October 24, 2012
Throughout Monday night’s final debate between President Obama and hopeful Mitt Romney, viewers watching it on their Xbox 360 consoles were allowed to participate in a live poll. When asked, “Do you support more use of drone aircraft to attack suspected terrorists?,” 72 percent of respondents replied, “Yes.”
Notice the question asks, “Do you support more use,” in regards to sending unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with missiles to bomb suspected terrorists in other countries, not just continuing business as usual killing people at the current pace.
Following the debate, the screen capture above was posted on popular video game blog Kotaku.com under the headline, “Xbox 360 Owners Sure Do Love Drone Strikes.” Of those polled, 20 percent answered “No” and another eight percent were “Not sure.”
The last time a group came forward to claim America needs more drones, it was the CIA.
Xbox Live polling is performed in conjunction with a company called YouGov to provide “cutting-edge interactive television and polling techniques that…will be instrumental in both entertainment and information gathering in the future,” wrote David Rothschild, XBOX head pollster and member of Microsoft Research NYC.
These are not small polls, either. According to Rothschild, an average of 20,000 unique respondents are answering questions over their Xbox consoles per day; over 30,000 Xbox Live users participated in a similar poll during the vice presidential debate on October 11, 2012. Considering this was the last presidential debate before the election, the total polled this time was likely higher.
So how does the Xbox Live polling on America’s drone attacks stack up to other polls?
According to the Pew Research Center, Americans support drone strikes more than citizens in 20 other major countries. Of 1,011 Americans the center polled via landline and cell phone, 62 percent favored Obama’s unmanned drone campaign — the most all other similar samples polled throughout the rest of the world.
However, the Xbox Live poll, which showed greater support for these strikes, had a much larger sample.
This widespread support comes regardless of the well-documented fact that drone strikes have been shown to kill way more innocent civilians than suspected terrorists. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently stated that up to eight out of 10 people killed by drone strikes in his country are innocent, meaning only a mere 20 percent can even be deemed militants. Other estimates show that 50 civilians have to die for every single militant killed in a strike.
Note that the word “militant” is nothing but propaganda considering Obama redefined it to mean “all military-age males in a strike zone.” These people are blanket classified as “militants” even though our government officials may literally know nothing more about them than age and gender.
Also note the phrase “suspected terrorists” is tossed out by our government and mainstream media all the time in addition to it having been used in the Xbox poll. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to be “suspected” of something means one is to be “regarded or deserving to be regarded with suspicion.” Nowhere in that definition does it say “is proven guilty” or “is deserving of being bombed to death.”
The U.S. is currently running regular drone campaigns in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. What’s considered regular? At one point in summer 2011 it was declared that at least one U.S. drone strike hit Yemen per day. According to Pakistani government estimates, 336 drone strikes in Waziristan alone have killed an estimated 2,300 people (figures for the entire nation are even higher). Using Interior Minister Malik’s math would mean 1,840 innocent people have died in Waziristan at the hands of the U.S. government. Other estimates show that 176 children have been killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan since 2004. Only 41 people were ever confirmed as terrorist targets.
There was a time when killing innocent people was considered “murder”; now it’s simply chalked up to “collateral damage” without a second thought. There are no checks and balances. No one is punished for innocent lives lost.
Some of the details of Obama’s so-called “kill list” — the file he uses to determine who deserves drone assassination — were released by The New York Times earlier this year. The article outlined how several Americans were included on the list, as were two teenagers, one of whom is female. It also mentioned that Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama nominated himself to helm the “top secret” process of designating who gets added to the list and who will ultimately receive a drone visit.
Keep in mind all of these people are still “suspected terrorists,” meaning none of them have had any official due process whatsoever. Also keep in mind The New York Times has two interesting habits: sending articles to the White House for preapproval and substantially editing articles the White House disagrees with after post without informing its readers.
It is concerning that Xbox 360 users would be more inclined to support drone strikes, especially since the U.S. military has a history of recruiting gamers to become drone pilots. One 19-year-old high school dropout became a drone pilot instructor based solely on his video gaming skills. Not only that, but many video games today are laced with military propaganda including a burgeoning proliferation of drones, as revealed in this Infowars report Jakari Jackson filed below on Call of Duty: Black Ops II:
In “Portrait of a Drone Killer: I Have a Duty, and I Execute My Duty” featured on Lew Rockwell Blog, one drone jockey is quoted as saying, “It’s like a video game. It can get a little bloodthirtsty. But it’s f***cking cool.”
So “cool” in fact, that many drone pilots are now beginning to show signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s okay though, the Pentagon wants to make it all better by awarding drone pilots Distinguished Warfare Medals.
Have video games desensitized some players to the very real and consequential aspects of murder and death? Is all of the military propaganda and conditioning really that effective?
The results of the Xbox Live poll would certainly suggest they have and they are.
As disconcerting as (if not more so than) the overwhelming support for more morally bankrupt drone strikes expressed in that poll is the responses to Kotaku.com’s posting of the poll screen capture.
While many of the site’s members left disapproving comments emanating a complete distaste for Obama’s murderous, unaccountable drone policies, others came to its defense:
Blasé attitudes and sarcasm aside, it is believed that thousands of innocent people — including women and children — have perished in America’s morally reprehensible drone strike campaign. These people were all killed by somebody sitting at a control panel thousands of miles away, staring at images on a screen. Just as the drone pilot above was quoted as saying, it is in many ways exactly like a video game; the only difference is, when these people die, they don’t respawn.
This is reality. These drone killings are not constitutional acts; they are war crimes even though Congress has never officially declared war in these countries. In fact, two separate court cases involving drone strike deaths fought by Shahzad Akbar of Pakistan’s Foundation for Fundamental Rights may now trigger a formal murder investigation and the issuance of international arrest warrants for two high-ranking CIA officials.
At the last presidential debate, the topic of drones came up briefly, which may have triggered the Xbox Live poll question; unfortunately, it was made abundantly clear that, no matter who wins the election, America’s ruthless drone strike rampage will continue.
If the court does rule in Akbar’s favor, hopefully it will start a trend to help stop this grave injustice.
Nothing about this is justifiable. Nothing.