No flame war needed. Yes I read it. I may have been tired, but it did not feel that the paragraph in question was supported or helpful for the rest of the article. Just an opinion. It may also have been a style issue.
I think that if it had been presented as a falsehood to begin with the rest of the article may have supported it better.
You might as well argue the morality of fishing or hunting or eating meat, of driving a gas guzzling car, or anything else. Or even about owning a firearm. Is it moral that we continue to use black and white as the colors on a chess board? Remember wargames don't kill people...
Ultimately morality and guilt stem from the intent. I play for multiple reasons: As a professional military officer, wargames help to train me in understanding and decision making for situations that cannot be easily replicated or duplicated. As a historian they help me connect and understand the difficulties and hardships experienced by others - no different if I watched Saving Private Ryan. As a man wargames are intellectually stimulating, and challenging in their rules and challenges - it is my golf. As the boy inside of me I like to think about things that go boom.
The intent is not lost on me and therefore it is moral and just. I play for enjoyment, escape, but also with the knowledge that what I learn will be used to hopefully properly problem solve and apply force in the utility to which I am entrusted. So I actually play wargames sometimes because I know it might help me complete a mission, take the lives of my enemy, and save the lives of my friends and innocents. I can sleep very well with that.
Again, it is about intent and perspective. The wargamer who can walk away from a game with increased respect and awe for war and those who suffer from it is a better person for partaking in the game. He who gives not regard what so ever to the human cost needs to stay playing fantasy. Because that is what he is living. (which has its place).
In the end, our hobby is benign. There should be no guilt associated with it. Is it wrong if designers are profiting from depicting true or simulated events through a historical lens? No more so than a journalist or a fiction writer should feel guilty for providing their perspectives on world events.
Conflicts that are out of bounds? Hmmm. Mike Benninghof, PhD and creator of the Panzer Grenadier systems has my utmost respect. For the longest time he refused to depict the Waffen SS in his WWII wargames due to their diabolical history. But he also recognized that there are many wargamers who have an unjustified love for these thugs because of their generally undeserved myths as proficient tacticians (Some were, most were not not). Finally, he could not deny the impact the SS and other murderous forces had in WWII. So he published them with the correct title of Sinister Forces with historical articles documenting the atrocities and rather poor fighting record of the SS and other such political military forces. Games should make every effort to acknowledge the history and atrocites that represent, so that the education is not lost.
There has been a lot raging over a video game on the second battle of Fallujah. Again, recent conflicts are more difficult because the pain can be personal. I have problems with movies and TV shows that try to depict the War in Iraq; but they do it anyway because it is a reality of current events. Most do a pitiful job (i.e. NCIS, Over There, the Unit, etc.) but it won't stop their production. All I can hope is that people can sift the wheat from the chaff and recognize the games that pay homage to sacrifice instead of those that merely try to cash in and exploit current events.
A few years ago, there was a guy who recruited for an SS reenactment unit at gun shows around here. Shall we say he wasn't exactly Mr. Popular.
I've had civil conversations with both Wehrmacht and Confederate reenactors, even though it took a little more effort to not use the words "How could you?" or "What are you thinking?" to the Wehrmacht boys.
I think if I ever put on an SS uniform for reenactment I'd have to blow my brains out, from a sense of shame.
Funny thing is, I see that revulsion at the SS wannabes more among non-wargamers. Among gamers, SS love gives us all a bad name, as I've met outsiders who think that we're all Nazi apologists. I feel a special burden to explain that we're not like that, and in large part it's because of people who muddy the waters with SS apologies, rationalization and outright glorification.
Acting is one thing, and Gregory Peck was certainly aware that he was playing a monster. Having a skilled and morally sensitive actor play a Nazi is actually to be commended, because the first step toward "Never again" is "Never forget." Identifying with the Reich's vanguard of executioners is another.
As wargamers, we should be aware of the historical baggage. Yes, I play World War II games, and sometimes I play as the Germans, and I win on that side. But it's an intellectual exercise. I know what these genocidal creatures did, and I'm good enough at math to count to six million.
The very sight of an SS uniform in the wild fills me with such a deep-seated, atavistic disgust that you'd think that I was Jewish. And that revulsion is something that I'm certainly willing to express to the individual wrapped in that cloth.
I'm a quarter German myself. And some of my family by marriage is Japanese too.
Germany was dishonored badly by the Nazis, and if anyone should be bitter toward them, besides their victims, it should be Germans.
I don't apologize for my "strong emotions." Hell, I'm proud of them. I loathe Nazis. I strongly believe that it's okay to have a Nazi flag on your wall, as long as you or a relative took it from a dead Nazi.
