Now it’s ESPN’s turn to bow to Beijing

A Taiwanese flag emoji

The bowing and scraping to China doesn’t stop. Last week we wrote about how Apple has removed the Taiwanese flag emoji from IPhones sold in Hong Kong. We mentioned that Google and Microsoft, as everybody knows by now, happily jigger their products in accordance with Chinese censorship. Then there’s Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, who, when he dared to express solidarity on Twitter with the freedom protesters in Hong Kong, saw his whole world came crashing down on him. His team owner, the NBA, the Chinese Basketball Association, a Chinese broadcaster with which the NBA has a lucrative deal, and a bunch of Chinese companies that manufacture NBA-branded clothing – all of them, shamefully, took Morey to task for giving freedom a thumbs-up.

ESPN’s China map

Next thing you knew it was ESPN’s turn. On October 9, the show SportsCenter, which is aired on that network, showed a map of Communist China that included within its borders the island of Taiwan, part of the Philippines, and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The map also included the notorious “nine-dash line,” whereby Communist Chinese maps indicate its utterly unfounded claims to the South China Sea. When called on its use of this map, ESPN refused comment, as did the Disney Organization, its principal owner.

Let’s look at this disgraceful episode piece by piece. Of course, Communist China officially claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and has never renounced its supposed right to take the island by force, although Taiwan is in fact an independent – and a free – country, and no map other than one produced in Communist China would include it as part of Communist China.

The red line indicates China’s South China Sea claims.

As for the South China Sea, Communist China has been more and more aggressive about it in recent years, treating much of it as its own property even though if you look at a map – a real map, not a Chinese map – you’ll see that the sea stretches far south of China, and is bordered on the east by the Philippines, on the west by Vietnam, and on the south by Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia. In order to bolster its territorial claim to most of this body of water – which is comparable to the U.S. claiming the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea – China has actually created artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that contains settlements and military establishments owned by Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei.

Xi Jinping

And what about those bits of the Philippines and India? What exactly is on the minds of the bullies of Beijing? No wonder the countries of east Asia are trembling at China’s increasing pushiness. That ESPN map was no mistake, any more than the maps of the Middle East put out by Muslim countries that just happen to omit Israel. Indeed, looking at that bogus China map, it is hard not to be reminded of the way in which the Third Reich, after it had attained a certain level of power, began to grab one chunk of neighboring territory after another, painting more and more of Europe a bright red, with a big swastika right smack in the middle. Make no mistake about it: Chairman Xi and his crew plainly want to paint their neighborhood red too. And when it happens, don’t expect the cowards at ESPN to object.

The NBA: a fully owned subsidiary of the PRC

Writing on Tuesday about the courageous stance of the people of Hong Kong, who have taken on the totalitarian tyrants of Beijing in the name of personal liberty, we concluded with the observation that sensible people in the Western world, who were lucky enough to be born in freedom, should look upon the bravery on display in Hong Kong with respect and humility.

Daryl Morey

Well, somebody admired the folks of Hong Kong. The other day, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, tweeted “Stand with Hong Kong.” But the owner of the team, one Tilman Fertitta, rushed to Twitter to say that Morey wasn’t speaking for the team. Former Houston Rocket center Yao Ming, who now heads the Chinese Basketball Association, suspended its relationship with the Houston team. Several Chinese companies that churn out merch for the NBA, including athletic wear manufacturer Li-Ning, also expressed outrage at Morey’s tweet. Ditto Tencent, a Chinese firm that has paid the NBA $1.5 billion to broadcast its games for the next five years. The NBA itself was quick to distance themselves from Morey’s anti-totalitarian sentiments, with league honcho Mike Bass lamenting that Morey’s tweet had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” Bass added that “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

Tilman Fertitta

In the end, Morey deleted his pro-freedom tweet and feebly assured all and sundry that he had not meant to offend anybody. “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey tweeted on Monday. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.” Could any of this be more pathetic? Yet this is the world we live in, where a Communist tyranny wields such power that an American citizen dare not speak up for freedom for fear of outraging Beijing. Sports like basketball and baseball are all tied up in a lot of people’s minds with American patriotism. But to the people who run the NBA, it’s clear, the greenbacks they get from Beijing are more important than the red, white, and blue.

