Buying Fake Nintendo Consoles Helps Terrorists


Speaking to the BBC, HMRC spokesperson Clare Merrills warned that faulty counterfeit consoles could be unsafe.

“You might find you plug it in and the adaptor sets on fire or the wires start to melt and stick out,” she warned.

“When you buy these goods, you’re not funding our economy, you’re actually funding criminals in these far off places and it could be linked to terrorism,” she added.

Why be rational, when you can stoke fear instead?

EDITED TO ADD (1/13): How to spot a fake Nintendo console.

Posted on December 16, 2008 at 10:47 AM34 Comments


Spider December 16, 2008 11:43 AM

Wow. Spending time on the internet has sort of spoiled me. Can’t a group of citizens band together and just ban anyone who says such stupid things from public office, or at least moderate them down so most people wont see them?

Not Anonymous December 16, 2008 11:56 AM

And by the way, how does buying genuine Japanese consoles help the British economy? Isn’t that just funding companies “in these far off places”? China is not that far from Japan, actually.

Mark December 16, 2008 12:05 PM

Spending time on the internet has sort of spoiled me. Can’t a group of citizens band together and just ban anyone who says such stupid things from public office, or at least moderate them down so most people wont see them?

It might be easier to have a system to “mod up” the comments of public officials which are actually worthwhile. Unless someone has some idea how to get a better standard of official.

One thing to remember is that the British Government has been involved in funding terrorists in the past. So anyone working for HMRC really needs to look in the mirror before spouting off about money going to terrorists.

Brandioch Conner December 16, 2008 12:06 PM

Osama really needs to release another video tape with a promise to address the QA process in their video game manufacturing division.

Why doesn’t anyone ever ask questions of the mindless government fear mongers after statements such as the ones she made?

Exactly HOW would a terrorist get paid for little Timmy’s console that his dear Mum saved SIXTY POUNDS on?

HJohn December 16, 2008 12:27 PM

I didn’t see stoking fear. There was one line about terrorism, and frankly, if those producing this fraudulent product are sending money to terrorist group, I’d like to know that too, and its not because it has me scared.

When its kept quiet, people get criticized for lack of transparency. But when they say something, they are fear-mongering.

Davi Ottenheimer December 16, 2008 12:42 PM

“when they say something, they are fear-mongering”

Uh, not just something.

They can say don’t buy faulty/illegal/untested stuff without adding in the word terrorism or “far off places”.

“if those producing this fraudulent product are sending money to terrorist group, I’d like to know that too”

Yes, no kidding. Show some data or don’t make the association. The problem is that no link is likely to be given to you or anyone else because none exists.

That’s why it’s fear-mongering. All you will know is that things somehow could be linked to terrorists someplace, maybe.

Are you ready to invade your neighbor’s home yet to save the nation from those terrorist sponsors?

You should always beware of vague phrases like “far off places” as they trigger fear and emotion to overcome rational thought. This is the basis of much fraud.

Sad, because there is still a very good reason to not buy faulty electronics that stands all on its own — home safety.

HJohn December 16, 2008 12:46 PM


Good points. They should provide more information, but whether or not it is fear mongering depends on whether or not their insinuation is true.

Bryan Feir December 16, 2008 1:10 PM


And part of Davi’s point is that if the insinuation were true, they presumably would have had evidence to back it up rather than falling back to wishy-washy words like ‘could be linked’.

HJohn December 16, 2008 1:19 PM


Fair enough. On the other hand, I didn’t feel a “buy this and the money will go to terrorists, and they will kill you and your family” tone to the article either.

Guy Sum December 16, 2008 1:34 PM

Off topic but …
Bruce, did you see ‘Identifying Garbage Men’ where Didier Stevens says:
“genuine garbage man face an economic loss from the activity of impostors, you don’t. Hence the ID problem is really the garbage men’s problem, not yours”

Sounds a lot like you and the economics of security, or in this case identity management.

MS December 16, 2008 2:18 PM

I wrote to the UK advertising standards agency regarding a cinema advert saying that piracy funds terrorism. They responded saying that this had been complained about before and gave me a copy of their (I assume) boiler-plate response: FACT (the industry anti-piracy body) referenced an obscure report that counterfeit goods had funded IRA activites in Northern Ireland a decade ago… tenuous at best!

derf December 16, 2008 2:31 PM

“…could be linked to terrorism”

Got a stupid issue? Prepend anything you would like to the above statement to get your way. Apple pie, Twinkies, Obama, Bush, whatever and whomever.

“Terrorism”, the new “it’s for the children”.

Frank December 16, 2008 3:27 PM

If you question Gordon Brown, you are a traitor and a terrorist.

oh, and you are responsible for the collapse of the economy.

Anonymous December 16, 2008 4:59 PM

I’m pretty sure buying gas at the local station has a higher probability of funding terrorism than counterfeit nintendo stuff.

John H December 16, 2008 5:10 PM

At least it’s vaguely plausible. Terrorism costs money, and various illegal activities are good ways to raise money.

Before the War On Terror, there used to be ads claiming that pirate videos funded drug pushers – the primary bogeyman of the time. It always seemed to me that the whole point of pushing drugs was that it was profitable in itself.

