people into some political party or your own design.

    Its interesting to note that this is the second time in this thread you have used a blanket accusation to accuse a group of corruption. First it was the Bush administration committing war crimes and now, each party in our two party system are corrupt? Again, you have no proof.

    And instead of fixing whatever corruption you imagine, you wish for 9 new political parties to show up on shiny blue unicorns which will of course be corruption free? Oh and it will also only split the parties that aren't die-hard leftists, so while you imagine everyone finally having a "say" in government, they don't get any of the power. They will be ruled by the Stalinist left. Problem solved! NOT.

    Nice of you to create this video political encyclopedia of FAIL Brian. Put it on the shelf with Mao's little red book and Marx's Communist Manifesto.

    And thanks for proving that you have a political bias to your posts.

    • The system I described works in real life, not just theory, and in fact, is the system used in Israel, which even you would have to concede is not exactly a hotbed of leftist, peacenik stalinism.

      I'd refute your other points but to be honest, you've kinda descended into self-parody.

  17. As of 5:18PM today, the remainder of Wafaa Bilal’s art exhibit at RPI has been canceled, pending investigation into whether or not Bilal’s art falls in line with RPI’s system of morals and values.

  18. As of 5:18PM today, the remainder of Wafaa Bilal's art exhibit at RPI has been canceled, pending investigation into whether or not Bilal's art falls in line with RPI's system of morals and values.

  19. Ironic that an Iraq artist who was arrested multiple times for criticizing Saddam through his artwork is now facing the same censorship for criticizing Bush. At least he hasn’t been arrested (yet) but the Times Union reports that the FBI has been involved locally.

  20. No, I think he’s facing “censorship” for using a product of a terrorist group and making death threats against a sitting president, not for any criticism. There’s a difference.

    That and his art has hardly any artistic merit.
    But as far as political art against Saddam and now against Bush? Most attention whores are 16-year-old girls, not balding middle-easterners.

  21. Ironic that an Iraq artist who was arrested multiple times for criticizing Saddam through his artwork is now facing the same censorship for criticizing Bush. At least he hasn't been arrested (yet) but the Times Union reports that the FBI has been involved locally.

  22. No, I think he's facing "censorship" for using a product of a terrorist group and making death threats against a sitting president, not for any criticism. There's a difference.

    That and his art has hardly any artistic merit.

    But as far as political art against Saddam and now against Bush? Most attention whores are 16-year-old girls, not balding middle-easterners.

  23. The “product of a terrorist group” is an American-made game about killing Saddam Hussein. The “terrorists” altered the image of Saddam in the game to look like Bush. The “death threats” exist only in the fevered imaginations of College Republicans.

    Professor Bilal went to prison – in Saddam’s Iraq – for cultural criticism, and its tragic that the same kind of political retribution could be instigated by chickenshit College Republicans here in the Land of the Free.

  24. The "product of a terrorist group" is an American-made game about killing Saddam Hussein. The "terrorists" altered the image of Saddam in the game to look like Bush. The "death threats" exist only in the fevered imaginations of College Republicans.

    Professor Bilal went to prison – in Saddam's Iraq – for cultural criticism, and its tragic that the same kind of political retribution could be instigated by chickenshit College Republicans here in the Land of the Free.

  25. Its hilarious how leftists just don’t understand laws or don’t think laws apply to them. You can blame republicans, devils, gremlins, obama fever, or whatever other imaginary opponent you want for Bilal breaking laws regarding death threats against the president.

    Bilal chose his own rabble-rousing lifestyle. What you call “tragic” I call just desserts.

  26. Its hilarious how leftists just don't understand laws or don't think laws apply to them. You can blame republicans, devils, gremlins, obama fever, or whatever other imaginary opponent you want for Bilal breaking laws regarding death threats against the president.

    Bilal chose his own rabble-rousing lifestyle. What you call "tragic" I call just desserts.

  27. Forget it, RPI Alum. He’s never going to get it, we’re not going to appeal to his sense of reason. He’s operating on an entirely different set of moral principles based on appeals to authority rather than appeals to reason.

    And BelchSpeak? Take a course in constitutional law.

  28. Forget it, RPI Alum. He's never going to get it, we're not going to appeal to his sense of reason. He's operating on an entirely different set of moral principles based on appeals to authority rather than appeals to reason.

    And BelchSpeak? Take a course in constitutional law.

  29. Pingback: Virtual Jihadi « Digital Journal: Performing the Problematic

  30. i cannot believe i just read that entire thread. it is pretty clear from the posts, but belcher… you are an asshole. thats not a politically motivated statement, just a simple observation. i feel sorry for you and people who are forced to deal with you in the real world. you make me sad. i didnt plan on commenting, but felt compelled by the end.

  31. i cannot believe i just read that entire thread. it is pretty clear from the posts, but belcher… you are an asshole. thats not a politically motivated statement, just a simple observation. i feel sorry for you and people who are forced to deal with you in the real world. you make me sad. i didnt plan on commenting, but felt compelled by the end.

  32. @BelchSpeak – Just checking: is an Unreal mod of some high school with models including teachers and students a threat against the school? By extension, is a student playing a Columbine (or NIU or VTech) simulator threatening students?

    I ask because with what little I can assertain about the playability of the game, it seems to be quite crude (the predicessor games would never have been played if their content were not controversial). I have not played Virtual Jihad. Can a poor execution be an explicit threat? I bring up the school simulations because there are those who want to label all game violence as evil while I think violence can serve a purpose in a work of art.

    Yep, I used the “A” word. Not sure this game _is_ art; I am sure I am not the person to decide. I am an avowed libertarian: keep the government the hell out of that sort of decision. Let RPI make whatever decision they need to make (private institution worried about their reputation) but recognize that their buckling before pressure from forces against freedom of expression sets a bad precident.

    The “building inspection” that closed the gallery that was displaying the game is another story. There a politician misused his power to silence speech with which he disagreed. Note that while you point at Federal law, the FBI has refused to confirm (or deny) their interest in Wafaa. It is not the place of a local building inspector (or public works director or whatever) to shut down an art exibition because he doesn’t agree with the content. The Secret Service and DHS seem quite capable of evaluating the threat posed by this game.

  33. @BelchSpeak – Just checking: is an Unreal mod of some high school with models including teachers and students a threat against the school? By extension, is a student playing a Columbine (or NIU or VTech) simulator threatening students?

    I ask because with what little I can assertain about the playability of the game, it seems to be quite crude (the predicessor games would never have been played if their content were not controversial). I have not played Virtual Jihad. Can a poor execution be an explicit threat? I bring up the school simulations because there are those who want to label all game violence as evil while I think violence can serve a purpose in a work of art.

    Yep, I used the "A" word. Not sure this game _is_ art; I am sure I am not the person to decide. I am an avowed libertarian: keep the government the hell out of that sort of decision. Let RPI make whatever decision they need to make (private institution worried about their reputation) but recognize that their buckling before pressure from forces against freedom of expression sets a bad precident.

    The "building inspection" that closed the gallery that was displaying the game is another story. There a politician misused his power to silence speech with which he disagreed. Note that while you point at Federal law, the FBI has refused to confirm (or deny) their interest in Wafaa. It is not the place of a local building inspector (or public works director or whatever) to shut down an art exibition because he doesn't agree with the content. The Secret Service and DHS seem quite capable of evaluating the threat posed by this game.

  34. Pingback: The Last Thing I Will Say About Boys Games (maybe) « Eruditio Formidonis