Yao Ming

Nor is this cowardly, craven attitude restricted to the NBA. On October 7, it was reported that Apple had removed the Taiwanese flag emoji from the newly updated keyboards of iPhones sold in Hong Kong and Macau, China’s other so-called “special administrative region.” Did Apple do this on its own initiative, or was it following orders from Beijing? Whatever the case, as the Quartz website put it, when viewed “against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, the move exemplifies continued corporate subservience to the Chinese government.” The Quartz article further noted that Google and Microsoft, which earn zillions in income from everywhere else in the world, are so greedy that they, too, happily bow to Beijing – in their case, producing Chinese versions of their technologies that accord with the censorious dictates of Xi Jinping’s regime. In short, Chinese money talks. And American freedom be damned.

What is happening in Hong Kong?

This is our 800th post here at Useful Stooges. It is a landmark for our site, and consequently we have decided to devote this post to an especially crucial ongoing development in the never-ending history of the human struggle for freedom.

The handover, 1997

Ever since the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to the People’s Republic of China in 1997, the onetime colony’s spectacular success as an international financial hub and robust center of corporate activity has obscured the fact that it is, in fact, ultimately subject to the authority of the world’s most powerful and dangerous totalitarian regime.

Hong Kong’s history is rich in irony. Its acquisition by Britain in the early nineteenth century was, frankly, an imperialistic land grab. But by the mid twentieth century, it was, thanks to that land grab, a tiny outpost of democratic capitalism and individual liberty on the coast of the planet’s most populous Communist country. Its population was overwhelmingly ethnic Chinese, but they were ethnic Chinese who were glad to be living in a free and wealthy enclave under British rule rather than under Red China’s heavy tyrannical thumb.

Hong Kong

Yet the fact that people in Britain – and, by extension, Hong Kong – lived in freedom while people in China did not was hardly dispositive. As China’s power grew, it began to demand that Britain give up control of this wealthy jewel. Fearing that China might retake Hong Kong by force, the British government agreed in 1984 to return it in 1997 on the proviso that its people would be permitted to keep living in liberty until the year 2047. This was the famous “one country, two systems” agreement.

Hong Kong Olympic team, 2012

The result has been a often uneasy hybrid. On the one hand, Hong Kong’s legal system differs from China’s. It belongs to the WTO, issues its own passports, and sends its own team to the Olympics. There remains a tight customs border between Hong Kong and the rest of China, and Chinese citizens are not permitted to move to Hong Kong. On the other hand, the city is policed by the People’s Liberation Army – a fact that has been of crucial importance in recent weeks, when all of Hong Kong, it seems, has risen up in protest against the bullies of Beijing.

2019 protesters

It started with a proposed law that would permit the extradition of people from Hong Kong who are wanted for crimes on the mainland. Until now, rather remarkably, there has been no extradition agreement between China and Hong Kong – yet another indication of the degree to which Hong Kong has remained a separate entity. Such a law, of course, if applied aggressively, could spell an end to Hong Kong’s distinctive Western-style freedoms. Protests began in March of this year and grew in scale and violence over the course of the spring. Quite rapidly, the focus of the demonstrations broadened; they weren’t just about the bill but about Beijing’s authority generally. So it was that on the day after the bill was suspended on June 15, a massive protest took place; July 1, the 22nd anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China, occasioned another large-scale public display; August 5 saw a general strike and yet another huge demo.

Airport sit-in, 2019

At first, Beijing held back, not wanting to do anything that the world would compare to the Tienanmen Square massacre, which took place exactly thirty years ago, in 1989. But police gradually grew more aggressive, and yet another full-scale protest on August 18 took aim at police brutality. Meanwhile, from August 12 to 14, a sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport all but closed it down. On August 23, protesters formed a human chain 50 kilometers long that stretched across much of the metropolis. As of October, the people of Hong Kong were still coming out in force, with a number of violent protests occurring on the first of the month, which marked the 70th anniversary of the PRC’s founding.

