Beating Back the Nazi 'Sickness'

Before "modern warfare," we shot Nazis.

Before the Call of Duty franchise took on the subtitle Modern Warfare, it arguably reigned as the pinnacle of the World War II genre. While other first-person shooter games like those in the popular Tom Clancy series -- including hit franchises like Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six -- offered players the ability to engage in simulated modern warfare, for much of video game history the default setting for a run-and-gun, first-person shooter was World War II.

Many factors contributed to the period's popularity as a setting for video-game violence. Chief among them march the jackbooted villains of the era, the Nazis. No one feels bad after shooting a Nazi. In fact, their evil proves so incontestable and absolute that killing them fulfills a profound sense of justice. No doubt that moral certitude contributed to their proliferation throughout gaming. Killing Nazis invites no controversy, leaving game developers with one less thing to worry about.

While the nature of Nazi evil may seem self-evident, the recent anniversary of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., provided an occasion to demonstrate that even former United States presidents can miss the mark. The local CBS affiliate reports:

Washington has many monuments and memorials that offer something special for visitors from around the world, “but the Holocaust memorial will be our conscience,” [President] Clinton said.

Since the museum opened 20 years ago, the world has made huge scientific discoveries, including the sequencing of the human genome, which proved humans are 99.5 percent genetically the same, Clinton said.

“Every non age-related difference … is contained in one half of 1 percent of our genetic makeup, but every one of us spends too much time on that half a percent,” Clinton said. “That makes us vulnerable to the fever, the sickness that the Nazis gave to the Germans. That sickness is very alive across the world today.”

The report does not include any specific examples of what Clinton diagnoses as the Nazi “sickness.” However, we may fairly assume he was referring to any intolerance of human diversity.