Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been watching every minute of Olympic coverage that I can, and think that in their mission of covering the sporting events and human stories of the 29th Olympiad, NBC is doing a fantastic and comprehensive job.
The twelve-hour time difference between the east coast of the United States and China has worked out wonderfully for live coverage of events which, in past years, have been tape delayed and for that reason a little less dramatic. All in all, I’ve been an out-of-shape American, glued to my television set and relishing in the tremendous athletic and psychological accomplishments of men and women from across the globe.
One detail, however, stuck out to me like a sore thumb in terms of coverage by NBC and, indeed, a reflection upon how America is viewed by the American media and much of the rest of the world.
On the first full day of the Olympic Games, Todd and Barbara Bachman of Lakeville, Minnesota, in Beijing to cheer on the United States olympic volleyball team–their daughter played on the team in Athens and son-in-law was coaching in China–were attacked while visiting the Drum Tower, an ancient landmark in the Chinese capital. Todd Bachman was killed; his wife left in critical condition in a Beijing hospital.
The murder was treated as an afterthought by NBC, pigeonholed into segments touching on the added adversity faced by the volleyball coaching staff and team. Apologies were made, but so far as I know were not made on camera. Every so often, an update from Bob Costas on Barbara Bachman’s condition was interspersed with regular programming. Beyond that, nothing.
If, however, the 2008 Summer Olympic Games were being held in Los Angeles, in New York City, or in Philadelphia (the latter of which made a very public and miserably failed bid for the 2016 games) and a Chinese couple, or Russian couple, or Iranian couple were visiting from overseas in the same manner as the Bachmans and were attacked and killed while visiting Griffith Observatory, or the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, or Pat’s Steaks, the media coverage of the murder would be unending, the pressure relentless, the apologies heartfelt and continuous. America’s laws would be questioned, the ensuing investigation placed under intense scrutiny. The stories on NBC would not be about how the team in question was going to pull together, but rather on why America’s streets are so much more violent than those in Beijing, in Moscow, in Tehran. The murder would immediately be labeled a hate crime, and would be deemed by the world media as nothing short of an international incident.
Hypothetical? Of course. Damned close? You betcha.
The perception of America from overseas can be understandably attributed to our status as the world’s greatest superpower and driving force in the global economy, as well as our semi-obligatory role as the world’s night watchman. Shortly after the tsunami struck in 2004, we were there. After the recent cyclone in Burma, we tried desperately to provide aid despite efforts by the leadership in Myanmar to block it. And just yesterday, when Russian forces captured the town of Gori and made toward their nation’s capital, Georgians everywhere asked anyone who would listen: “Where is America?“
The perception of America from the American mainstream media and the rest of the Blame America First crowd, however, is beyond understanding. Despite being the most generous nation on Earth, America is perceived as the cause of the world’s problems. America’s military deposes one of the most brutal leaders and violators of human rights in Iraq, and is subsequently blamed for putting the country on the brink of civil war. United States Attorneys are fired, and the measure is perceived not as the termination of at-will employees but rather an act of discrimination based upon political leanings. Meanwhile, in China, where government officials are executed for failing to do their job, where the State provides weapons and financing to brutal Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir, where dissidents and protesters are exiled, jailed or worse, and where the Chinese state-controlled media forces an agenda onto its people, the American mainstream media fawns over every nook and cranny of the oppressive communist culture.
During the staggeringly beautiful opening ceremonies, NBC’s Matt Lauer gushed over the symbolism of the individual supported by the masses and bragged about the state as guarantor for the future of the nation’s children. The horrible losses of the May 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan provice were mentioned, yet nobody seemed to add that the Chinese government has graciously allowed devastated parents to defy the nation’s one-child policy so they can replace those which had been lost.
The Olympic Games are indeed the greatest imaginable showcase of global unity and kindred spirit, and NBC has done a fantastic job in presenting everything. Still, it is also a chance to see the underlying global socialist nature of those in our mainstream media charged with bringing us such beautiful images of courage, of motivation, of sportmanship and pride.
All that being said, I plan to sit back, eat popcorn, and enjoy everything that I can. I hope that all of you do the very same.