Wesley Yin-Poole of VideoGamer.com interviewed Glenn Bowman, Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent, about Resident Evil 5 and its racist content. Yin-Poole called Bowman “one of the UK’s leading experts on racism”. In one of my previous posts, I suggested that Bowman may not be the most qualified academic to consult because none of his specialties include research on race issues or racism, based upon his body of work and list of publications.
Since my post was published, Glenn Bowman has twice commented on my blog, in the first instance clarifying that VideoGamer.com did not “pre-vet” him for the interview, and secondly stating that he does not consider himself an expert on racism. I am reasonably certain that the IP addresses for both Bowman’s comments, as well as the University of Kent email address used to submit his comment, are valid. The comments originate from IPs in the UK. One of them is from an ISP and the other is from the University of Kent.
Further digging turns up Bowman’s profile at the Society of Applied Anthropology social network, where Bowman cites his “Areas of specialisation: West Bank Palestine, Former Yugoslavia (esp. Serbia and Macedonia). Political Anthropology. Shrines and intercommunal interactions. Psychoanalysis, philosophy, history” and his as areas of expertise as “Palestine, Former Yugoslavia”. This lends further support to Bowman’s comment that he doesn’t consider himself an expert on racism, as Yin-Poole had dubbed him in the VideoGamer.com article.
After Bowman posted those comments on my blog, the VideoGamer.com article covered up their previous claim that Bowman was a “leading expert on racism” by removing that quote (link to current article, screencap of current article). Below are two screen shots of the cached articles, showing the original quote at VideoGamer.com, which references Bowman as “one of the UK’s leading experts on racism”:
This is the relevant section, zoomed-in:
Both Kotaku and Joystiq, two leading games blogs, posted stories referring to Bowman’s expertise in racism, based upon Wesley Yin-Poole’s interview.
Here, Kotaku cites VideoGamer.com as their source and refers to Bowman as “one of the UK’s top experts on racism”:
Joystiq calls Bowman “a real expert on the science of race relations”:
My point is not to vilify Bowman. I have nothing against Glen Bowman at all. I think that he was inadvertently dragged into this by the unprofessionalism of VideoGamer.com. In a bid to get the most hits, the most attention, VideoGamer.com published misinformation about their source so that their story appeared more credible to their readers. This misinformation has spread throughout the gaming media unchecked and unexamined. Joystiq and Kotaku are just two examples. Wesley Yin-Poole’s bio states that he has a “strong journalistic background” but that claim doesn’t seem to hold water in light of the fact that he made misinformed claims about his source and he (or someone at VideoGamer.com) edited the original article without stating that he had made changes. Furthermore, none of the big gaming blogs or news outlets bothered to check VideoGamer.com’s source to see whether he was actually an expert on racism as VideoGamer.com claimed.
I think this incident is an indication of the poor state of videogame journalism.
EDIT — 20 March 2009: Kotaku has updated their story linked above to reflect the information in this post.