Come back next week to catch more of “Culture War with The Federalist’s Chris Bedford.”
Pro wrestler-turned-actor-turned-generic-celebrity John Cena embarrassed himself last week when he issued an apology in Mandarin to the Chinese Communist Party for referring to Taiwan as a country.
Pretty much everybody in the conservative universe was obsessed with this clip for two days after it happened. It was covered by Laura Ingraham and “The Five.” Ben Shapiro tweeted about the video, and over on Fox Business Kennedy called Cena a “wuss.” Sen. Tom Cotton called it pathetic, Sen. Josh Hawley fundraised off it, and Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted, “A world where China’s Communist Party controls what Americans can say isn’t some nightmarish future threat. It’s already here.
All of these people are right, and what we’re seeing from entertainment, tech, and sports is disgusting; but let’s stop and think honestly about this. Do you live your life in fear that you’ll say something that offends the Chinese Communist Party? Do you worry that upsetting China will lose you your job, or your friends, or your good name, or your own family? Unless you work for a movie studio or a professional sports league, chances are the dangers of crossing China have never crossed your mind.
But does that mean you have real freedom of thought? Not at all. And we all know exactly what we’re talking about here: In America, there is an aggressive, totalitarian ideology that wants to punish anyone who publicly dissents, and it’s not pushed by the Communist Party in China — it’s pushed by our own ruling class.
John Cena isn’t the first apology video we’ve seen that looks like it was shot in a Khmer Rouge re-education camp. Remember one year ago, when New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he didn’t support protesting against the American flag? Within a day he was forced to apologize on Instagram, but that wasn’t good enough, so just hours later he had to deliver a second apology on video.
Then on top of that, he had to deliver another apology to his teammates in private, which was then leaked to the press. Apparently he cried during that apology. Any moment we might have expected him to just beg to be allowed to see his family again.
But famous people aren’t the only ones in the crosshairs, and you don’t need to be an athlete or actor to be forced into these humiliating public apologies. Last summer Boeing chief spokesman Neil Golightly was targeted because he wrote an essay opposing women in combat — in 1987. That’s before “The Simpsons” debuted. Didn’t matter: He was forced to issue a humiliating apology.
“My article,” he wrote, “was a 29-year-old Cold War Navy pilot’s misguided contribution to a debate that was live at the time. The dialogue that followed its publication 33 years ago quickly opened my eyes, indelibly changed my mind, and shaped the principles of fairness, inclusion, respect and diversity that have guided my professional life since.”
How nice. But sadly, you still have to be guillotined, so Golightly was fired anyway. So was L.A. Galaxy soccer player Aleksandar Katai: He was forced to denounce his own wife after she bashed looters and rioters in Serbian on social media.
After the powers that be were satisfied they’d done enough damage to the holiest relationship two people can have, they cut Katai from the team. At least when celebrities are forced to issue demeaning apologies to the Chinese, the Communist Party seems to accept them. No such luck in America. Here, your apology is just further evidence of your guilt.
Every day, the casualties of free thought pile up. A Jewish weatherman fired for comparing last year’s riots with the German’s Kristallnacht pogrom. A police officer fired for sending Kyle Rittenhouse a message of support and enough money to buy a used Playstation game. A University of Pittsburgh cardiologist demoted for his paper criticizing affirmative action in medicine. A single incorrect word in high school can ruin your life.
So it’s fine for Republicans to be mad about celebrities kowtowing to Beijing. They should be. But pay attention when your senator or congressman blasts Chinese thought-control on Twitter. Criticizing a hostile foreign power is safe, and it’s easy to say bad things about China. Much easier, for example, than it is to say bad things about Black Lives Matter.
In this country, it’s easier to defend Taiwan than it is to defend, say, Kyle Rittenhouse, or the people who are vilified in schools, corporations, and by politicians every single day for literally no reason besides being white, or people in America who are losing jobs because they’re a man, or because they won’t use the new pronouns, or endure another “struggle session” or be dictated to by the spoiled children in their HR department; or the working poor struggling to get by who are told by Yale graduates that they are privileged, that they don’t know what it’s like to experience the kind of hardship you learn about in classrooms.
It might make some uncomfortable just to read that in America today you might not get a scholarship or a promotion or a job or a contract, or, in some cities like Oakland, California, the ability to sign up for the city’s newest welfare program if you’re part of this apparently privileged race. No matter what over-educated buffoons say, in humanity stupidity and discrimination go every which way.
It seems strange to say all this is going on 160 years after the Civil War and 60 years after Civil Rights, but it’s the truth. Does that trouble you? It should. And it should trouble Republican leaders in Congress and the Senate — and they should speak out.
No self-respecting person wants to say they’re being victimized, but a good number of us aren’t yet, or can at least fight back if we are. The elected people in Washington, for example, aren’t victims or voiceless. But in our country today, people with less of a voice — and less resources — are targeted. They deserve to be defended.