Politics & Media
Jul 18, 2008, 07:47AM

Mario, Donkey Kong, Jihadi?

Virtual Jihadi, a video game that pits players as a dynamite-strapped Iraqi trying to kill President Bush, opened as an art exhibit in New York, was shut down in the first day, and moved to Chicago. Wafaa Bilal, the game's creator, said that the game's purpose was to bring the Iraq War back to the front lines of the American mindset, a goal that was lost in the controversy.

My girlfriend can sit in a room for three hours and listen to her hair grow and not get bored. And while I'm crazy about her and I admire that ability, it's not something I'm anxious (or able) to learn. I'm a cross-bred product of the Ritalin generation and the media meme - in constant need of information intake. So, while I put away four laundry baskets of clothes Tuesday night, I had MSNBC on, mindlessly taking in what was spit out by the Obama Channel (I'll say MSNBC provides balance with Fox News a lot like a baby grand piano would if it were dropped onto a seesaw. If it were dropped onto said seesaw from 15 stories up and the other end of the see-saw had a 4-year-old girl on it). Nestled in between critically life-altering stories about Star Jones' ex-boyfriend's strong heterosexual tendencies (you'd think dating Star Jones would have the opposite effect) and Angelina Jolie giving birth in France (that's where all the cool people have babies, evidently) was a rare piece of interesting news.

An art exhibit in New York offended so many people it was shut down on opening day, and has since moved to Chicago. The art in question wasn't a life-sized statue of Donald Trump's ego or a painting of the pope dropping a deuce. It was a video game.

This wouldn't seem to be anything new. We've dealt with Grand Theft Auto and the like, suffering through infinite debate about the morality of what we do in a fictional situation on a television screen. This game was different, different enough to warrant being booted from one of the most progressive and diverse communities in the world.

The game is called Virtual Jihadi. Its main character is an Iraqi, similar to its Iraqi-born creator, Wafaa Bilal. The hero wears a belt of dynamite around his torso; his ultimate goal to kill President Bush.

So New York is fairly progressive and open-minded. It also has a massive crater where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Is this "art" - obviously meant to stir discussion and generate publicity through its own existence - truly threatening to Bush? Is it free speech, or just disrespectful?


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