There was a time, not that long ago if you can believe it, when Microsoft could publish a news blog talking about its plans to make Xbox more environmentally friendly and nobody would really bat an eye. The world would move on, perhaps a little bit less polluted, and that would be that. But those days are gone. Now, it seems like every modest attempt to improve the world or help better the lives of the people living in it gets turned into one more battle in conservatives’ endless war of rhetoric against “wokeism.”
If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve likely seen actual members of congress—including failed presidential candidate, mobile gaming whale, and Texas Canadian Ted Cruz—bloviating online about how Xbox is going “woke” or how liberals want to take away your gas-burning stove. This is, of course, all bullshit meant to distract the gullible and distractible from the myriad actual problems society faces.
The latest blow-up started earlier this month, when the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, a group independent from the White House or congress, pointed to the potential health risks caused by gas stoves and suggested it could ban or limit gas stove production in the future, due to these health issues. Republicans like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis jumped on this non-issue, turning it into a full-on “War Against Gas Stoves” suggesting President Biden, liberals, and whoever else he was mad at that week were trying to take Americans’ precious stoves. (It’s interesting to note that less than 10% of Florida residents even use gas stoves…)
As the stove fear-mongering began to run out of…well, gas, the Republican culture war machine needed more fuel. Something that could expand the war and help spread their message against “wokeism” while helping distract from the fact that most of them have no real plans or substantive ideas beyond hate and fear. So in comes Ted Cruz earlier this week, with a warning: They are coming to take not just your gas stove, but your Xbox, too!
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Why did he think this? Well, you can blame it on right-wing media website The Blaze, which published a fear-mongering story on the already two-week-old Xbox update.
Here’s what Microsoft’s Xbox update actually does: It will cut down on power usage by up to a factor of 20 by changing the default setting of Xbox consoles from “sleep” to “shut down.” Microsoft promises this update won’t affect performance or gameplay, nor the ability to update the Xbox overnight. The main side effect is it will take a bit longer for the console to boot. The new firmware will also be “carbon aware” and try to time its downloads and updates for periods when it will have the least impact on the electrical grid. And if for some reason you don’t like these changes, everything can be switched back to how it was previously.
Innocuous. Good, even. But after Cruz’s tweet picked up The Blaze’s narrative it set off a wave of stories from Fox News and the like. According to them, not only was Xbox “going woke” by making these environmentally friendly changes, but Fox and Friends hosts Ainsley Earhardt and Jimmy Failla suggested Microsoft was “trying to recruit your kids into climate politics.”
“But again, what’s the point of video games? It’s for kids to be kids,” Faila suggested in a Tuesday Fox and Friends segment about Microsoft’s Xbox plans. “Now you sit down and pick up a controller and they’re like ‘by the way, the world is on fire, AHH.’ You know what I mean? You just want to play the game!”
Ignoring that kids aren’t the only people who play video games, that most Xbox consoles are bought and owned by adults, and that the Xbox update in question is something most people won’t even notice, it’s silly that conservatives are so freaked out by kids becoming aware of climate change. Partially because there’s little “danger” of a gas stove ban or some esoteric Xbox firmware update—or whatever trifling occurrence inspires the next tempest in a teapot from terminally online conservatives—will do that. But also because Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, Donald Trump, and the rest of them are just afraid of facing reality.
Realities such as gun violence being a problem or gender not being as binary as they once thought is something conservatives like Cruz are desperate to ignore. Not only that, they need you to ignore it too; to get distracted by tweets about Xbox going “woke” or the perils of all-female M&Ms. And not just because it makes many of them money as they soullessly grift through the end of the world. But by getting more people to join in on the never-ending culture wars they spark, they can distract themselves from reality, craft a narrative they can control and understand, and more importantly, distract their followers so they can avoid actually having to answer tough questions or provide real plans to fix what’s broken and make the world a better place. And having to face reality, more than Xbox going woke or trans people simply existing, scares these grifters shitless.