This may come across as a somewhat strange post but bear with me.
Benghazi was a terrible tragedy which, though small in scope, has nonetheless become a significant event. Our Libyan involvement was the result of a direct decision by the Obama administration to allow military intervention in an internal conflict in order to protect civilian lives; a noble decision and one which I understand, even if I perhaps didn’t completely support it. However, the State Department’s decision to put a poorly defended and poorly supported temporary mission there as a step toward establishing a more permanent presence was poorly thought out and politically motivated. The result was the deaths of several Americans (including a high profile EVE Online player) to a brutal terrorist attack. In retrospect it’s hard to blame the terrorists for picking off such an incredibly easy target. Though unlikely that rapid military assistance could have saved all the lives, certainly a quick response could have possibly saved some and would have at least sent a strong message. Instead the poorly positioned forces standing by to launch a rescue were told to stand down.
Once the dust settled, the State Department could have come clean, owned their mistake, fired a few folks, and put a lid on the whole thing. However, it was election season and at the time Obama’s re-election was not entirely a sure thing, not to mention the possible future impact on a 2016 Hilary Clinton campaign. So instead the State Department, with apparently the complete collusion of the Obama administration, launched a nasty cover-up. Folks asking questions were quietly re-assigned, an internal and carefully controlled investigation was carried out with the results never seeing daylight, and the State Department went out of its way to declare on national television multiple times that the attack was part of a spontaneous, overwhelming protest rather than a true terrorist attack, even though this was already known to be patently false.
But what has been truly incredibly to watch has been the degree to which the press (and by the press I am referring to the large majority of the mainstream news organizations) has supported the administration’s stance by minimizing coverage of Benghazi and, as more information has come out, to ensure that it was downplayed as minor and unimportant. I don’t think any president in American history has enjoyed such utterly incredible collaboration with the mainstream press, and this has been especially clear in the last month or so with multiple major scandals being downplayed to the maximum extent possible. It’s shocking to try to imagine how different the press coverage would be if it had been Bush in office. Their most powerful impact has simply been to keep Benghazi out of the headlines as much as possible and, when covering it, to use carefully crafted headlines and articles to control the message and minimize damage to the President’s and the Secretary of State’s image. Silence is perhaps the most powerful weapon of all, and its only accomplished by control or collusion of enough of the media to create the appearance of nearly unanimous conclusion.
The Benghazi story isn’t completely over yet and the recent congressional hearings brought a lot of interesting facts to light, but from what I can tell most Americans either aren’t listening or simply don’t care. As Hilary Clinton now famously said , in a statement that deserves to haunt her for years, “what difference does it make”.
So what the heck does this have to do with SimCity? The SimCity launch debacle was essentially a scandal of sorts; the server problems were bad enough, but what really infuriated may gamers was the fact that EA appeared to be straight-up lying about whether or not the game actually relied on cloud computing for part of the simulation processing. EA, through Maxis, made very clear statements that the game relied on offloading processing to the server. From Kotaku:
SimCity studio boss Lucy Bradshaw told the website Polygon: “With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud.” This, she explained, is why an off-line is currently a no-go for her team at Maxis. “It wouldn’t be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.”
This is pretty strong language, and coming from the head of the Maxis Game Studio no less. Then very strong evidence began to surface that this was, in fact, not happening and that the game ran just fine without any connection to the server at all. When pressure began to mount on this issue, EA simply stopped talking about it. RockPaperShotgun has a damning article on their own investigative attempts to get to the bottom of the story and the resistance that they ran in to in the process, as well as some more generalized thoughts on why the media coverage for SimCity worked out the way it did. Definitely read it.
In the meantime SimCity sold 1.6 million copies and EA seems prepared to continue it’s set path of patch updates and DLC without any serious mention of the major problems raised regarding city size or simulation behavior. Without the media to hold it accountable they look to completely get away with lying to their player base in order to deflect criticism of the always-on requirement.
Does anyone else see the similarities between the two stories? I’m not saying you have to agree that Benghazi (or even SimCity for that matter) are really huge scandals in their own right, and I’m certainly not attempting to cover all facets of either story; these sort of things are inherently messy. But it’s chilling what people can get away with when there isn’t proper accountability.