This sort of thing is not the route to a "senseless fight." It's a way to really good, righteous fight, especially as the people I've encountered who were prone to Nazi apologetics were the ones who couldn't do the math, Holocaust deniers, the kind of people who'd write an excuse for Hitler.
As for strong anti-Nazi sentiments driving people away, maybe they're precisely the ones who shouldn't be welcome. I gamed with a group that had zero tolerance for Nazi rationalization, and we got along great. We played Guderian's Blitzkrieg, the East Front Series, and a whole slew of ETO and Great Patriotic War games. All the time, we knew who the bad guys were, and certainly did not welcome those who couldn't tell the difference.
I can defintiely reccomend that everyone that is interested in this topic listen to the "View From The Veranda" episode two. They dealt with this topic and what inspired me to talk aboiut this. I
I think understand both of your points - the challenge is when you are representing something that you are interested in it and when you celebrate it. I think we can play the SS in games and even study tactics and recreate - but as Nietzche said the abyss can look back. So we must always be careful when engaged in these excercises.
The Japanese did things in WWI that made even the SS puke - yet that country doesn't seem to hold the stigma as the SS. Do we hold the Finns in contempt becuase the fought alongside the Nazi's and the SS. To many in the world the Soviets were as bad as the SS.
But I don't think we need to feel guilty or be overly sensitve but we must be careful. I certainly wouldn't be an SS reconstructionist - but if someone does then it depends. If that's all they do then the lights go on and we get away as soon as possible, but if they show you the Moisin Nagant they have and their Polish copy of the Webley - then we can respect what they might want to be doing.
I think one of the reasons why I've been thinking about this is some of the same reasons Jim talks about. I think to paraphrase somehting I read - if we remember occasionally these were people and commend a praryer for their souls I think we are OK...
I'm largely in agreement with you; it's a matter of study, competition and enjoyment. I celebrate wargaming, and not necessarily the subjects. In fact, I see World War II gaming as a good way to hook people into the military history, then show that a strictly strategic understanding is incomplete. It's a good entree to the rest of the history - social, economic, political. All of them have a moral component. If you want to look at it this way, with wargaming we can introduce people to the fight, and hopefully everyone gets a better understanding of what the fight was about, and for what.
Maybe we can offer a prayer for their souls, even for those of the evil doers. Just as long as we remember their deeds, just as we remember the deeds of the righteous, and the suffering of the victims.
If someone doesn't want to be lectured about morality, they shouldn't dress up like immorality. It has little to do with politics; it has everything to do with identification with a completely evil regime.
Nor is it race hatred toward Germany. It's revulsion toward a specific regime in German history, one that led the nation to ruin. In addition, equating the suffering of almost anyone with the genocide of the Shoah makes me sick beyond belief. Maybe someone from Darfur or Rwanda could make a claim of equivalence, but outside of them, it's a very short list.
Talking about the combat effectiveness of an SS unit makes one a scholar. But playing an SS member is rather disturbing evidence that someone is a little too sympathetic to the Nazi cause, if not an outright unrepentant fascist. Wearing the uniform doesn't lead to moral corruption... it demonstrates that the corruption has already taken root.
I'm not enforcing my morality on anybody. But given all the reenactment options there are, from eighteenth-century French and Indians (rather popular around here) to Civil War Union to World War II Americans - I've even seen guys reenacting as Italians near Cleveland - why would someone pick the worst executioners of the Second World War to play? Every reenactor I've met has had an emotional connection with the side that he or she portrays, for better or worse.
So when I see someone putting on the SS uniform for fun, it says something, something very clear, and something extremely disturbing.
Nor should we forget that the motivations that led to the Holocaust and all the other crimes committed by the Nazis are still with us. Last year I got a phone call from a friend in Europe who was out camping with a group of friends and business associates. One of the latter said that he'd had a grandfather die in a concentration camp.
Everyone said that that was terrible, and offered their sympathies.
At this the man laughed and said, "Oh yes, he fell out of a guard tower!"
What was his profession? He was an active duty German army officer.
The friend who told me had family members commemorated at Yad Vashem as "Righteous Among the Nations."
Call me intolerant if you want. Guess what, for some things I am, and good thing too. I'd rather that wargaming reject a few people with Nazi identification problems than to embrace them in the name of tolerance, or growing the hobby. To paraphrase David Ben Gurion, sometimes asking for the extra people is like asking for cancer so you can get the extra cells.
At least learn to spell when you mischaracterise what I'm saying. I NEVER attacked the German people, which includes a good number of my relatives. I only tarred those who self-identify with the most evil period in its history. And it's "Ben Gurion" not "Bun Gurion," and "O'Reilly" not "Oreiley."
Be sure that I not wargame with any Nazi-lover either.