Protesters jam the streets, 2019

Sensible people in the free world should recognize the extraordinary, months-long exhibition of love of liberty and hatred of tyranny by the people of Hong Kong as a reminder of their own good fortune, a reminder that free societies are the product of centuries of struggle and development, a reminder that freedom should never be taken for granted and sometimes needs to be fought for. The brave and inspiring actions by the people of Hong Kong should also shame the leaders of Silicon Valley tech empires who blithely adapt their products to conform to Chinese censorship laws. American politicians, retired politicians, and their family members who are willing to lobby for the tyrants of Beijing in exchange for impressive cash payoffs should also have trouble looking at themselves in the mirror. Indeed, it’s fair to say that most of us in the Western world, while snapping up Chinese imports at cheap prices, have given far too little thought to the factory workers who manufacture those products and who can fairly be described as slave labor. Nor have we reflected sufficiently upon our own roles, as bargain-happy consumers, in helping Chairman Xi and his crew to build up their wealth and power to such an extent that their autocratic empire now represents a serious economic and military threat to the U.S. and its free allies.

Castro in Vietnam: A forgotten chapter

Recently, author Jamie Glazov reposted a 2016 article of his about one of the lesser-known chapters of Communist history: the involvement of Cubans in the torture of American prisoners of war in Vietnam. On the occasion of Fidel Castro’s death, Glazov called attention to what he called “the direct and instrumental role Castro played in the torture and murder of American POWs in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.” As Glazov noted, America’s mainstream news media – which have tended to soft-pedal the evil of Castro’s regime and more than a few of which (as we’ve pointed out at this website) have celebrated Communist Cuba for the supposed quaintness and charm of its broken-down buildings and infrastructure – have virtually ignored this dark episode.

Fidel Castro

We’re not talking here, mind you, about a couple of Cubans who were sent over to Vietnam to help run POW camps. No; in fact, at the height of the Vietnam War, the number of Cubans in North Vietnam numbered in the thousands, and at least some of them were part of what Castro called the “Cuban Program” at the Cu Loc POW camp in Hanoi, which came to be known to inmates as ‘the Zoo.’” Among the goals of the “Cuban Program” was “to determine how much physical and psychological agony a human being could withstand.” For this purpose, Castro’s minions picked out US servicemen as “guinea pigs” to be worked on by a torturer, who like his comandante was named Fidel, and who was “trained in psychology and prison control in Russia or Europe.” Among the victims of Fidel’s brutality was a F-105 pilot, Lt. Col. Earl Cobeil, an F-105 pilot, whom a fellow POW, Col. Jack Bomar, described as follows:

Lt. Col. Earl Cobeil

The man could barely walk; he shuffled slowly, painfully. His clothes were torn to shreds. He was bleeding everywhere, terribly swollen, and a dirty, yellowish black and purple from head to toe. The man’s head was down; he made no attempt to look at anyone. . . . He stood unmoving, his head down. Fidel smashed a fist into the man’s face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of black rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into the man’s face. The prisoner did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. His failure to react seemed to fuel Fidel’s rage and again he whipped the rubber hose across the man’s face. . . . Again and again and again, a dozen times, Fidel smashed the man’s face with the hose. Not once did the fearsome abuse elicit the slightest response from the prisoner. . . . His body was ripped and torn everywhere; hell cuffs appeared almost to have severed the wrists, strap marks still wound around the arms all the way to the shoulders, slivers of bamboo were embedded in the bloodied shins and there were what appeared to be tread marks from the hose across the chest, back, and legs.

Barbara Walters

Cobell died. So did many others. Of course, no one who is remotely familiar with the systematic, sadistic violence perpetrated by Che Guevara and others on behalf of the Castro regime could be terribly surprised that Castro was capable of arranging such a violent project. At the same time, one never quite gets accustomed to the fact that a popular current presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, is a lifelong Castro fan; ditto the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain; that the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, honeymooned in Havana; that Barbara Walters, the longtime host of American housewives’ favorite TV show, The View, had a cozy relationship with Fidel, whom she described as “charming”; that network reporter Lisa Howard had a veritable romance with him. It is one of the enduring, and sick, facts of life that some people who are lucky enough to live in liberty are capable of an irrational attraction to totalitarian tyrants.

Trump vs. Beijing

There are many ways of measuring the advance of the Chinese economy in comparison with that of the United States. But one of them is this: in 2019, for the first time, the number of Chinese companies on the Forbes Global 500 list exceeded the number of U.S. firms.

When the rulers of China decided to turn their country into an international economic powerhouse, there was a widespread assumption that the adoption of capitalism by the world’s largest country would inevitably result in a transition from Communism to democracy.

