In case you haven't seen it already, Oliver North is now selling video games. And fear. It's a step down from illegally selling weapons, true, but it's still raising eyebrows.
Go on, take a look at these clips. They're part of a "documentary" released by publishers Activision to coincide with the reveal of the latest Call of Duty blockbuster, Black Ops II.
You'll notice, hey, there's Oliver North. Using his name, his brand, and a strong dose of fear, to talk about war. Well, not really. To help sell a video game.
How North is viewed today largely depends on your knowledge of history and your political alignment. Conservatives may think North is a popular political commentator. Others will say, you know what, the guy is practically a war criminal.
Either way, here's the facts: Oliver North was the bagman for a harebrained and illegal plan to sell arms directly to Iran in hopes the transaction would free hostages. He's alleged to have been heavily involved in drug trafficking. He only avoided serious punishment because he was granted immunity in exchange for testimony. The "Iran-Contra" scandal he was so knee-deep in helped make the Reagan administration the most indicted presidential adminstration in history, a distinction that stands to this day.
He's had somewhat of a career renovation since then, especially in recent years (and amongst those who call him "Author Oliver North" or "War Correspondent Oliver North"), but that's papering over some very illegal cracks. The guy has a sustained record of doing some very bad shit, all set in the same murky context as the game he's now helping sell.
This makes his employment for this commercial not just a commercial decision, but a political one. While nothing he says in this "documentary" is inherently political in itself, the fact remains North is a talisman to some in the Republican party, and in the context of this game - about covert military operations - he is instantly recognisable. Something Activision's marketing team would surely have been aware of.
What does this say, then, about the market for a game like Call of Duty? Does Activision really believe its core market is so full of gun-crazy, right-wing types that it feels entirely comfortable employing Oliver North as someone to help sell the game? That those fans will think, "hey, here's a guy who knows about war", and not, "hey, here's a disgraced veteran who dragged America's name through the mud"?
Of course it does. It's exactly what it's banking on.
Which is why this is so messed up. This is like G. Gordon Liddy being roped in to help sell Hitman. It's fundamentally gross.