KLAVAN: What A Bunch Of Phonies

A display is seen near a logo outside the NBA flagship retail store on October 9, 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

You can say this for the Chinese government: they may be a gang of murderous, oppressive, lying thugs, but they’ve done American culture a big favor. They’ve exposed our sanctimonious cultural classes for the phonies they are.

Let’s start with Blizzard Entertainment, the video game company that produced Diablo. Diablo was a great game, an immersive story of a knight facing the supernatural powers of darkness. I was so amazed by its beauty and realism that I played it obsessively, killing off hordes of demons until I broke my computer mouse.

The story was wonderful — but the storytellers were hollow men, frauds who had the skill to create cartoon heroes while siding with the real demons, the Chinese. The company suspended professional gamer Chung Ng Wai from competition for a year after he called for Hong Kong’s liberation in a post-game interview. After being shamed by the fans, they cut his punishment to six months — a move so cynical and empty of moral understanding it made the situation even worse.

Because: Punish him for what? For standing up for the heroes of the Hong Kong streets who are risking all in protests against the monsters of Beijing?

And make no mistake about it: the Chinese are a government of monsters. There are no shades of gray here. Their Maoist forefathers slaughtered eight New York Cities worth of individuals in the name of their foul philosophy. As late as 2015, they were tying women down to sterilize them and forcibly abort their children. They disappear dissenters and then harvest their organs for transplant — I know, it sounds like one of those ’80s medical thrillers, but it’s true. They’ve got religious minorities in “re-education camps,” a phrase that makes my gorge rise even when I just write it down.

So Blizzard tells a story about a hero fighting demons, then punishes a hero for fighting demons. And for what? For their dreams of a vast Chinese marketplace. For money.

Hollow men. Straw men. What a bunch of phonies.

And how about the NBA? Apologizing for a tweet supporting the Hong Kong freedom fighters. Sending their top athletes out to kowtow to the Chinese tyrants. Tossing out fans who brought pro-freedom signs and t-shirts to games. What about the NFL, who crawled to their Chinese overlords in 2004 after an image of the protesters in Tienanmen Square accidentally found its way into a celebration of liberty in the Super Bowl half-time show?

They tell stories too, don’t they? Stories about the evil American police. Stories about how courageous they are to kneel during the National Anthem, to disrespect the flag of the United States — a protest without consequence, without danger, because they live in the United States where they’re free. And yet for a few dollars more, they bend the knee to real-life present day slave masters.

Hollow men. Phonies.

And what about the sportscasters at ESPN, who couldn’t keep their fat, stupid mouths shut about how nasty George W. Bush was? Who tried to make heroes out of the ballplayers disrespecting our flag. But now, when it comes time to speak up for real heroes fighting real bad guys, they go silent at the orders of their parent company Disney.

And yeah, what about Disney? With all their woke cartoon stories preaching to us about diversity and tolerance and “strong” girls. The people who bring you those messages are protecting their Chinese market by silencing protests against the oppressors of minorities.

Stinkers. Fakes. Phonies. Hollow men.

Listen, I’ve been a professional novelist all my adult life, and I’ll be the first to admit: no storyteller can wholly live up to the courage of his own heroes. Having flaws, making mistakes, failing to do the right thing — these are traits shared by one hundred percent of human beings. And yet our small-minded, bigoted, “woke” culture punishes people for all those things.

What then shall we do to these truly hollow men, who aren’t making mistakes, who aren’t acting in error, but are actually living out their money-first philosophy, who are consciously and purposefully betraying the good for a Yuan?

They are talented people, no doubt; gifted people. Some of the stories they tell are great. Their athletic feats are amazing.

But from now on, when they speak to us of politics and culture — when they step out of their professional zone and preach to us about how to live and who to vote for — we have to remember this:

They are hollow men. Straw men. A bunch of phonies.

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