Xi

That hasn’t happened. China has gotten rich – and a few million managerial-class Chinese people have gotten rich, too – by exporting cheaply made goods to the West and by using sky-high tariffs to keep out Western products. But at the same time it has remained resolutely totalitarian, and its blue-collar workers – you know, those proletarians whose welfare is theoretically at the heart of the entire Marxist project – continue to be drastically underpaid in comparison to their Western counterparts, which of course is why China can sell its manufactured goods so cheap.

In any event, the fact that a Communist country, for the first time in history, either has the planet’s largest economy or is close to it, should be a cause for deep concern throughout the free world.

Trump

It isn’t. Not yet. Not really. President Trump, who has tried to rein in the Chinese dynamo by raising U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports – although those tariffs are almost nothing compared to the Chinese tariffs on U.S. goods – has been accused of waging a trade war. In fact he’s simply making a modest effort to come somewhere near evening out what has for all too long been a very uneven situation.

Anyway, China has thrived. Which would not be a bad thing if not for the fact that, as Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon putitin a September appearance on The Mark Levin Show, Chinese President Xi Jinping has turned his country into a “communist nightmare.”

Gertz

Gertz, who has written a new book entitled Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy, told Levin that Xi “has his eyes set on global hegemony, he wants China to be the dominant superpower in the world, and in order to do that, he has to diminish the power of the United States.”

Some Americans in positions of authority recognize that. Most do not. Too many of them are distracted by thoughts of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, where the vodka-addled population is taking a nosedive and the economy is no bigger than that of Texas.

On the Levin program, Gertz praised Trump for taking on China – not only by fighting for fair trade but by “cracking down on China” when it comes to “law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and spying.” Gertz didn’t claim to have a crystal ball, but he contended that just as the USSR collapsed, so might China: “with a little bit of pressure” of the sort being exerted by Trump, “the whole thing could come crumbling down in Beijing.” Which would be a magnificent development for the oppressed, brutalized, and painfully unfree people of China, and would also make the whole free world breathe a good deal more easily.

Congratulations, Venezuela! Your inflation rate is down to 135,000%!

Havana

Over the years, we’ve written a good deal here about the western hemisphere’s cozy Commie tag team. We’re referring, of course, to the so-called Republic of Cuba and the so-called Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, each of which, through various actions, helps keep the other’s totalitarian system in place. Now, however, both of these tyrannies are undergoing dramatic changes. On September 13, Reuters reported that Cuba was experiencing a fuel shortage. “Cubans,” wrote Nelson Acosta, “queued for hours for public transport on Friday at peak times in Havana, sweating in the heavy heat, while queues at gas stations snaked several blocks long.”

PDVSA headquarters

The Cuban government blamed this crisis on the Trump Administration’s enhancement of U.S. efforts to block imports into Cuba – including oil shipments from Venezuela – and Trump’s new sanctions on Venezuela’s famously corrupt national oil company, PDVSA. Acosta noted, however, that it can’t all be blamed on Trump: Venezuelan oil imports into Cuba have been on the decline for years, obliging the Havana government to ration energy. Which means, among other things, shutting off streetlights and reducing “the use of electricity in state-run institutions,” whatever that entails.

Nicolas Maduro

Meanwhile, what’s up in Venezuela? According to a September 17 article in the Wall Street Journal, the Maduro government has responded to that country’s economic death spiral – a consequence of socialist policies introduced by the late Hugo Chavez – by “quietly and cautiously begun implementing free-market policies” in order to “correct an economic contraction worse than America’s Great Depression.” That’s putting it mildly: the situation in Venezuela makes The Grapes of Wrath look like Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

What exactly has the Maduro regime done? It’s “scaled back its once frenzied printing of money, nearly ended frequent salary hikes, and largely stopped enforcing the price controls that had led to dire food shortages and a thriving black market.” As the Journal ‘s Kejal Vyas observes, these are significant actions “for a government that has publicly championed its state-led, socialist economic model as the country’s only salvation from greedy capitalists.”

Venezuelans in a supermarket queue

In any event, the new policies are having an impact – kind of. The hyperinflation rate, wrote Vyas, has dropped “from seven to six figures.” To be specific, “Inflation has fallen from a peak 12-month rate of 2.6 million percent in January to 135,000% in August.” Now, that kind of inflation rate is still terrifying, but, okay, it’s better than seven figures. Just like it’s presumably better to be hit by a car going 60 miles an hour than by a train going 200.

