Thursday, July 05, 2007

Uh, No, Henry

A couple weeks back, I gave Henry Abbot a shoutout for his considered take on the situation in Darfur. But this new post that calls some agent hack's advice on dealing with China "pretty savvy" is wrong, wrong wrong.

I've been looking for an excuse to link to this absolutely incredible book review by Rick Perlstein. (It's ridiculously long, but also ridiculously good; easily the best thing I've read in any magazine this year.) It needs to be brandished like a club anytime you hear some jackoff say, "China's made tremendous strides in human rights since Tiananmen Square." (Or, in Henry's case, endorsing some jackoff saying, "China's made tremendous strides in human rights since Tiananmen Square.") Enter Rick:

My tourist retirees visited Tiananmen Square. Good American innocents abroad, they asked their guide about the event that made it familiar to them. "He wouldn't answer questions. He didn't want to talk about it." Few American visitors come back better informed than before they arrived about the hundreds (thousands? we will never know) massacred in the democracy demonstrations of 1989; or the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Chinese jails at any given time (some for the "crime," officially stricken from the books, of "counterrevolution"); or the dozens of criminals killed every day by the state (by one count there were 12,000 executions in China in 2005); or the hundreds of antigovernment protests in rural China. Or, say, about the retired military doctor Jiang Yanyong, who in 2003 became a national hero and international symbol of China's strides toward democracy for publicizing the SARS epidemic and who, a year later, was thrown in jail for criticizing the Tiananmen massacre.

We can have long debates that go into the early morning about what's the best way for Amerians to deal with the fact that China is a corrupt, authoritarian state with an abyssmal human rights record. (Hell, I would even entertain a debate about the purity of the original Tiananmen Square protests. I recently read that they were initially sparked by student outrage over what they viewed as the preferrential treatement of African students by the Chinese university system, i.e., that it was initially racism, and not some thirst for democracy, that was the catalyzing agent.) But in the midst of these debates, let's not countenance any nonsense from some corporate self-interested hack that China has made "tremendous strides in human rights since Tiananmen Square."

UPDATE: I've re-read Henry's post, and perhaps my take on Henry (not the corporate hack) is a touch unfair. What he's actually praising is the guy's willingness to allow players to do what they think is right. Respecting players' autonomy to do and say whatever the hell they want politically speaking doesn't seem to me like much of a concession for these corporate hacks to make, since doing otherwise would be violating the First Amendment. So, yes, while I too am glad these guys are willing not to violate the law and demand that their signed athletes toe some corporate party line (kinda like what they make people do in China), it doesn't seem anything particularly praiseworthy to me. And it's certainly not endearing enough that we should let dude's obfuscations on the current situation in China pass without comment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never read that True Hoop post just assuming it was a puffy, bullshitted babble. You've been subconsciously scooped!

2:21 PM  
Blogger Big Sweet said...

Perlstein's piece was indeed great. I actually overshot my bus stop coming back from work finishing it a few months back. And that's super interesting about the African students if that's in fact true. But yeah, I wouldn't be too hard on Henry; he's a sports blogger trying to do some investigating and critical thinking, something we could all stand to do. But letting Nike's parrot speak uncontested doesn't add much to discourse.

12:25 AM  
Blogger BenGo07 said...

I stand by my original statement that Henry Abbott is fucking awesome. This particular post was just considerably less so. I happen to think I'm fucking awesome too, but God knows there are plenty of days (just hopefully not the majority) when I'm considerably less so. I think this is true for just about everyone, with the possible exception of Rick Perlstein. I still can't get over how incredible this piece is, and he turns out 2 or 3 posts a week at the Big Con that are equally stunning. Oh, and his upcoming book on Nixon is simply PHENOMENAL. He is just the man.

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