The Tea Party may be deluded, but they’re not zombies.

No, no, no, this is not cool. Not under any circumstances is this an acceptable piece of discourse.

Bachmann and Palin as zombies.

StarvingEyes Advergames built a first-person zombie horror game in Flash. Yeah, obviously the game is going to be technically limited, but it’s not a bad example of how to build a pseudo-three-dee game along the lines of Wolfenstein. The problem I have with this game is not technical. It’s subject matter related. You see, in this game, you invade Fox News’ headquarters and kill zombified versions of Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and various random hick rednecks and other teabaggers. The game is about killing the Teabagging zombies before they kill you. It’s called “TEA PARTY ZOMBIES MUST DIE.”

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this? With the idea of turning your political opponents, no matter how dogmatically they came into their particular ideologies, into mindless zombies fit only for extermination? I don’t appreciate it when right-wingers advocate watering the tree of liberty with the blood of people who happen to think you shouldn’t pay through the nose for health care, or that gays are humans too. I don’t appreciate it when right-wingers paint targets on their political opponents or exhort their supporters “don’t retreat, reload”. I don’t appreciate it when people make death threats openly or dehumanize left-wingers in any way. Why should I stand by when right-wingers are treated likewise? Why should we let the discourse be so debased by outliers on either side of the political spectrum?

Zombie movies are creepy because you know these slavering monsters were once human beings, and they could very well turn any other human being into one of their numbers. Zombie games are fun because they’re a frantic game of maintenance against an unending horde of enemies — their ceaseless battering against your defenses will eventually cause you to succumb, and it’s just a matter of ammo and time. Political discourses about civil rights are undertaken by rational human beings who discuss and sign into law their attempt at ameliorating what they find to be the issues for the day. If you don’t like how they tackle these issues, or if you think they’re putting too much focus on some issues over others (like the Republicans’ hyperfocus on gays and abortions despite being elected on a platform of job creation), then you inject yourself into the political discourse and get elected and fight for the change you want to see.

Accusing your political enemies of being a horde bent on infecting as many people as possible might be analogous (to any group of people attempting to effect political change on either side of the spectrum), that’s one thing. Depicting them as mindless slavering zombies out for your blood, who can only be stopped by violence? Well, that’s something completely different. And we’re above that.

Aren’t we?

The Tea Party may be deluded, but they’re not zombies.

94 thoughts on “The Tea Party may be deluded, but they’re not zombies.

  1. 51

    I agree with Jason (Didn’t zombie Bill Murray get shot in “Zombieland?”). And being raised in a southern Pentecostal church, I grew up hearing how the Debul was putting secret messages in heavy metal albums. These messages would make you turn away from God, shoot your family, and engage in cannibalism. Then it was Tipper and the PMRC talking about violent imagery in songs. Next it was decrying GTA and violent imagery in video games. I’m a Republican and I get the joke. Like your work, though, and looking forward to reading more.

  2. 53

    Portraying tea party politicians as zombies is correct use of metaphor.
    A game in which the goal is shooting at simulated portrayals of them, however, is violent rhetoric that we ought to recognize as abhorrent.

  3. 55

    Point of order, Barry: Bill Murray was hired to be part of Zombieland. Also, he was not actually a zombie, but was made up to look like one. He was shot for being too good an actor.

    What llewelly @54 said, times a thousand. Portraying real, living people as monsters is one thing. Simulating their death is violent rhetoric.

    Which raises a question — is it justifiable to create media involving real individuals (celebrities, politicians, or otherwise) being killed or hurt without their express consent under any circumstances? Are games where you get to punch Justin Bieber okay?

  4. 56

    Thank you, sir – been a while since I watched it. We could say that there’s been some pretty graphic material used in satire (Swift comes to mind). “South Park” does iffy stuff involving comedy all the time. Is it really “abhorrent?” I’m not so sure. I think the one that’ s truly off-limits is the office of the presidency – that’s an automatic Secret Service call. As far as games go, if they set themselves up for it, let fly.

  5. 58

    Seriously, Daisy? That’s all you’re capable of gleaning from this discussion? Do you require exhortations to uncomfortable animal sex and suggestions of how to enjoy oxidizing implements before you’re capable of taking in the content of a comment?

