China’s stooges

Our last few postings here at Useful Stooges may have led some readers to think we’re under the impression that only athletes, teams, sports leagues, and sports-related firms have been doing a yeoman’s job of defending the Communist Chinese regime. Let us reassure our readers that we labor under no such illusion. In fact it is no secret that some of the largest U.S. companies manufacture many of their products in Chinese sweatshops and/or make handsome profits on the Chinese market, and thus feel a strong compulsion to maintain friendly relations with the Chinese government – and consequently are not about to risk their income by standing up for the freedom fighters of Hong Kong.

Mike Parker

In connection with the bowing and scraping of sports figures to the Beijing regime, we’ve already mentioned Nike, the sneaker company, which pays millions in endorsement deals to some of the biggest names in the hoops game. In September, as Fox Business reported, Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker, made a pretty straightforward declaration: “Nike is a brand of China, for China.” As Fox noted, Nike’s revenue in China during the third quarter of this year was no less than $1.7 billion. No wonder, noted Fox Business, that “Nike has gone silent on the controversy surrounding the NBA and China.” In fact it did more than go silent: after Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets, sent out a tweet supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, Nike “pulled its Houston Rockets merchandise from five stores in Beijing and Shanghai.” Mustn’t offend the sensitive feelings of Chairman Xi and his cohorts.

Tim Cook

Then there’s Apple. In an October 17 piece, Wired noted Apple CEO Tim Cook’s efforts to position his firm as “the Patron Saint of Privacy, the company willing to protect user data while others profit from it.” Yet whereas “Apple refused to help the FBI break into an iPhone that belonged to one of the alleged perpetrators of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack,” it has been considerably more cooperative with Beijing, eliminating an app that was used by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and that came under criticism by People’s Daily, the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper. As we’ve previously noted, Apple obligingly made it impossible for Apple users in Hong Kong and Macao to access a Taiwan flag emoji. Also, in 2018, bigwigs at Apple ordered TV program developers in its employ “to avoid portraying China in a poor light.”

Richard Gere with the Dalai lama

Of course Apple is not alone in the last-named regard. China has become a lucrative market for American films. It finances a good many of them. It owns U.S. theater chains. Hollywood studios and producers are therefore exceedingly careful not only to scrub scripts clean of anything that might be offensive to the Chinese government, but to include pro-China propaganda. A recent article at the Heritage Foundation website quoted an observation by Stephen Colbert that in the disaster movie 2012, “humanity is saved because the Chinese government had the foresight to build life-saving arcs,” and that in Gravity, “Sandra Bullock survives by getting herself to the Chinese Space Station.” As Heritage’s Tim Doescher put it – chillingly – “Hollywood is relying more and more on the Chinese markets to make profits on movies. That means our films are being written with China in mind.” As a result, noted Heritage’s Mike Gonzalez, “we get shown a very benign view of China, in which China is a normal country, no different from Paris, or Britain, or Germany.” We also get a view of the world that omits what Gonzalez called “the three Ts”: “Tiananmen, Tibet, and Taiwan.” Also omitted is Richard Gere – who was a top Hollywood star until his outspoken support for Tibet got in the way. In short, when it comes to China, there’s a lot of useful stoogery going around – and as China’s financial, military, and cultural power increases, and as it buys up more and more shares of more and more Western firms, we can fully expect that stoogery to increase massively.

Cuba libre?

A Cuban national flag is seen painted on a shack in Alamar, a large public housing complex in the Eastern Havana, Cuba, 5 February 2009.Michael J. Totten is an indispensable journalist who in recent years has provided immensely perceptive reportage from some of the most oppressed and/or war-torn corners of the world, notably the Middle East and the Balkans. On March 22, he posted on his blog a memorable item entitled “In Cuba, Prosperity is a Crime.” We’ve spent some time on this site detailing the horrors of the Castros’ island prison, but did you know this?

