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I've been watching a lot of Al Jazeera lately – now that the 24-hour live stream is available on the net – and happened to catch this report about a new video game based on Mexican cartel violence and the Drug War.
Ubisoft's Call of Juarez: The Cartel, is a first-person shooter that follows a gritty Wild West storyline over the backdrop of current-day Juarez, the battle-torn border town where drug gangs command the streets and police and government are helpless to stop the carnage.
The game is already receiving criticism for its graphic depictions of murder and torture, and Mexican officials are worried it will add to Juarez's violent reputation.
Though I am not not a huge fan of violent games or movie gore – indeed, some studies show that violent forms of media can increase hostility in children and adolescents (though others dispute those findings) - shouldn't authorities be less concerned about the city having a violent reputation and more concerned with ending the violence itself?
Getting our shit twisted over something in a video game that might someday cause violence seems ridiculous when considering all the violence happening right this second in real-life Juarez, directly attributable to bad government policies and the ongoing War on Drugs.
El presidente Felipe Calderón's drug war has already cost more than 36,616 lives, and the bodies keep piling up.
If authorities were actually worried about the well-being of children and families instead of their own reputations, they would listen to the experts, who say legalizing and regulating all drugs is the only way to end the ongoing bloodshed.
There are obvious differences, but this reminds me a little of the US government and conservative media criticizing Rolling Stone for printing photos of US soliders torturing and abusing Afghanis, claiming their publication will cause more violence.
It also reminds me the of criticism rap music has endured over the years for its explicit lyrics and ghetto-glorifying imagery.
Like the Rolling Stone photos, the bloody stories depicted in video games and rap songs wouldn't exist if they didn't happen in reality; they are cultural outgrowths of Real Life On The Ground. If you want to change the culture of violence, you have to stop the violence itself.
Shooting the messenger will not hurt your enemy - unless your enemy is The Truth.