  6. 59

    Jeez, dicketry abounds in the comments section.

    I agree with you, Jason. There shouldn’t be a point where “I disagree with you” becomes “your death deserves to be the object of fun.” While it might be intended as ‘just a joke’ (ye gads I hate that phrase), it is definitely over the line of tastefulness. I’m about as intolerant of tone-based argument as possible, but this has nothing to do with ‘tone’. This is making violence part of the political discussion.

    I doubt anybody, regardless of political stripe, would interpret this as a call to violence against specific people. That’s hardly the point though. We must, at all times, remember that our opponents are human beings. Failing to do that makes them our enemies to be destroyed, rather than our opponents to be defeated.

    There is, however, more than a little overlap between the Tea Party’s positions and zombies. Their ideas are long-dead nuggets of stupidity that despite their deceased status keep coming and coming and coming, until the forces of reason are overwhelmed and out of cognitive ammunition.

  7. 60

    Obligatory mentioning of zombie movies being released during periods of Republican power and vampire movies being released during Democratic power. If you want to make comments on the values of the Right, zombies have been a go to trope for decades. The main problem here is lack of subtlety. Had this game been about a zombie outbreak at an undefined political rally, or better yet a protest, there’d be a lot more impact filling in the psychological dots. That’s lost when you actually put faces on the horde, and specific faces really just make it juvenile.

    I’m not particularly offended by the concept simply because it’s not new and it could be a case of more stupid fluff being added to a trope until it stunk. Which makes it not only a lazy political statement, but lazy game design. So for everyone stating “oh the left needs to be ballsier” I hope the left does so with more talented folks than the people who made this. Not the end of society and hope and justice as we know it but very much a hit and a miss.

  8. 62

    >having a conscience


    (In all seriousness, this is really just an example of why the game as a vehicle for political satire almost always fails unless the gameplay itself is very unconventional. Shooters will always be shooters.)

  9. 63

    Thanks for proving my point, Stephanie.

    Hey, Jason, are you going to address HappiestSadist at all? Or is she somehow No True Canadian, because No True Canadian would be so bluntly spoken about your pearl-clutching?

  10. 64

    I addressed the point in happiestsadist’s second paragraph with every other post I’ve ever made denouncing Harper’s nonsense. Let me help you find them.

    I addressed the point in happiestsadist’s third paragraph in comment 9, only I addressed it to you, so you should remember it.

    Point one is just complaining that someone might find a name like “Mrs. Daisy Cutter” offensive, and therefore calling one’s self a sadist might actually paint the commenter as a sadist. Heavens to Betsy, wouldn’t want someone to get the wrong impression of you because you chose a nym that doesn’t represent how you’d choose to present yourself! How dare we judge you based on the nym you choose!

    Where’s the “no true Scotsman” come in exactly? Kindly point it out.

  11. 66

    Erulora@65: my point at 51 stands. Your ‘nym is your first impression. When your first impression (that the person likes violent imagery) is proven correct by the comment they make (that the violent imagery in this game is perfectly acceptable), how are we not supposed to judge them by those two facts taken together? This “don’t judge us by our chosen nyms” is more pearl-clutching than anything I’ve said in this entire post or comment thread.

  12. 67

    This “don’t judge us by our chosen nyms” is more pearl-clutching than anything I’ve said in this entire post or comment thread.

    Thanks for the laughs. But really, it’s more like “don’t make unwarranted assumptions about people based on something incredibly trivial”. Especially when it means jumping to the least charitable conclusion you can when other equally plausible explanations are available. But hey, I’m not going to convince anybody here, so just keep assuming you know everything you need to about somebody based on a punny nym. I notice, however, nobody is calling out Johnny Vector for choosing a nym that implies he spreads diseases.

  13. 68

    My position is that both sides are going to have countless examples of inappropriate behavior. If there is an onus on both sides to police that behavior, that burden may be too great.

    What I feel is an appropriate responsibility is to call-out political leaders and elected officials when they engage in that inappropriate behavior. There is a huge difference between a random blogger (or group of video game designers) doing/saying something that we don’t like, and a member of Congress or presidential candidate doing/saying something we don’t like.