Still, I think if I’m guessing at motives, avarice is more common than terrorism. Also I strongly suspect that the culture in the parts of the world that are churning out these consoles doesn’t have a tradition of ‘intellectual property’.

bob!! December 16, 2008 5:29 PM

“You might find you plug it in and the adaptor sets on fire or the wires start to melt and stick out,”

Isn’t that what happens when you buy a Mac with a Magsafe power cord? I guess Apple must be funding terrorism.

gbromage December 17, 2008 3:28 AM

@Volcane: Surely, then, the best way to defeat terrorists is to pirate your own DVDs, and give them away to family and friends?

That way, you destroy their business model and cut off their funding!

Dave Berkeley December 17, 2008 3:29 AM

I made a complaint to the advertising standards commission a few years ago about their alarmist “buying fake DVDs supports terrorism” but they rejected the complaint. They claimed that some IRA people had been found selling dodgy DVDs once, and that justified the claim. I see that ‘MS’ above made the same complaint. The adverts were really offensive.

It would be more accurate to say “paying your taxes causes illegal wars, the massive slaughter of innocent civilians, and encourages terrorism”.

Interesting that they don’t mention pirated DVDs funding the drugs business any more. In fact our military backed the “war lord” drug barons in Afghanistan against our previous allies, the Taliban, guaranteeing a massive increase in Opium production. Half of all crime in the UK is drugs related and 90% of the heroin comes from Afghanistan. Not a good result.

Sparafucile December 17, 2008 5:10 AM

This story is indeed old; not in the sense of being published a long time ago, but in the sense of Authority linking something they don’t like (such as us taking intellectual property rights) to something we don’t like (drug dealers, terrorists) – usually without being worried by such minor problems as supporting evidence.

In the early part of this decade, I regularly set my students to research on one (their choice which) of several topics. This being much in the news at the time, one subject was the “Links between “cybercrime” and other criminal or antisocial activities such as the illegal drugs trade, prostitution or organised shoplifting”.

No-one chose this topic. The half-a-dozen who started it told me – in different years – that they had given up because there was absolutely no story behind the media headlines; when they questioned the journalist, PR spokesman, police or whatever, any justification was to a similar story in another media outlet.

Of course, this time it may be true!

Clive Robinson December 17, 2008 5:28 AM

@ John H,

“Also I strongly suspect that the culture in the parts of the world that are churning out these consoles doesn’t have a tradition of ‘intellectual property’.”

Interestingly neither did (/does) the US untill the begining of the previous century.

Most of those inventions Americans claim as their own (light bulb, telephone, film for still and movie projectors, etc ,etc) where actually submitted to the US pattent office before they where “officialy discovered” in the US.

Currently this lack of respect of IP is still going on in the US with Submarine patents, and US judges rulling that non US patents are to broad or not broad enough to be enforcable against a US company.

Can you realy blaim other countries for following suit?

a supporter December 17, 2008 10:07 AM

Oh no! I’ve just bought an ipod from argos.
It came in a pretty small box (which I found cool),
nearly no paper stuff (cool – save the forests), and no power supply (not cool).
I just realised that I might be funding terrorists?
I demand Argos to be closed down and the products they sell to be given away for free.
That would ruin all those terrorists.

tensor December 18, 2008 1:01 AM

I do like how warning consumers against buying dangerous products somehow just isn’t convincing enough; the vague, scaremongering reference to what (who? whom?) we, here in the States, now call ‘Warren Terra’ (as our forgotten-but-not-gone El Supremo sometimes manages to pronounce it) must be invoked. Several possibilities exist:

(1) gov’t mouthpiece believes, “You and your kids will die in a fire” just won’t do it;

(2) gov’t mouthpiece has instructions to yell “terra terra terra!” all the time;

(3) gov’t. mouthpiece actually believes this garbage.

I’d go with (1), as basic contempt for the citizenry is the basis of all nanny state-ism.

(The Yank author apologises for any and all Amercianisms in this comment.)

ally December 19, 2008 6:20 AM

OK, so I’m no fan of the current fad for pitching everything as helping terrorists. But the DVD/CD/video tape piracy thing was factually accurate – some of the vendors selling pirate copies at the Barras Market in Glasgow were shown years ago to be doing so for Irish Republican groups. It’s in the East End of the city, not far from Celtic Football Club where, back in the 90s, you couldn’t get in the turnstiles without being accosted by some halfwit shaking a collecting can at you and asking you to “help the struggle”.

Of course, the IRA have found life (and funding) rather more difficult since Americans finally realised 7 years ago that giving money to terrorists gets people killed. Tragic that they had to learn the hard way, but there you are.

Johnny Fakename January 15, 2009 4:33 AM

The crimson/black DS lite the article claims to be fake is in a smaller box because it does not come as part of a bundle (e.g. with Brain Training or a case), and is a special edition import. Just because it wasn’t bought from Best Buy along with a warranty doesn’t mean it’s a fake.

Anyway, at least Al qaeda is now too busy to fly planes into buildings because it’s members too tied up manufacturing fake games consoles.

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