It’s perfect. It’s all there in one cute little graphic, the Google logo for August 8, 2008:
Here Google, which has censored the Internet on behalf of the Chinese government since 2006, visually merges itself with the Olympics, which as I write are giving China’s totalitarian government its best chance ever to strut its ultramodern chops for the world. Rather than fertilizing democratization, as Olympic advocates had long fantasized, the spectacle has only inflamed Chinese nationalism and defiance of international norms (“the short-term byproduct of the Olympics has been a surge in Chinese patriotism that bolstered the [Communist] party against international criticism”—New York Times, Aug. 7).
It’s funny enough to make a skull grin. The Chinese government has at least 30,000 full-time thought police spying on Internet usage, but Google threatens their jobs by blocking whatever the Chinese government wants blocked. Google argues that it must obey the laws of the countries where it does business (but I wonder what law says Google has to do business there at all). Yahoo has been even worse, repeatedly handing over data that has helped the Chinese government put people in jail for advocating democracy on-line. Those people rot in cells today with 10-year sentences and are at grave risk for torture.
The parallel between 2008 and 1936, when the Nazis tarted up Berlin for their own Olympics and put on a magnificently designed show for the world media, has been noted often. It should be noted even more often, and taken to heart. Enough sawdust piffle about sports transcending politics: they don’t. And enough pious mewing about not hassling the poor innocent amateur athletes with their dreams of gold: the Olympics are a money-making proposition, for the pseudo-amateur athletes as well as their prestige-hungry host countries, media love-slaves, and corporate sponsors. (Remember when Michael Jordan became an amateur just long enough to play on the US Olympic basketball team, 1992? Vomitorium, anyone?) The Olympics are, and have always been—in every country, not only China—a billion-watt pumper-upper of nationalism and a deification of that savage, winning-is-all ideology which already courses like molten plutonium through the bulging veins of all professional “sport”—a word that once upon a time, it is sad to recall, meant simply “play.” The Olympics are bad for us from top to bottom, beginning to end, whether in China or Sweden.
Of course, Bush’s lecture to the Chinese on human rights makes the bile rise nicely. The hypocrisy of Mr. Waterboarding, Mr. War of Aggression, Mr. No-Warrant Spying, Mr. No-Trials-for-Anybody-If-I-Say-So lecturing China is perfect. But that’s unimportant: even a stopped fascist can be right twice a day. The Olympics are soul-sick and perverse, and the billions of dollars and hours lavished on them are worse than wasted. We should turn our backs on them, “boycott” them if you like, wherever and whenever they occur. The spectacle of so much skill at work is tempting, of course. Exactly. A spoonful of sugar makes the poison go down.