    Ideally, games like this should not be acceptable. But there’s always going to be another example of inappropriate behavior to condemn. If we condemn all bad behavior with equal consistency, then it has the impact of making all bad behavior equally abhorrent, when that should not be the case.

    If a progressive makes a comment about how Sharon Angle’s “2nd Amendment Remidies” statements were inappropriate, and a conservative comes back with “well there’s a video game with zombie tea baggers, are your going to call that inappropriate as well?”, they’ve created a false equivalency which requires time to explain.

    So if we all adopt the same standards for criticizing bad behavior, in which we only actively condemn it if it comes from a political leader, then we can work to avoid those false equivalencies that distract from productive conversations.

  14. 69

    Erulora@68: I’m not making unwarranted assumptions. The assumptions are well-warranted by Daisy Cutter’s further argumentation. I assumed Johnny Vector liked math, actually. Or that he has a speed and direction.

    Both Stephanie and Jordan make good points — there’s a false equivalence at play that the other side is going to make every time we say “listen, your elected officials shouldn’t advocate violence” and we shouldn’t, therefore, enforce consistency. I’m willing to change my mind on that. Jordan’s absolutely right in saying that demanding such consistency “blackwashes” everything to the same level of abhorrence. There IS in fact a sliding scale of how awful a particular thing is. I’ve agreed to that, that there are lines that are crossed by one act that aren’t crossed by another, and vice versa.

    If we’re smart about saying “hey, listen, that’s unacceptable”, but save our big guns for the REALLY provocative stuff, then at the very least we’re insulating ourselves against false equivalences. I don’t happen to think that my blog, and posting something saying “yeah, this is unacceptable”, is a “big gun”.

  15. 70

    Really, Daisy? Your point was that if you require someone to tell you to go find a cactus and put a battery in it in order to actually pay attention to the practical considerations they’re talking about, you’re a fucking tone troll just as much as anyone who won’t hear anything with a “naughty word” in it? Because that appears to be all you’ve got here.

  16. Pen

    I agree with Jason that this is not cool. Probably not bannable, but definitely not cool. Also it reflects an unhealthy obsession with people who are better off ignored, and a predisposition to substitute fantasy catharsis for (legitimate) action in the real world.

  17. 74

    Ah, I see, so you’re “above” responding seriously, or at all (directly, in HS’s case), to internet commenters whose handles offend you. Good to know.

    Also, you do realize that “sadist” refers not only to a sociopath who gets kicks out of hurting innocent victims, but to a person who enjoys inflicting pain on consenting masochists, right? And that it’s a literary allusion? I’m amused that both facts seem to have eluded you.

  18. 75

    Why should I answer gainsaying at comment 12 that, as I point out, I addressed at comment 9?

    Additionally, what are you talking about? I never said anything about happiestsadist’s name. I said things about your name, though.

  19. 76

    Actually, my ‘nym, which I’ve had for eight years now, is a reference to a character in a children’s book by Madeleine L’Engle. But even if it weren’t, it’s nice to know what I may or may not do in the bedroom with consenting partners is enough to make me unworthy of response.

    Like I had said, pretending that there’s not difference in power differential and context and hey, even culture, is a really dangerous line of thinking. It’s basically a zero-tolerance approach to bad words while being more than willing to let anything slide if it’s nice enough. But hey, like I said, some people like Harper. He’s civil. This false equivalence bullshit (apologies?) is really not doing you much in the way of favours.

  20. 77

    I never once “pretended” that there’s not a difference in power or in context. I used Canada’s significantly greater civility as an example of why I happen to think that the discourse in America is poisoned, and I even said I agree that there’s a significant difference between a random Flash game developer and an elected official. I have additionally, as I’ve pointed out, criticized Harper harshly in the past. Do you have any points, happiestsadist?

  21. 78

    And I contend that our focus on civility over actual justice or progress is a bug, not a feature. And your criticisms are either counter to your own finger-wagging for civility or that’s it’s a very flimsy bit of posturing. You’re being awfully mean to our PM, can’t you be a bit more civil?

