Hideo Kojima’s Twitter bio reads: “Game Creator: 70% of my body is made of movies.” Creator of the Metal Gear franchise and one of maybe half a dozen game creators who are widely known by name, Kojima is a frustrated filmmaker. His games are infamous for 45-minute cut-scenes, and if produced as a film instead, maybe he'd reach more people. But two hours in a movie theater is a lot different than 30 hours or so at home. Released just months after 9/11, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty ends unresolved, concluding cold with the revelation that the world is run by a dozen dead men resurrected via computers simulation. That might sound like a trite twist in a political thriller, but arriving at that point yourself via a "frivolous" video game looked and felt a lot different than watching a movie version or a "playthrough" of the game.
Among other millennium prophets like David Bowie (whose 1999 conjecture on the future of the internet and music turned out to be spot on), Kojima forecasted “fake news” and “alternative facts” nearly 20 years ago, and the ostensible mission of the Sons of Liberty in the game was to implement a plan to give “context” to the upcoming information overload as a result of abundant internet. It's not paranoid or outlandish to suggest that those in power would prefer that the public fight amongst themselves and expend their energy and anger on each other in counter-productive and self-destructive ways. Looking elsewhere, wrapped up in inanities of the day like Kanye West’s latest album promotion, people are either unaware or impotently upset by the obscene waste of the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program). Business owners who kept staff on payroll out of their own pockets through the pandemic are hung out to dry while Trump, West, Nancy Pelosi, The Daily Caller, Korean Air (?), and the Church of Scientology, among others, profited. They weren’t only bailed out but given bonuses, money they didn’t need but will surely enjoy when they have to find a new mansion to buy (West, along with his wife Kim Kardashian and their two children, are taking advantage of the current buyers’ market: a million dollar mega mansion in Wyoming).
Yesterday, an open letter published by Harper’s and signed by 150 people mostly in the media and academia (including Bari Weiss, Noam Chomsky, Jeet Heer, Martin Amis, Yascha Mounk, Greil Marcus, Margaret Atwood, and of course J.K. Rowling—but also jazz musician Wynton Marsalis) became the main character on Twitter. Academia is a poisonous environment, and diversifying its inhabitants will not make it any more inhabitable. These power struggles claim no gender, race, or identity: it's all ladder climbing and perch posting.
Unfortunately, the infighting of academics effects the real world. What’s wrong with this statement? Tell me: “While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.”
Okay. So what does statement supposed to refer to?
Never is the word “transgender” mentioned or even suggested; it’s complete conjecture by activists and cowards too scared to call bullshit on a group of people just as petty and punitive as the old guard. Known “TERF’s” signed the letter, including Katie Herzog, Jesse Singal, and of course, J.K. Rowling. Lauren L. Walker said, “if you don't know the histories of herzog and singal you don't have to talk.” Okay, what about Chomsky? Was he even aware of what he was putting his name on? Last I checked he was busy cultivating his new “Father Time” look. And of course Salman Rushdie shows up, a mediocre writer who's made a career of being silenced.
Linda Holmes said, “That Harper's letter, to me, is in large part from people who are unhappy that they're not leading the current conversation, addressed to the many other people they believe are also unhappy that they're not leading it.” She added: “A couple clarifications based on things people have asked: Of course, there's not merely one conversation. Of course. What I mean by that is I think some people with institutional roles that traditionally offer authority don't feel like that authority is holding… It's also completely fair to say this, on my part, isn't a response to the body of the letter, which is mostly because I don't think it offers anything new to respond to. I'm more curious about why this was done in this way right now than I am in repeating this discussion.”
The letter is a Rorschach test for individual grievances. Transphobia? It’s in there. Zionism? Oh yeah, it’s in there. The dissonance of a document signed by both David Frum and Noam Chomsky? Well, remember: “it’s 2020.” Still amped from the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in late-May, but still mostly stuck inside because of the virus, an enormous amount of energy is being wasted on micro-disputes and symbolic changes in the absence of “big structural change.” No one misses Elizabeth Warren, do they?
The only correct response to academics and media figures arguing: “oh wow a bunch of journalists and professors wrote an open letter in harpers magazine. i'm gonna start caring about that right away.” What better way to keep the public docile, powerless, and confused than make them hate each other? Some of the signatories on the Harper's letter are very rich; some are even war criminals, but most are as clueless and powerless right now as their opposition. This is exactly something Kojima’s Sons of Liberty would do: "proper context” for “inconvenient truths” to keep the globe spinning. Pat yourself on the back and finish yourself off in the bathroom: you’ve just participated in today’s games of Chutes & Ladders. Remember, in this version, there are no winners—ever.
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @nickyotissmith