The National Rifle Association’s incoming president, Oliver North, is not wasting any time jumping into the gun-control debate. On Sunday, two days after a shooting at a Texas high school left 10 dead, the retired Marine made an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss the epidemic of school shootings.
North continued: “Nearly all of these perpetrators are male, and they’re young teenagers in most cases, and they’ve come through a culture where violence is commonplace. All we need to do is turn on a TV, go to a movie.”
Or power up a video game.
North himself served as a pitchman for the type of first-person-shooter video game that’s become a benchmark of the very “culture of violence” the new NRA head is now deploring. In 2012, North participated in the marketing of “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game developed by Treyarch and published by Activision.
The game sends players on bloody covert missions across the world in the 1980s and in the near future. The dual plotlines are based on Cold War intrigue and the modern threat represented by advanced smart weaponry falling into the wrong hands. As part of the lead-up to the latest installment of the hugely popular series, the Iran-contra figure appeared in videos ginning up the possible real-world threats playing out in the game’s concept, according to Adweek.
“I don’t think the average American grasps how violent war is about to become,” North says in the clip, his narration running over images of U.S. military might in action. “There is no longer a defined battle space. The enemy could be anywhere and it could be anyone. I don’t worry about a guy who wants to hijack a plane. I worry about the guy who wants to hijack all the planes.”
North’s role in the Iran-contra scandal caused considerable upheaval in the 1980s. The Marine, a National Security Council staffer in the Reagan White House, was involved in a U.S. government operation to sell weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages, the proceeds of which were funneled back to the rebels in Nicaragua accused of human rights abuses. North eventually testified before a congressional committee about his actions, and he was later convicted on charges related to destroyed documents — charges that were reversed on appeal in 1991. North then re-branded himself as a war expert and conservative commentator.
The ex-Cold Warrior’s appearance in the ad campaign launched a dust-up in the video-gaming community, with Kotaku writer Owen Good arguing that North’s participation “represents a new low” for the franchise.
“If Activision really wants to impress me with its steely-eyed understanding of the lawless reality of war, it can try to interpret that in a video game,” Good wrote.
Mark Lamia, the head of Treyarch, eventually defended the decision to use North in the game’s marketing. In a May 2012 interview with Kotaku, Lamia stated: “We’re not trying to make a political statement with our game. We’re trying to make a piece of art and entertainment.”
The video game developer went on: “He rises to the top as someone who was probably, obviously the most well-known covert operations [person]. So it made sense for us from a game development point of view to spend the time and be able to talk to [him].”