American Libel News: Left Behind Games Attacks Bloggers

Just a few weeks after a New York businessman decided to withdraw a libel suit against PZ Myers for calling him a “crackpot” in a book review, someone else is turning to legal threats to squash critical comment.

This time it’s a company, Left Behind Games. Left Behind, of course, was a series of apocalyptic novels written by conservative evangelicals Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, in which the anti-Christ becomes Secretary General of the United Nations and inaugurates a one-world government before his forces are massacred by Jesus at the Second Coming. Tens of millions of copies have been sold.

Left Behind Games was established to create a series of Christian video games based on the books, but the results have not been well-received: there have been complaints from Christians and non-Christians that the game is violent and promotes a paranoid world-view; gamers generally found the game uninteresting. LBG, seeing its share-price tumble, tried a PR counter-attack: it was pointed out that players lose points when they shoot the enemy; according to former CEO Jeff Frichner:

…”You can win the game by not firing a shot, but by conducting spiritual warfare. There’s a prayer button (and) a worship button…”

A consultant brought in to market the game to Asia praised it as “non-violent”, which is odd; as I noted at the time, Jerry Jenkins and Frichner argue that the game’s violence should be put in a Biblical context, while LaHaye has complained that it is no more violent than other games.

However, LBG has now taken off the gloves; a poster to Daily Kos has the latest:

Gordon D. Katz, an attorney for [CEO Troy] Lyndon’s company, has recently sent letters – some via certified mail, and others via his Gmail account — to blogs large and small which have either criticized the game, or linked to news reports on the [alleged – RB] eliminationist theology of the game, or even feature critiques, satirical statements, or harshly worded opinions from blog readers. Radical Congruency received two identical, saber-rattling letters.

Here’s an extract:

…Unfortunately, there are many statements on your website which appear to be false and misleading. This type of misinformation may cause significant and irreparable harm to Left Behind Video Games Inc. and must be removed…If you do not comply immediately, the company will be forced to pursue additional legal action which will include claims for damages, costs of suit and attorney’s fees. This may subject you and your organization to significant legal and financial damages.

By failing to make clear what exactly is being objected to, the letter fails as a serious legal document. Doubtless the hope is that fearful bloggers will simply self-censor anything that might be negative. But who is Gordon D. Katz? The Daily Kos poster did some digging, and found out that the office is actually a private house belonging to Katz’s mother, and that his named “Administrator” is none other than Lyndon’s wife. Most curious.

Criticisms of the game are not confined to blogs – newspapers and magazines have covered the controversy, and it is even referenced in Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. Since Dawkins is published in the UK, perhaps LBG could get tips on using UK libel law from Sheik Khalid bin Mahfouz or Alisher Usmanov.

UPDATE: Gamer sites are unimpressed.

One Response

  1. The letter obviously wasn’t meant to be a “serious legal document,” but a polite warning before actual legal action is taken. As far as the letter “failing to make clear what exactly is being objected to,” all the bloggers targeted have to do is check out reviews by neutral sources as well as the game’s and company’s websites. Barring that, the last time I checked, ignorance of wrongdoing is not a legitimate defense in any court of law.

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