To be sure, it’s news that the Maduro gang is finally seeing the light – sort of. It remains to be seen whether this implicit acknowledgment of the power of the free market will lead to changes in the regime’s rhetoric. Somehow we doubt it. Maduro has been rhapsodizing over chavista ideology so ardently for so many years that it’s hard to imagine him actually admitting that he’s been wrong all along.

Sergi Lanau

In any event, Vyas quotes Sergi Lanau of the Institute of International Finance in Washington to the effect that Maduro’s new measures aren’t exactly leading Venezuela out of the woods. “Is this a turning point? I would say no, definitely not,” said Lanau. “Who knows in a few months if the decision will be ‘Well, we need money again. Let’s print some more.’” In any event, despite the significant drop, Venezuela’s inflation rate remains the world’s highest. Even as America’s economy goes from strength to strength, the economies of the two totalitarian enemies on its doorstep continue to be basket cases.

New blood – and blood libels – at the Women’s March

Women’s March, 2017

There are two Women’s Marches. Or, rather, many. One – the most important one, and the one that got most of the media attention – was held in Washington, D.C., on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, whose unexpected election to the presidency over someone who had been expected to become the nation’s first female president had been regarded by many of the marchers as an outrage. On the same day, over 400 other Women’s Marches took place in cities around the country – and more than 150 marches took place in 81 countries around the world. The number of participants was staggering – perhaps over five million in the U.S. alone.

Linda Sarsour

As it happens, moreover, the group that organized these events also goes by the name of Women’s March. Among its national co-chairs was Linda Sarsour, a previously obscure Palestinian-American activist who gave a high-profile speech at the Washington march that made her internationally famous and whom we’ve written about frequently on this site. Sarsour – a sometime director of the Arab American Association of New York who belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America and helped found Black Lives Matter – proved to be that most paradoxical of creatures: a self-declared feminist who supports jihad and sharia law and wears a hijab, a symbol of female subordination under Islam. She felt sorry for Saddam Hussein when he was captured by the U.S. and she won an “American Muslim of the Year” award from terrorist-linked CAIR. While smearing ex-Muslims and critics of Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sarsour has been chummy with Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Louis Farrakhan, one of America’s most prominent anti-Semites.

Tamika Mallory

Indeed, after Sarsour rocketed to fame, it became clear she, too, had – shall we say – problematic attitudes toward the Jewish people. She’s big on the BDS movement – the campaign to boycott Israel, divest in its companies, and impose sanctions on Israeli trade. She’s said that “nothing is creepier than Zionism.” And she wasn’t the only leader of the Women’s March whose attitudes toward Jews left something to be desired. Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, the board was rife with Jew-haters. As this fact became well-known, it caused what the Washington Free Beacon described as a “year of turmoil” for the organization. The Women’s March experienced some bad PR after co-chair Tamika Mallory blamed Jews for the slave trade and said that Jews controlled all the world’s money. Like Sarsour, moreover, Mallory was friends with Farrakhan, whom she described as the “Greatest of All Time.” Another board member, Bob Bland, joined Mallory in defending Farrakhan on TV after one of the Nation of Islam leader’s occasional outbursts of passionate Jew-hatred.

Zahra Billou

In August, in an apparent effort to silence concern about antisemitism in the Women’s March hierarchy, Sarsour, Mallory, and Bland all stepped down from the organization’s board. But it doesn’t look as if this move will necessarily improve the image of the Women’s March. Of the 16 new individuals added to the group’s board, one, Zahra Billoo, who is executive director of the Bay Area chapter of CAIR, has called Israel a “terrorist state” and equated it to ISIS, while another, Palestinian-American activist Samia Assed, has questioned Israel’s right to exist. It seems as if the people who run the Women’s March just can’t keep Jew-haters out of their ranks. Somehow we wouldn’t be surprised if, in the fullness of time, it turns out that at least a few of the other 14 new board members have a distaste for the Hebrew folk as well.

Hating Israel

Some facts are plain. Israel is a tiny democratic country surrounded by entities whose people live in various degrees of unfreedom, under dictators, kings, emirs, and terrorist groups. Arabs in Israel are better off than their coreligionists in Israel’s Arab neighbors. While some of those nations are rich because of their oil resources, they make very little in the way of a positive contribution to modern civilization; many of them have sponsored terrorists who have committed acts of jihad in the Western world, and have funded madrasses and mosques that promote the poison of supremacist Islamic ideology in cities throughout the West. Meanwhile, little Israel has accomplished scientific and technological advances that rival the achievements of some of the world’s largest and richest lands.

