The reprimand of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey by team owner Tilman Fertitta, followed by the equally chicken-hearted deletion of an ‘offending’ pro-Hong Kong protest tweet by Morey himself, represents a saddening new cravenness for citizens and a corporate entity in the United States. Even the idea of sporting idols kowtowing to a communist country in days gone by would have been not merely career-ending but franchise-obliterating. The Celtics of the 1960s didn’t play fair-minded even-Stevens with the Viet Cong. Joe DiMaggio didn’t voice his respect for Chinese feelings on Korea in 1950. But here we are. Why?
Because China is now wealthy? Well, there are many wealthy countries in the world whose governments are, from time to time, arrayed against protesters. As a rule, the wealthier the country the more ostentatiously bold the critics. That can’t be the reason. Is it because of some vestige of guilt – preemptively expiated in this case by, of all things, a basketball team – about the bigoted treatment of ‘Chinamen’ in the past? The goodies and the baddies in the China-Hong Kong crisis are the same, racially, so this can’t be right either.
No, the culture-conditioned amorality of the time and the piggish greed of contemporary corporations colluded to make the un-American activities of Fertitta and Morey close to inevitable. They did not recognise right from wrong and, apparently, wouldn’t be inclined to favour the principled former if it meant offending the pecunious latter. What Beijing is good at is igniting the spark – on streets or social media – and then waiting for hand-wringing oafs to immolate themselves in a grovel-fueled auto-da-fé. As Paul Keating famously said (and an adviser to the China Development Bank should know): “Always back the horse named self-interest. It’ll be the only one trying.” Which is not entirely true. Have a quid on the old stager, Moral Relativism, as well. By Whatevs out of Who Can Say, a short-priced favourite on any modern track.
Elsewhere: The ABC’s China correspondent says troublemakers “encouraged by government-owned media have made it a sport to target and troll foreign brands into submission …” Imagine that.