Tuesday, April 22, 2008

DURRR THE OLYMPICS DON'T MATTER AFTER THE COLD WAR: And that is one of the more annoying tropes I've heard in my time in the bloggy intertrons, particularly at Reason (otherwise my favrit mag--well TAP is good too, and I will never be left enough to hate The Economist) here in particular (I swear there was more, in comment threads at least, but I can't find any evidence. Matt Welch is scrubbing the archives TO THWART ME!!!!) Of course this latest torch run proves my header to be the "end of history" of sports punditizing.

Anyway--I've been reading a lot lately about these whole "China vs the world" protests, like and this and this and this and this and this (no cites, the blogs I've been reading, mainly the ones on the Peking Duck blogroll, were all talking about similar stuff), and the one thing I'm really convinced of is China has atrocious image management. I mean, why did it take the Internet for me to see this sequence of photos? This is a propaganda coup! Wheelchair-bound paralympian fends off torch snatcher! Especially the sequence those photos are in--she starts off just happy to be there, protesters show up, she cradles the torch with both hands (fantastic form--she should play para-American football next since apparently she's too old for the fencing team (mentioned in the EastSouthWestNorth translation)), does not let it get stolen from her, and the relief on her face when the ordeal passes is palpable. (Where were the dudes in the blue track suits, anyway?) And yet the only people who seem to be seeing and getting exorcised by these photos are the worldwide Han community, who are obviously predisposed to getting exorcised by them. Possibly a little too exorcised. And yes--the "Western" (god I hate that term) media has its own set of biases that's going to preclude it from wanting to do anything China-sympathetic on the Tibet question. I think for educated Americans and Europeans, that question has been answered: China's wrong! Therefore Tibet should be free. And that's that. What? Northern Ireland is entirely different....

God, too many explosive tangents there--I have no idea how I didn't work abortion in. The point is, Jin Jing is an enormously sympathetic figure that you probably don't know too much about unless you're plugged into the Chinese mediasphere. Never mind that the Chinese intertrons have already turned on her since she spoke out against the Carrefour boycott (though I have no idea if those comments are representative or not. Imagine gauging the AMERICAN STREET!!! using LGF commenters.) Non-Chinese institutional biases and good ol' yellow perilism aside, China--and by "China" I mean the goofy government of China--has been given a gift-wrapped propaganda moment and they seem to have no clue how to push it. Other than pushing it at their own citizens, which strikes me as a poor long-term governing strategy, this whole idea of ramping up nationalist sentiment and then trying to cut it off before it explodes (I hate to say anything bad about Jin Jing, but her anti-boycott comments fit this strategy perfectly.) As Raj at The Peking Duck put it:

The Chinese government should be shitting their pants over this - they have created a self-conscious monster (a very nasty strain of Chinese nationalism) that will demand people conform to what it wants, but not necessarily what Beijing wants. If things carry on as they are, with manipulation of the media to stoke xenophobic attitudes and repress open discussion and more generally the support of angry nationalism to divert attention away from the CCP, one day this beast may well turn against the political establishment. Then there will be blood, one way or another.

I can't wait for the torch's journey through Japan!

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