China’s Ode to Legerdemain

Howard French comments on the Olympics from his new perch in the U.S.:

Paeans to the grandeur of the state and the manipulation of history in an unsubtle celebration of racial identity and doctrinaire solidarity seem terribly old hat. The effacement of the individual and the glorification of a sacred, but never clearly defined national cause are of a piece with nasty ideologies of bygone eras.

Beijing’s favorite director of politically correct cinema blockbusters, Zhang Yimou, directed the Beijing spectacle using every high-tech trick he could muster, but the event’s intellectual lineage goes back to the bygone tenors of the Hollywood epic, masters of the mass, anonymous screen extra, like Cecil B. DeMille and William Wyler.

Fortunately nowadays, most of the world is suspicious of the all-powerful state that brooks no contradiction from the individual. For all the talk of the ceremonies’ tightly choreographed “one-from-many” message being an expression of a uniquely Asian social paradigm, Beijing and its Mini Me ally, North Korea are in fact the only true believers in the values trumpeted on opening night.


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