Jeremy Corbyn

And yet Israel-hatred thrives. In Western Europe, a large cohort of the leftist elite, as exemplified by politicians like British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has aligned itself with European Muslims who share its contempt for Israel, to say nothing of its outright antisemitism.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Still, not all that long ago it would have been incredible to hear that Israel was actually losing support among American Jews. This, alas, is the sad case. Since 2010, according to a non-profit called the Brand Israel Group, support for Israel among Jewish college students in the United States has declined from 84% to 57%. That is a massive drop. As one commentator put it, these students “appear to be abandoning support for Israel in droves.” Viewed from one perspective, this alarming development is nothing short of a shock – how, only three-quarters of a century after the Holocaust, can young Jews, presumably brought up to be intensely aware of that massive atrocity in which many if not most of them lost family members, turn against the Jewish state that was founded in its wake?

A gathering of Students for Justice in Palestine

From another perspective, of course, the hostility of so many young Jewish Americans toward Israel is no Asurprise at all. Like most other American college students, they have been fed a diet of ant-Israeli propaganda, both by their professors and by groups of their fellow students. They have learned to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a black-and-white affair, with the Israelis always being the bad guys and the Palestinians the victims. They have been taught to parrot the idea that Zionism is racism and to call Israel an apartheid state. Their campuses have been the sites of anti-Israeli events, rife with the vilest of propaganda that whitewashes Hamas, Fatah, and Hezbollah while depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as the most monstrous of men. A couple of generations ago, the Jewish group Hillel was very active – and very high-profile – at colleges around the U.S.; now one hardly ever hears mention of it, while the endless mischief-making of organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine is frequently the stuff of headlines. The pressure on some Jewish students must surely be considerable, but it is nonetheless scarcely short of tragic that so many of them should disavow their own people by rejecting the state founded in the cause of their preservation.

They’re still cheering Che

In a recent article for a website called CubaArchive, a woman named Maria C. Werlau recounted an experience that we thought worth passing on. It’s a single anecdote, but it’s a telling one, illustrative of the ideological poison infecting American mass culture in these days when an unsettling percentage of young people have been led to think that socialism is just dandy and certainly preferable to capitalism. Writing on September 8, Werlau explained that on the previous Thursday, she had walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Coral Gables, Florida, and espied, before anything else, a prominently placed stack of books about Che Guevara that had been placed in the reference section.

The B&N display table

They were copies of Che: A Revolutionary Icon by Luis Enrique Martínez. It was published last year by New York-based Chartwell Books, which, a little googling reveals, specializes in books for children and teenagers. So this was, apparently, a work intended for young people. And what did Werlau find when she opened the book? “Page after page,” she wrote,

tells a selective and glorified story of Guevara under subtitles such as “The legend is born,” “The messenger of love,” “A revolutionary adventurer,” “The price of glory,” “Che lives forever,” with many glossy photos from many phases of his life. I found no subtitles such as “The killing machine,“ “the butcher of La Cabaña,” “terrorist,” “aristocratic racist,” or other less laudatory labels also used to describe him.

Of course, we’ve discussed Che at this site many times. And with good reason. For those who seek to further the fortunes of socialism in the United States, he remains a useful tool. That one famous picture of him, which in the eyes of certain observers makes him out to be glamorous, has somehow managed to sweep away his bloodthirstiness, his enthusiasm for violence, his love of killing, his eagerness to commit innocents to prison or send them to the executioner. Perhaps more than anyone in the Western hemisphere during the twentieth century, he was the very embodiment of the totalitarian mind at its most ruthless. And yet even now the Che industry, which glorifies his memory with movies, books, and t-shirts and other paraphernalia, continues to thrive.

The book

Coral Gables is a town in Miami-Dade County, which is famously home to a large Cuban-American community. Coral Gables itself is more than half Latino. Nearly all of these Cubans are living in south Florida for one reason: they, or their forebears, managed to escape the evil regime that Che Guevara helped plant and that he watered with the blood of innocents. Werlau made it plain in her article that while she is devoted to American freedoms and therefore no fan of censorship, she wondered why a bookstore in that part of the Sunshine State would want to put such a piece of shameless propaganda on display and to offer it up as, of all things, a reference book. She spoke to the manager, who told her that “he was born in Cuba but had left as a young child and knew nothing about Guevara.” Not surprising, alas.

