Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Artificial Intelligence

This story from a few days ago about House Intelligence Committee hearings on the dissemination of alleged terrorist videogames via the Internet just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. One of the games shown to congressmen as evidence of this nefarious trend seems to be Sonic Jihad, which features headscarf-wearing baddies with rocket launchers and lots of roadside tank explosions. The details of an AP News Report, which was reprinted in the New York Times, about the hearings appear to confirm that indeed this is the case. Unfortunately, if you take the time to download Sonic Jihad for yourself, you'll quickly discover that it isn't the work of diabolical insurgent organization. In fact, it was created by a pranksterish gamer from the Planet Battlefield forum.

The difference between actual jihadist Internet materials, like those archived by the SITE Insititute, and edited footage of garden-variety Battlefield 2 mass-market game play should have been obvious to the expert team that supposedly included "25 linguists." What is particularly flabbergasting about the gullibility of legislators is that the video opens with parody material taken from the Team America soundtrack!

At first the story was so unbelievable that those in the blogosphere attributed it to bad reporting by Reuters. But now Watercooler Games has revealed that it's media illiteracy from an entire congressional committee that is to blame.

Apparently, there is more than just a subversive videogame or two to be found on the Internet. The AP coverage of testimony by public diplomacy pitchman includes this incriminating catalogue of rhetorical appeals deployed by the enemy:

According to the briefing, al-Qaida has advertised online to fill jobs for Internet specialists, and its media group has distributed computer games and recruitment videos that use everything from poetry to humor to false information to gather support. The media group has assembled montages of American politicians taking aim at the Arab world.

Certainly, patriotic American citizens are writing poetry, humor, and false information to protest the war. They are even assembling images and sound files from American politicians! Will there be house hearings in favor of investigating their activities as well?

At a time when hegemonic political players are seeking justification for expanded surveillance, faulty evidence regarding Internet intelligence is particularly disturbing. For the past week, I have been requesting the transcripts or further information from Washington D.C. to verify that Congress could have actually done something so profoundly stupid. Wish me luck getting the evidence to see for myself!

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