On Thursday’s "American Morning," CNN correspondent Dan Lothian reported on the controversy over a new Christian video game that, according to co-host Soledad O'Brien, "critics say" encourages "hate and religious intolerance." Who are these critics? Well, if you believe CNN, they are simply parents and concerned citizens.
In reality, the experts are actually committed left-wing activists. The video game in question, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces," is based on the popular series of religious books. Mr. Lothian informed his cable audience that some people have attacked the game, which features characters battling the anti-Christ and fighting for souls, as bigoted. During the segment, Lothian talked with Rebecca Glenn, who he described simply as "a Christian" and who the onscreen graphic labeled a "parent." Left out of the story? Glenn is also the co-president of CrossWalk America, a left-wing, "progressive" group that fights "radical fundamentalism." Oh, and her organization is also leading a boycott of the game. Think CNN and Dan Lothian should have mentioned that fact?
This is how he described Glenn’s interaction with the game:
Dan Lothian: "Rebecca Glenn is a Christian and the mother of a 17-year-old."
Rebecca Glenn "I think some people might pick up this game and think that they are learning about a religion, and it's a very dangerous slant on the Christian religion."
Lothian: "Glenn bought the game for her son, Weston, to test, after hearing about the controversy online."
Weston Glenn (onscreen graphic: teen gamer): "Basically, there's no way to get through the game without killing people in the name of God."
It all seems very innocent, doesn’t it? No mention of her organization, the boycott, or her politcal slant.
"American Morning" co-anchor Soledad O’Brien introduced the segment, which aired at 7:12am, by previewing the cable network’s spin on the game:
Soledad O’Brien: "There's a video game out this holiday season and it's supposed to be promoting Christian values. Critics say, though, in fact, it's encouraging hate and religious intolerance. American Morning’s Dan Lothian has the story for us. Good morning."
Dan Lothian: "Good morning."
O’Brien: "What's the game?"
Lothian: "Well, it is a PC game and it's based on the highly successful ‘Left Behind’ Christian series, which includes books and movies. The theme is the same. The battle against the anti-Christ, good versus evil. But some think this latest effort to spread a religious message using a game has crossed the line. Like most video games, ‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces,’ involves strategy, war, guns, except this is religious entertainment, where you get more points when you pray and lose points when you kill."
Troy Lyndon (onscreen graphic: Left Behind CEO): "Well, the purpose of the game is to create an alternative in an industry that creates a lot of dark content."
Lothian: "But some argue that this Christian game definitely has its share of dark content. And they're calling on the company to pull it, and mega retailer Wal-Mart, to stop selling it."
Tim Simpson (onscreen graphic: Christian Alliance for Progress): "The game presents faith-based killing. It's a manual for religious violence that's being given to children."
First, as Lothian mentioned, you lose points when you kill and get more when you pray. So, what’s the problem? Secondly, who is Tim Simpson? Well, according to Echo Magazine, he’s also part of the boycott against the "Left Behind" game. And he recently attended a rally with, that's right, Rebecca Glenn:
"Rev. Timothy Simpson, Presbyterian minister and president of the Christian Alliance for Progress, also attended the press conference. CAP is a national movement that started in Florida by Americans who want to reclaim Christianity and change its current political picture. He believes the video game rejects the historic way of reading the book of Revelations and drives a wedge between people. 'It teaches teenagers that what God intends is for them to slaughter those who do not share their beliefs. We are here today to challenge that view and to name it for the error that it is.’"
CNN also failed to mention Simpson’s liberal ideology and the fact that he’s an activist in opposition to the video game. Lothian continued his report and featured a third left-wing individual who also went unidentified:
Lothian: "In the war of good versus evil, based loosely on the biblical Book of Revelation, a player tries to recruit others in order to fight the enemy of nonbelievers. Prayer, after killing the opposition, will essentially redeem you."
Clark Stevens: (onscreen graphic: Defconamerica.com) "At a time in history, when religious violence and religious intolerance are real -- the last thing we should be doing is promoting a game like this."
Lothian: "The concern among some critics is that young people playing this game will get the wrong message. And that what they play in here will stick with them out there, in the real world."
The graphic for Clark Stevens simply listed his website: DefconAmerica.com. Yet again, Lothian and CNN make no mention of the site’s political persuasion. Here is their mission statement:
"DefCon is an online grassroots movement combating the growing power of the religious right. We will fight for the separation of church and state, individual freedom, scientific progress, pluralism, and tolerance while respecting people of faith and their right to express their beliefs."
Would conservative websites, such as NewsBusters or RedState.com go unlabeled? Not likely.
Lothian closed his report by noting that the company who has released the game is promoting it to conservatives, but also hopes to appeal to the "mainstream."
Lothian: "The game is targeted at conservative Christians, but, of course, they are trying to appeal to a mainstream audience. By the way, the company and Wal-Mart have no plans to pull this game."
O’Brien: "Well, that teenager clearly is not throwing rocks. He played the game and said very clearly you can't get through it unless you kill people."
Lothian: "That's true. And he said the difference between this game and other games is that typically you're shooting up aliens, make believe. But in this case, he says you feel like you are a real person, and it's a real message. That's why he feels it has a different impact."
O’Brien: "So, that 17-year-old gamer, does he think there's something -- does he think it's the kind of thing parents should not be giving to their kids? Or does he feel like, listen, as a 17-year- old I can tell the difference between what's a game and reality?"
Apparently, CNN finds left-wing individuals and organizations part of the "mainstream" and, as a result, there’s no need to label them. However, Lothian made sure to note that the game would appeal to "conservative Christians." This sort of labeling bias is becoming a habit for the cable news correspondant. In October, he reported on potential Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and used, not for the first time, the phrase "far right."