The United States has a minimum wage while Cuba has a maximum wage. And that maximum wage is a paltry 20 dollars a month. No one can get ahead. It’s impossible. It’s illegal. When prosperity is a crime, there can be no prosperity, and that’s entirely the fault of Cuba’s communist party.

Totten also reported that just hours before President Obama landed in Cuba, the Castros “arrested more than 20 people at a Ladies in White demonstration.” Who are the Ladies in White? They’re an internationally respected human-rights group consisting of the female relatives of jailed Cuban dissidents. The women attend Catholic Mass every Sunday in white dresses, then walk through the streets in silent protest against the Castros’ tyranny.

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The Ladies in White

But they weren’t allowed to carry on their silent protest while Obama was around. On the day of his arrival, wrote Totten, secret policemen “dragged women to a police bus and threw men onto the ground and handcuffed them.” Yet when an American reporter, CNN’s Jim Acosta, stood up at Obama’s joint news conference with Raul Castro and asked about political prisoners, the Cuban leader replied with a royal combination of utter contempt and absolute mendacity: “If there are political prisoners, give me a list, right now. What political prisoners? Give me their names, and if there are political prisoners, they will be free by tonight.”

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Michael J. Totten

The Ladies in White weren’t alone. Mike Gonzales of the Heritage Foundation wrote that during Obama’s visit, a number of other dissidents were “beaten, arrested, dragged through streets, stripped naked, and threatened with the rape of their daughters.” Gonzales quoted anti-Castro leader Antonio Rodiles, who was brutalized and detained (as was his wife), as saying that the American president’s trip had engendered “a festival of repression.”

Gonzales made a crucial point that has been almost completely lost in recent commentary about Cuba and its future. “While the vast majority of commentators speak of Fidel, 89, and Raul, 84,” he suggested, “the Castros to keep in mind are Raul’s son, Col. Alejandro Castro Espin, 50, his daughter, Mariela Castro Espin, 53, and his son-in-law, Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, 54.” The point being, of course, that the death of the two octogenarian brothers will not necessarily mean the end of brutal totalitarianism in Cuba. After all, Alejandro, an officer in Cuban intelligence, is “an unrepentant ideologue who sports a Lenin mustache and goatee.” Alejandro wrote a 2009 book, The Empire of Terror, that Gonzales describes as “an anti-American screed.” And “he speaks in the hackneyed jargon of a Marxist-Leninist.” This is Raul Castro’s heir apparent – the man who’s in line to inherit the throne when the old men bite the dust. Does anyone really expect such a person to relinquish absolute power the moment he inherits it?

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Mike Gonzales

Gonzales also offers an important observation about Mariela, who, as he notes, is a “member of Cuba’s rubber-stamp National Assembly.” This is a woman who has received a boatload of positive press in the Western media in recent years because she is – or at least professes to be – a gay-rights activist. This self-identification is food for thought. These days, many far-left enemies of Israel and apologists for oppressive Islamic regimes have been trained by their cynical capos to accuse Israel of “pinkwashing” – that is, of using its excellent gay-rights record to promote itself as a beacon of human rights, when in fact those enemies’ prime objective is to ensure that Israel is viewed in the West as a first-class violator of human rights. 

Mariela Castro is Cuba's most prominent gay rights activist
Mariela Castro

Now the pinkwashing charge, when leveled against Israel, is of course nothing more than an obscene slur. It’s highly interesting, however – though hardly surprising – to note that those who promote the concept of pinkwashing don’t ever use it against Cuba and Mariela, even though, in her case, the otherwise preposterous concept actually makes a kind of sense. How, after all, can there be such a thing as gay rights in a country with no basic freedoms whatsoever? How can a loyal, lockstep member of a Communist ruling family and of a Communist rubber-stamp parliament be seriously considered an activist for any kind of rights whatsoever? Never mind: as Gonzales puts it, Mariela’s “position as an LGBT activist will ensure that Western useful idiots continue to lionize the Revolution” even after the old revolutionaries kick the bucket.