The BBC News reports that, on the eve of its long-anticipated release, Sony recalled its latest video game, LittleBigPlanet, from stores worldwide. The problem? After it had been distributed, one of the game’s music tracks was discovered to contain a few lyrical verses that certain consumers may have found offensive.
In today’s world of complex computer programs, patches are the normal means of resolving post-production issues. Software recalls are almost unheard of, especially on a global scale. Indeed, soon after the lyrics were discovered LittleBigPlanet’s developers created a patch which removed the music and could have been made available to consumers who found it offensive. Yet Sony executives ruled against issuing the patch—a far less expensive option. What could have possibly been so offensive as to warrant the massive expense and embarrassment of an international recall, rather than simply offering a patch for those who were offended?
The music track at issue contains Koranic verses and it turns out that in Islam, there is a precept forbidding the singing of such lyrics. Sony’s videogame was hence guilty of inadvertently violating the theological rules of Islam.
But Sony is not a Muslim company, so why would it matter if it failed to follow the rules of Islam? Even if Sony initially created the game with political correctness in mind, one could not justify the cost of the recall from a business perspective. The patch could have resolved the error for any consumer who wished it. And the enormous cost of delaying the release, recalling the games, and distributing new ones would far outweigh the cost of losing a few offended customers (if any) who would only be satisfied with a total recall.
What about the risk of bad press—could that have been Sony’s motivation? Sony executives may not care about Islamic precepts, and most of their customers probably don’t either, but perhaps they were worried that the media would attack them for being insensitive to Islam. Most businesses fear bad press and one could certainly imagine the media jumping all over a case like this, if they thought Sony was deliberately trying to antagonize Muslims. But that wasn’t the case here—this was clearly accidental and the company took immediate action as soon as it came to their attention. If they had apologized and released a patch (instead of recalling the game), not even the most zealous advocates of political correctness could have accused them of Islamaphobia.
Another argument against the bad press interpretation is that Sony has shown a willingness to risk offending the religious before. Last year it released a game deliberately containing a violent scene inside a church, which sparked criticism from Christian leaders—yet Sony did not delay or recall the game. Why would Sony respond so differently to Christian versus Muslim sensibilities? The answer to this question is that we live in a post-Danish Cartoons world—a world in which virtually everyone trembles at even the slightest hint that something might offend Muslims. Through death threats, violent protests, and even murder, radical Muslims attempt to intimidate into silence anyone who impinges the beliefs of Islam, whether deliberately or inadvertently. Today the whole world is walking on eggshells.
Businesses, journalists, and politicians have all taken to cautiously avoiding any statement or action that might offend Muslims. (See this article by Undercurrent author Kelly Cadenas for evidence of this phenomenon on college campuses.) The LittleBigPlanet recall is the latest instance of self-censorship that has resulted from radical Islam’s campaign of intimidation, and is indicative of the extent to which our culture is tacitly deferent to Islam and Islamic values. Afraid of unintentionally igniting the wrath of the Jihadists, Sony plays it safe by censoring itself—and thereby hands a victory to those who silence their critics through fear.
The Danish cartoons represented a critical moment in the struggle between Islamic radicals and the West. That event established on a world stage that one could not and dare not intentionally write anything critical of Islam with impunity. Now, not surprisingly, that standard is extending to inadvertent offence of Islam. What’s next: restaurants “voluntarily” taking pork (considered unholy by Muslims) off their menus? Banning pornography? Taking the vote away from women? Stoning heretics? These steps may seem unimaginable, but on a historical scale, they are not so inconceivable in a post-Danish cartoons world.
We cannot allow this trend to continue. Americans must stand up for their right to speak freely, regardless of who might be offended. The government needs to do its part by vigorously defending free speech, and the intellectual establishment must denounce the absurdity of Muslim hypersensitivity whenever it occurs, so that companies like Sony won’t feel a need to censor themselves. If we want to keep our rights, we must be willing to proudly and self-confidently defend them. Otherwise we risk regressing to the status of the Islamic theocracies where force rules and the right to free speech is all but nonexistent.
I encourage you to read A. Chamber’s most recent article for an example of the trampling of individual rights which is characteristic of Islamic theocracies.