Commentary

Beijing Olympics Cause Burps of Moral Equivalence

By Tim Graham | February 9, 2022 | 9:55am EST
A Chinese flag flies in the wind. (Photo credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
A Chinese flag flies in the wind. (Photo credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Anyone under 30 today has no idea what it was like to live in America during the Cold War. That includes the reflexive tendency of liberals and leftists to insist repeatedly that we really shouldn't lecture the authoritarians in the Soviet Union or China for gross abuses of human rights because the United States isn't much different.

Back in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell, USA Today founder Al Neuharth was lecturing, "There is little more logic to Lithuania being permitted to unilaterally and unlawfully declare its independence from the USSR than there would be for Texas to secede from the USA." In 1990, NBC reporter Bob Abernethy explained, "Congress changed the Soviet Constitution to permit limited private ownership of small factories, although laws remain against exploitation of everyone else."

The regrettable decision to award the 2022 Winter Olympics to Communist China caused an acid reflux of this disturbing distortion of geopolitical reality.

"Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd implied that the Jan. 6 riot should keep us from saying anything critical of China. "I can't help but wonder about our inability to get the world to follow us on a diplomatic boycott of China on something that's fundamental about sort of what we believe should be freedom bigger than financial ties. It makes me think, well, maybe the example of our democracy is not so good."

Todd did not lower himself to suggest the failure to get a wider diplomatic boycott can be blamed on the Biden-Blinken team. Nope, blame the rioters for that.

On CNN (and then rebroadcast on PBS), TV host Christiane Amanpour pressed Republican Sen. Todd Young on his op-ed strongly calling out China: "A million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz are locked away in gulags. They are raped, tortured with electric batons, sterilized, and forced into abortions. Taiwan's sovereignty is continually threatened. Hong Kong's democracy is strangled."

Amanpour somehow thought she could compare this to American politics, that some "from abroad" might tell us, "Hold on a second, America's preaching democracy to us yet, you know, treating democracy rather cavalierly."

Then she brought up the Republican National Committee condemning Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for helping the Democrats crack down on "legitimate political discourse" on Jan. 6.

Rioting is not legitimate political discourse. But how can supposedly educated journalists compare that five-hour riot to a million Chinese citizens locked away for years in gulags? Young denounced the riot and shamed her for the comparison. Amanpour buckled and said, "You're absolutely right" that it's not like the gulags. So why try that junk in the first place?

Then there was journalism professor and ex-ESPN journalist J.A. Adande, who appeared on ESPN's "Around the Horn" show and compared the gulags to — get this — American police brutality and red states passing laws with allegedly outrageous impositions such as asking for voter ID. "Who are we to criticize China's human rights record when we have ongoing attacks by the agents of the state against unarmed citizens, and we've got assaults on the voting rights of our people of color in various states in this country."

No one would ever catch this educator in a "Uyghur Lives Matter" T-shirt.

The Olympics only last a few weeks, so this ridiculous exercise in rhetorical gymnastics will fade. But the imprisonment and injustice lasts as long as the Chinese communists remain in power. We can easily guess that all of these pampered journalists and professors would prefer to remain here, uncorking their hot takes in this allegedly failing democracy for the rest of their lives.

Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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