In dubious fashion when people were heading home last Friday, Blizzard released their statement on the Blitzchung incident outlining their position and what was to occur going forward. Any hopes Blizzard had for the news to die over the weekend were crushed as numerous outlets, content creators, and even former employees took notice of the contents of the message and exposed it for the hypocritical, PR legalese that it was. Now returning the favor, five congressmen: Ron Wyden, Mark Rubio, Aleandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski have issued a bi-partisan letter addressed directly to Activision/Blizzard’s CEO Robert Kotick on Friday as well. Whether the timing is purely coincidental or an intentional action in response to Blizzards last issuance is unknown, but the timing is suspiciously coincidental to say the least.
Any concern that the atypically oblivious politicians had bought into Blizzard and China’s corporate response aren’t just dead, but the hopes the company can manipulate congress in the future died with them. The two page letter goes on to detail not just the circumstances of what occurred, but several factors that arose around it along with China’s influence with other companies. As if the letter was addressed to the winder consortium of companies selling out American values, Apple is directly referenced to have shut down an application aiding peaceful protestors and the NBA’s bending the knee selling out American values receives equal mention. To say congress isn’t pleased with these company’s who enjoy numerous tax breaks selling out the country is an understatement.
After opening with a brief description of the event in question, ignoring Blizzard’s reduction of the sentences, the letter quickly addresses China’s growing influence over American Corporations and their silencing of those that disagree with the party line. Along with Tencent’s involvement with Activision/Blizzard and the money they receive from the state connected corporation.
“Your Company claims to stand by “one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,” yet many of your own employees believe that Activision Blizzard’s decision to punish Mr. Chung runs counter to those values. Because your company is such a pillar of the gaming industry, your disappointing decision could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms. Indeed many gamers around the world have taken notice of your company’s actions, understandably calling for boycotts of Activision Blizzard gaming sites.”
It is amusing watching congress calling Blizzard out on their blatant hypocrisy and disregard of their core values alongside the company’s intention of silencing gamers. Whether Congress is aware of the company’s long history of censorship or not, would be interesting to know. Yet regardless they have taken notice gamers who Blizzard has censored for their support of the Hong Kong Protests.
The letter concludes with a direct threat against the company strongly urging them to reverse their course of action.
“As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values – like freedom of speech and thought – or give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access. We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision with respect o Mr. Chung. You have the opportunity to reverse course. We urge you to take it.
In Basic English what the phrase strongest terms mean is the matter is not open for discussion and is the most powerful legal phrasing short of issuing a direct legally worded threat against another entity available, without violating any laws.
In no uncertain terms Congress has had it with the industry. Regulation will be coming for the industry and once the United States passes its regulation as these companies refuse to do anything approaching decent or intelligent towards the preservation of their own independence other countries will follow.
As China now sees their name will not be separated from the incident we can expect them to take actions to mitigate future damage. Especially after the house passed The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act unanimously with the Senate expected to follow suit shortly. Said bill eliminates the economic incentives for China to absorb Hong Kong to bypass American tariffs and already China has begun insisting the bill’s passage interferes with their internal affairs. What China will ultimately do in regards to Activision Blizzard is unknown, but any continued appearance of collusion China now understand will look poorly on them as both trade negotiations and the Olympics approach.
Whatever happens in the future, whether China dumps Blizzard or Congress finally cracks the whip against the industry ,it is not going to end favorably for the company. Then again Blizzard should have listened to the protestors’ sage advice, it might have saved them from this entire nightmare.