Yesterday we reported on NBA star turned sports broadcaster Bill Walton, who while covering a recent game in China sang the praises not only of the country and the people but of its political system. Enthusiastically, he contrasted American materialism with the lack thereof that (he claimed) is an attribute of the Chinese people. As we noted, Walton went on for quite a while in this vein without ever acknowledging that the country he was eulogizing is a Communist dictatorship where the news media, property rights, Internet access, and much else are severely restricted by the state.
And that’s just the beginning of a long list of distasteful facts about China that Walton avoided mentioning. One of them is that the country imprisons its human-rights activists. One of them, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been behind bars for eleven years, while his wife is under house arrest for no other crime, apparently, than being married to him. China leads the world, moreover, in executions, the number of which has declined during the past decade from about 10,000 a year to a shade under 4,000 today. A giant image of Mao Zedong, the greatest mass murderer in human history, still dominates Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
When SBNation, a major sports news site, posted an article about Walton’s praise for China, complete with video clips, a couple of readers had pertinent comments to make. “I like Bill,” wrote one of them, “but this guy must have been paid by the tourist bureau of China! I mean, he talks about China as though it is an up and coming paradise. It’s a trash heap! 900 million poverty-stricken and governed by a corrupt autocratic regime. What a joke.” After this and another reader comment critical of Walton were posted, the comments were closed for that page.
On December 1, Sirius XM radio host Howard Stern spent several minutes playing excerpts of Walton’s acclaim for China and offering his own commentary (from which we’ve silently omitted a few, but not all, obscenities).
“I’ve talked to actual people in a nail salon who used to live in China,” said Stern. “And they’d rather work in a nail salon [in New York] for absolutely zero money” than in China. “China’s like the worst place you could be a worker!” Stern went on. “Because it’s Communism, and unless you’re in the government, in the hierarchy, you get shit on. That’s how come they’ve got a strong economy – because they shit on their people….So anyway, Bill Walton goes over…and Bill Walton obviously is being shown the best parts of China….He’s carrying on about how great China is. Well, of course it’s great for you! They’re working you, dude! They’re not showing you the sweatshops!” Excellently, if a tad crudely, put.
Stern compared Walton to Tokyo Rose, who notoriously broadcast Japanese propaganda to Allied troops during World War II. Stern’s sidekick, Robin Quivers, had another comparison. “It just sort of reminds me,” she said, “of the other basketball diplomat, Dennis Rodman.”
Indeed. The notorious Rodman, with his staggering and (it seems) stubbornly willful ignorance about the North Korean regime, may seem uniquely stupid – the useful idiot par excellence. But Walton, on the evidence of his fatuous, painfully embarrassing panegyrics about China, sure isn’t far behind.