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WOW and Terror

By Matthew Yglesias on September 16, 2008 at 1:02 pm

"WOW and Terror"

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From the stupidity department, official concerns that terrorists could use World of Warcraft to pass coded messages about their coming terrorist plots:

In it, two World of Warcraft players discuss a raid on the “White Keep” inside the “Stonetalon Mountains.” The major objective is to set off a “Dragon Fire spell” inside, and make off with “110 Gold and 234 Silver” in treasure. “No one will dance there for a hundred years after this spell is cast,” one player, “war_monger,” crows.

Except, in this case, the White Keep is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “Dragon Fire” is an unconventional weapon. And “110 Gold and 234 Silver” tells the plotters how to align the game’s map with one of Washington, D.C.

This is the kind of moment when you need to step back and take a deep breath. The concern is that terrorists might (a) acquire a nuclear weapon and then (b) use Worlds of Warcraft to discuss their plot to detonate it. The proposal under consideration would have us focus on (b) when, clearly, World of Warcraft is just one of an almost uncountable number of communications modalities that could be used to pass thinly coded messages. By contrast, (a) is very hard to pull off and there are no close substitutes for (a). Stop terrorists from using Worlds of Warcraft and they’ll just do something else. Stop terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb, and there will be no nuclear-armed terrorists to worry about.

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