It started out like a typical political protest: opponents gathered outside a faction's headquarters, milling about and waving signs. But pretty soon things got out of hand: gunfire, explosions, giant pig grenades.
Giant pig grenades? OK, maybe not entirely typical.
The protesters were gathered to decry the opening of the virtual headquarters of French nationalist group Front National in Second Life. But the incident soon moved beyond sign waving and statement issuing, as residents armed themselves and explosions began to rain down. Then came the pigs. (It could have been worse--just ask Second Life real estate magnate Anshe Chung.)
Second Life citizens had been debating the appropriateness of the far-right group in the virtual world, and some had asked whether the the virtual world's creator, Linden Lab, should step in. But that may not be necessary; according to reports, the headquarters is no longer there and members of the group have all but disappeared.
Blog community response:
"One thing to consider is that these groups in virtual worlds are in fact increasing their visibility--one Frenchman on the scene told Au that he found the Front National headquarters in Second Life by searching for 'France.' How would US residents feel if someone in Second Life searched for 'United States' and brought up the Ku Klux Klan or the Black Panthers?"
"This was possibly the first, but it certainly won't be the last. As virtual worlds grow and more and more organizations, companies, and political parties start inhabiting them as a serious branch of their business, the number of virtual protests are going to go through the roof. In real life, only the extremists tend to care enough to get involved in a protest. In a virtual world, where there are no risks, people who only care mildly about the issues, or perhaps don't care at all, are going to show up. As one person who utterly missed the substantive issues behind this protest said, 'The French stink! Get out of Second Life!'"
--Cyde Weys Musings
"You can't hold political discourse, because someone could drop a giant virtual poop on your stage. You can't run a business, because if a group doesn't like you, they can just throw up pictures of porn stars around your workplace. You can't rely on anything legitimately serious, because your neighborhood is populated with the same adolescent idiots that populate every non-moderated discussion forum on the internet, and this time, they don't even need to be able to type to ruin your day! And I say this assuming the party being attacked was a hatemongering Nazi-loving political party. It doesn't matter, and if you don't understand why, you don't understand democracy."