The outrage du jour is over the NBA and a gaming company, Blizzard Entertainment, following the old adage of “money talks and bullsh** walks” and forbidding players or, in the case of the NBA, fans from making any overt gesture of support for the demonstrators in Hong Kong.
I don’t have a particular dog in the geopolitical part of this argument. Hong Kong, since the Brits pulled out in 1997, has been part of Communist China. They may not like it, but there it is and the odds of Beijing just letting it go approaches zero. While I have sympathy for their cause, I don’t have enough sympathy to get Americans killed over it. I’m also doubtful that egging on demonstrators when you have zero intention of doing anything but clucking over the massacre videos streamed into your home is a particularly ethical thing to do (see East Germany 1953 an Hungary 1956 for examples of what that looks like). I certainly don’t fault China for bringing to bear whatever power it has to shut down sympathy for the demonstrators because we, ourselves, are the ones who’ve given them that power and they, like most governments, will act in their own interests.
What I’m sort of at a loss to understand is why I’m supposed to feel outraged by the NBA, a private company, engaging in suppression of speech that it doesn’t like.
For at least three years now, ever since it has become obvious that the large tech companies like Facebook and Twitter and Google were actively suppressing conservative viewpoints and ever since Trump was elected, I’ve been lectured by TrueConservatives™ and VichyCons™ (though it is getting increasingly hard to separate the two groups in any meaningful way so great is the overlap in that Venn Diagram) on how “muh private company” can’t engage in censorship and how if I don’t like being suspended from Twitter for suggesting some sloppy fat goober laid off from BuzzFeed learn a useful occupation that I could just start my own social media company and my problems would be solved.
Over and over, conservative viewpoints, whether they are pro-biology, pro-traditional-family, or pro-life are being overtly crushed via demonetization or by having access to their materials deliberately restricted. The most recent example of this is Facebook refusing to let the pro-life group Live Action distribute its videos to followers of its Facebook page because professional pro-aborts who double as “fact checkers” for Politifact didn’t like the content. Twitter has forbidden Live Action from showing ultrasound images of babies in utero.
Back in 2016, when the NBA went to war with the state of North Carolina over the “bathroom bill,” a commonsense measure that ensure adult men were not going to be hanging out in women’s bathrooms, outlets, such as National Review, posted articles like A Conservative Defense of Transgender Rights. Few people on the right said boo about the NBA using its economic power to coerce the government of North Carolina into abandoning its defense of common decency and Western Civilization.
Why is it any more odious for the NBA to follow the money their autocratic impulses and shut down support of the Hong Kong demonstrators in their venues than for it to follow the money and their autocratic impulses and shut down opposition to trans activists in North Carolina? In both cases, the NBA is telling people how to live their lives. In both cases, it is refusing to lend its economic support to political causes that it disagrees with on the merits or perceives to be a financial loser. How is security at an NBA game evicting pro-Hong-Kong protesters any different than YouTube or Facebook or Twitter blocking pro-life or pro-actual-marriage or pro-Second-Amendment information? It really isn’t.
The bottom line is that you either believe corporations, particularly large monopolistic ones, either have an obligation to observe what we, in America, perceive to be basic human rights or you don’t. You don’t get to choose what the cause is. It is binary. If your position is that the difference is the Chinese government calling the tune, does that mean you’d only oppose corporate thuggery if the current administration was behind it? If you are trying to shame the NBA into changing policy, then I’d submit the hundreds of millions of dollars they get from China is going to prove more influential that a lot of media saying meany-pants things. In other words, you’re engaging in nothing more than the most grotesque form of virtue signaling. You could take action, like have Congress outlaw this dumbf***ery, but then you’d just be a poseur with very malleable principles.
So, while I have a great deal of sympathy for the people in Hong Kong, I can’t in good conscience sign onto some kind of selective outrage over a corporation silencing speech it dislikes. When all of you folks who are outraged about the NBA and Hong Kong decide you’re outraged by Facebook and Twitter and Google and you’re ready to go to war with them and the NBA to end this bullsh**, well, give me a call. If you want me to get exercised over something happening in China while telling me that the same exact thing directed at conservative causes taking place in the US (and in Europe) is just the private sector at work, sorry, I don’t want to be bothered. I’ll be clipping my toe nails or taking a dump or doing something else that is actually meaningful.
As a parting note, my colleague Brad Slager discussed this topic on KLRNRadio last night in the second half of the show.