By Dr. Rose A. Dyson

Toronto – Canada






Bizarre Economic Investment




Few rational thinking policy wonks would knowingly advise western governments to invest in fueling terrorism.  Yet that is what is happening in Canada.  On September 6, 2017, Nicolas Van Praet wrote in “The Globe and Mail” that the Governments of Canada, Quebéc and Ontario have collectively given Ubisoft, the Paris-based maker of the “Assassin’s Creed”series of video games, approximately $803 million in subsidies over the past 11 years.  It was described as “economically absurd”, not because such video games are known to assist ISIS in recruitment practices, but because investment should be made in businesses that create wealth in Canada rather than France.  Foreign companies are being paid to drain scarce IT labor which is desperately needed by local companies creating the real wealth in the economy.


Therein lies the conundrum.  What is “real economic wealth”?  Surely electronic entertainment which glorifies violence is not part of it.  Decades of research on the subject points toward harmful effects from popular culture products that normalize violence.  In a world where there is growing emphasis on clean energy for future sustainability, more attention must be paid to what pollutes the cultural as well as the natural environment.  Otherwise we can expect more bellicose, hard-line rhetoric, laced with climate change denial, to dominate the world stage from bully pulpits of authoritarian regimes.


One would think that, given the hand-wringing over home-grown terrorism and how the internet contributes to the problem, by now cybersecurity experts and public safety policy advocates in Canada and elsewhere would be familiar with these findings.  They were documented again by Mark Bourrie, an award-winning military historian who teaches at the University of Ottawa in his book, “The Killing Game: Martyrdom, Murder and the Lure of ISIS”, published in 2016.  Like psychologist and retired U.S. military officer David Grossman, he outlines the ways in which video games mirror the desensitization techniques used in military training.  Grossman has argued that indiscriminately marketing these games as entertainment to young people leads to dangerous and dysfunctional play.  He warns us of the potential impact on the civilian population, and refers to acquired violence immune deficiency syndrome (AVIDS) as a consequence of steady, heavy diets of violent video gaming.  The synergy between the military and the gaming industry is featured in the film “Drones”, released in 2015.  Skills honed in the video game arcade are identified and selectively applied to the levers of war, often resulting in the same PTSD symptoms exhibited by foot soldiers returning from battle.  Indeed in a world increasingly polarized with political debate mired in racism, misogyny and bigotry, violence creep from entertainment media must be seen as a contributing factor.  To ignore the obvious is willful blindness.



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