    And yes, the US is fucked. That point is visible from space. However, you’re more or less claiming that it’s because they’re not as gentle in their verbiage as we are. And I think that’s kind of an utterly incorrect conclusion to arrive at, not to mention rather a bit of cultural supremacy on our part. (Which we don’t really need. We have poutine and real beer.)

  22. 79

    This is very close to the ‘eliminationist rhetoric’ that we criticised Palin et al for after the Arizona shootings. We need to continue to shout that crap down, to make it unacceptable to do.

    Engaging in it ourselves is a mistake.

  23. 80

    However, you’re more or less claiming that it’s because they’re not as gentle in their verbiage as we are. And I think that’s kind of an utterly incorrect conclusion to arrive at, not to mention rather a bit of cultural supremacy on our part.

    I see the less, as in zero. I don’t see the more, and in fact, there’s been a fair amount of discussion in the comments about the fact that the “verbiage” is tied to real desires, all too often carried out, for blood.

  24. 82

    Cheeses Crust on a pizza stone, people. What is it with the false dichotomies? Somehow saying “this kind of thing brings down the level of discourse and should be discouraged” becomes equivalent to ZOMG if you’re gonna ban this you’ll have to ban everythign11!!!

    Why is it so hard to see that one can disapprove of something without trying to “police” it (whatever that means coming from a bunch of random commenters with no police power at all) or ban it or call it equivalent to the same sort of rhetoric coming from elected leaders?

    Of course it’s worse when federal level legislators call for someone to be killed. Other things that are (or would be) worse than this game: Candidates for public office using violent rhetoric; candidates using actual violence; TV commentators with an audience in the tens of millions calling for violence. Syndicated columnists with an audience in the millions calling for violence. Audiences at political debates applauding people’s deaths. Or (here’s the hypothetical one) a significant portion of the left wing base getting heavily into playing this particular game.

    That last one hasn’t happened. If it did, it would say something bad about the left. All the others have happened, and almost entirely on the right. So yes, there is no equivalency. That doesn’t mean that on an absolute scale, this game is about dehumanizing The Other Side, which is one of the things we hate about the current strategies of the American right. Why on Earth would we seek equivalency with that?

    (I’ll assume English is not Erulora’s first language, and thus he or she can be forgiven for not knowing that a daisy cutter is a bomb and a vector is a math concept.)

  25. 83


    Criticising a game for dehumanising and targeting with violence actual public figures is not focusing on civility at the expense of justice.

    Personally, I think one of the things that has led to regression and injustice in Canada is Harper’s importation of the technique of uncivil treatment of his political opponents. Our voter turnout has dropped and those who do vote are prone to parrot the personal attack ads that the Cons spewed out over the years. It’s pretty sad, actually.

    @daisy cutter

    If you’re going to name yourself after a bomb, it’s not unreasonable to expect that people might think that you’re militaristic or condone violence or at least aren’t a pacifist. Not a big leap there.


    I’m willing to change my mind on that. Jordan’s absolutely right in saying that demanding such consistency “blackwashes” everything to the same level of abhorrence.

    Then you’re left in a corner where you’re only allowed to condemn something if it is the worst-case scenario. Can’t complain about the gender wage gap because it’s not nearly as bad as FGM. Can’t criticise racial profiling because, well it’s not slavery. We really shouldn’t keep quiet on any issue that we find to be unjust, wrong, immoral, or ethically problematic. Keep perspective, yes. Keep silent, no.

  26. 84

    Also it reflects an unhealthy obsession with people who are better off ignored

    Oh dear.

    Did you really say something this ignorant?

    Teabaggers can’t be ignored–and aren’t being ignored. Do you understand that the entire reason Michele Bachmann is even running for President is because she’s their candidate? Do you understand how dangerous it will be to have that vicious bigoted MORON in the White House

    Better off ignored? You have got to be kidding. Ignoring these monsters (and they are monsters, make no doubt about it) will turn America into even more of a fascist police state, as if we’re not enough of one already.

    Sit down and shut up. You’ll have us all in concentration camps at this rate.

  27. 85

    Ibis@83: never planned on staying silent, just making sure everyone knows damn well I’m keeping things in perspective when I chastise someone “on our side” for doing something stupid and impolitic, that I’ll damn well complain twice as loudly when the other side does it as a matter of course. Three times as loud if they’re in a position of power.

