The latest in the “Call of Duty” franchise transports you to 1981, as your soldier does battle against a Soviet spy on behalf of a war crimes-loving Ronald Reagan.
Know your history…or be doomed to repeat it.
How many times have we seen this sentiment, paraphrasing Spanish philosopher George Santayana? It must be thousands at this point, with a good half of them coming over the past four years. You’d expect it from tweets linking to whatever terrible thing just happened, but not so much in video game advertisements. Yet that’s exactly how the latest entry in the long-running Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops Cold War, introduced itself. “Inspired by true events,” it says, over stock footage of soldiers and protesters and politicians as well as pieces of an interview with Soviet defector Yuri Bezmenov.
Bezmenov’s presence in this trailer caused controversy—as did the company’s decision to remove footage of Tiananmen Square to appease the Chinese government—because of, among other things, his belief that equality among genders, ethnicities, and sexualities is worthless and fights for it are actually just communist plots to destabilize America. Of course, he doesn’t mention that in these interview clips, rather pointing to a potential big government voted in by “all the shmucks” as the next major danger—itself… not great. If that weren’t enough, the interview was conducted by G. Edward Griffin, a long-time member of the John Birch Society who in the years since has embraced 9/11 trutherism and HIV/AIDS denialism. While it’s unlikely that whomever handled the trailer didn’t understand the dog whistle they were sending—celebrated by at least one far-right YouTuber—it’s plausible everyone else was unaware of that context. So, I gave it the benefit of the doubt…until Ronald Reagan showed up onscreen and told me to go do war crimes.