SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
In an editorial last week the New York Times suggested that the International Olympic Committee, in its ceaseless shilling for China in the run-up to the games, had proven itself “beyond redemption”:
To win the coveted right to hold the Olympics, China promised to expand press freedoms for foreign journalists and dangled the prospect that, more broadly, human rights might also be improved. Instead, authorities have harassed and locked up critics, intimidated journalists, selectively denied visas, silenced grieving parents who lost children in the May 12 earthquake and relocated thousands of Chinese whose homes or businesses were seen as marring Beijing’s image.
Yet as the Times noted, the IOC “has enabled China at every step” Indeed, IOC president Jacques Rogge have been so embarrassingly craven to Chinese wishes that he looks to be playing roughly the role in 2008 that Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels played at the 1936 Olympics.
During the controversy over the torch relay, Rogge largely dismissed concerns about human rights in China and the propaganda value of the games. He has made clear that the IOC will not tolerate any political expression on the part of athletes, saying “If you open up the Olympic arena to settling scores and making political statements, this is the end of the spirit of the Games…If you start having people on the podium with T-shirts with regional causes and conflicts or religious ones or racial ones, we can’t allow that.” As to an athlete putting a “Free Tibet” poster on the wall of his room in the Olympic village, Rogge said
“That is something that is to be considered as a political demonstration or propaganda and falls beyond what we call the freedom of expression,” he said. “Then we will talk with the athlete and we will ask them what the motives are and then we’ll see what he or she has to say.”
Rogge has lauded measures taken by Beijing to (mostly temporarily) clean the air, saying, “Authorities have done everything that is feasible and humanly possible to address this situation. What they have done is extraordinary.”
Then when the air proved to be extremely dirty anyway, sparking numerous complaints from the athletes, Rogge denied there was any pollution, saying during a BBC interview yesterday that the problem was merely heat and humidity. He even criticized athletes for wearing air masks, urging them to take them off because it might offend Chinese authorities.
Is Rogge the head of the IOC or is he China’s propaganda czar? At this point, it’s impossible to tell the difference.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”