    Aquaria@84: if the FOX News channel hadn’t paid them all sorts of attention (e.g. by creating them from scratch by sponsoring the astroturf rallies that started them out), the Tea Party would be a non-entity today. I don’t think suggesting that the world would be better off if everyone ignored the Teabaggers is at all the same as advocating that we let them run roughshod over your country. I think the first would prevent the second, in fact. If we could go back in time at least. Now that they’ve snowballed themselves into being a political force, they should be met with as much opposition as we can muster. Legitimate opposition, at ballot boxes, in the media, on the blogosphere, in protests. Sans all the eliminationist rhetoric, preferably.

  28. 86

    Since I pay zero attention to FPS games, I didn’t know TEA PARTY ZOMBIES MUST DIE even existed until Jason brought it to my attention. I realize that 99.99 recurring % of Western civilization, i.e., everyone except me and a couple of babies in rural Burkina Faso, is aware of this game and it is distressing you all terribly. :-þ

    Seriously, what is the problem with the game? It’s showing cartoon violence towards certain people. It’s basically an interactive political cartoon. Does anyone honestly think that Palin, Bachmann et al are in danger of being assassinated as a result of this game? If Bill O’Reilly had a heart attack and died I wouldn’t be at all dismayed, but I’m not going to slip cyanide into his martini. I’m especially not encouraged to doctor his drink as a result of a game I’d never heard of before yesterday and which I’ll never, ever play.

    If this game caused a genuine threat to actual people, then I’d join the denouncements as loudly as possible. Since I really, truly don’t believe it is, then, without apology. I yawn at anyone’s complaints about the game.

  29. 88

    That’s fair, ‘Tis. Not everyone has to drum up outrage about everything (especially things by random anonymous people on the internet), and some of us need to keep our powder dry for larger, more immediate concerns like political figures making the same kinds of eliminationist rhetoric. However, the next time you’re engaged with a teabagger who asks where the outrage was about this game, at the same time as you’re explaining the false dichotomy, you can also point them here. To the Canadian pearl-clutcher.

    We all have a utility function in this fight. As long as we’re not trying to chuck one another out of the fight for not being in 100% agreement with one another (my chief concern with Chris Mooney’s and other accomodationists’ tactics), then we’re not tangibly hurting the movement as a whole. So, I’m happy that you’re willing to yawn, as long as you’ll allow me to join you in outrage about those things that we both happen to think are worthy of derision.

  30. 89


    I absolutely agree with your post @88.

    It shouldn’t be controversial if people on the left call out things like this video game as being inappropriate. But if they choose not to vocalize their disapproval, that shouldn’t be a problem either. Some of us would prefer to focus our attention on more egregious behavior, but we shouldn’t attack those who feel it is better to criticize all examples they come across.

  31. Pen

    Aquaria@84 – Yes, I meant ignore the tea-partiers at the ballot box. Switch off the television when they appear on it, they’re only there because it makes for good ratings. I do not honestly think for one minute that Michelle Bachmann is going to become president, but if she does, then yes, you are doomed. How is shooting her up in a video game going to help?

  32. 91

    This many comments?
    I gave up around comment # 30, so let’s just go with I agree with Jason and pretend I had some brilliantly sarcastic quip thrown in for good measure…..

  33. Pen

    My US husband tells me it used to be normal that you could go to an indoor shooting range and shoot at life-size posters of Bush. These days presumably, you can get Obama. Or Reagan, for that retro feel, Kennedy for reliving the genuine assassination experience. Maybe you can shoot Washington with an antique musket? But I wonder if my husband is actually correct? I already knew they had life-size photographs of anonymous people to shoot at and thought that was uncool. Maybe it stands to reason that a culture that finds that OK, would be OK with video game violence against political figures.

  34. 93

    Hey, everyone who thinks I’m clutching pearls. Compare and contrast this post with this earlier post about Bulletstorm. A choice blockquote:

    I am mature enough to make the distinction that the video games I play are escapist fantasy. I have never mentally superimposed the image of any person that I had an argument with, onto the “faces” of the “people” I “shoot” in these games.

    Wow, I’m entirely self-consistent! 😀

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