Werlau looked up the author of the Che book. Martinez, she read, was born in Venezuela but has moved to Britain to escape the “violence and crime” prevalent in his homeland. You would think a writer who had to flee one socialist nightmare would be loath to celebrate another one. But no: Martinez, she read, had been “fascinated by Che Guevara since he was a boy when he had a poster of the revolutionary on his bedroom wall.” There it is in a nutshell: for at least one writer, the glory of that iconic image still outweighed the villainous reality of Che’s life.

Ill will and bad grace

The cast of Will and Grace

The NBC sitcom Will and Grace, which ran from 1998 to 2006, and returned to TV in 2017, profited from its timing. It centers on the friendship between Will, a gay man, and Grace, his straight best friend. Coming along at a time when gay rights was making immense strides, Will and Grace was widely viewed as helping to mainstream gay people in the minds of ordinary Americans and was thus described as “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary.” Its supposedly pivotal role in a major social movement helped overshadow the fact that it was, in fact, a third-rate, highly formulaic piece of work awash in gay stereotypes.

Eric McCormack

None of which, of course, mattered. Like Ellen Degeneres, whose own mediocre sitcom had made history when her character came out as a lesbian at the same time as Degeneres herself did so, the stars of Will and Grace, Eric McCormack (who is actually straight) and Debra Messing, came to be regarded in Hollywood circles – and by showbiz-obsessed gay-establishment groups such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign – as heroes of the gay-rights movement. And McCormack and Messing themselves, both middling actors whose lucky success on Will and Grace failed to translate into major careers in film or TV for either one of them, took in all the praise and eventually came to see themselves as heroes, too. Heroes – for playing roles on a sitcom! They also apparently became convinced that they are far more important – and far more intelligent – than they actually are.

Debra Messing

Predictably, both McCormack and Messing slavishly adhere to Tinseltown political orthodoxy – which is to say that they’re reliable Democratic partisans and reflexive Trump haters. So it is that on August 30, after news came of a Beverly Hills fundraiser for President Trump that was scheduled for September 17, McCormack took to Twitter to ask that the Hollywood Reporter “kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with.” Messing echoed his call. Doubtless both of them expected their showbiz friends and colleagues to rally round them and do the cyber-equivalent of patting them on the back – a response to which they are both surely accustomed, living as they do in the echo chamber that is LaLaLand.

Whoopi Goldberg

Instead, they actually got backlash. Not only did the right react. People on the left – including members of the showbiz elite – expressed their disagreement with McCormack and Messing. Now, as it happens, the powers that be in today’s TV and movie business do have something of an informal blacklist; actors, writers, directors, and others who have publicly identified as Republicans or conservatives do find it tougher to find work than it was before they outed themselves politically. But for showbiz leftists who have repeatedly denied the existence of this informal blacklist, McCormack and Messing were letting the cat out of the bag – openly calling, in effect, for the freezing out of Trump supporters in Hollywood. Even actress Whoopi Goldberg, who is famous for her consistently left-wing politics, served up a genuinely stirring speech on The View explaining just why McCormack and Messing were so off-base: “The last time people did this, it did not end well.…We had something called a blacklist, and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work.…In this country, people can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff, but we don’t print out lists.”

Tammy Bruce

So strong was the reaction that McCormack backed down – sort of. No, he didn’t withdraw his demand; he just insisted that he had been misunderstood. “I want to be clear about my social media post from last week, which has been misinterpreted in a very upsetting way,” he wrote in a statement. “I absolutely do not support blacklists or discrimination of any kind, as anyone who knows me would attest.” Messing concurred. In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Tammy Bruce thanked the two actors, “best known for a television sitcom that aired more than a decade ago,” for having “expos[ed] for all of us of the totalitarian instincts of liberals.” We don’t agree that all liberals are totalitarians, deep down, but it is definitely the case – as we’ve noted over and over again on this website – that many self-identified American “progressives,” including a number of big-name Hollywood types, are totalitarians in their hearts, knocking American liberties while praising and socializing with people like Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro. By revealing their totalitarian instincts, both McCormack and Messing did indeed do American a favor.