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Friday, February 14, 2014

Must read of the day (week) is Jonah Goldberg: In Olympic coverage, Soviet horrors are being swept under the rug

Watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you’d have no idea that from the Moscow metro system to, literally, the roads to Sochi, the Soviet Union — the supposed epitome of modernity and “scientific socialism” — was built on a mountain of broken lives and unremembered corpses.

Consider the stunted and ritualistic conversation (“controversy” is too vibrant a word for the mundane Internet chatter) about the Soviet Union sparked by the Winter Olympics. The humdrum shrugging at the overwhelming evil of Soviet Communism leaves me nostalgic for the Eichmann controversy. At least Arendt and her critics agreed that evil itself was in the dock; they merely haggled over the best words to put in the indictment.

What to say of the gormless press-agent twaddle conjured up to describe the Soviet Union? In its opening video for the Olympic Games, NBC’s producers drained the thesaurus of flattering terms devoid of moral content: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures.”

To parse this infomercial treacle is to miss the point, for the whole idea is to luge by the truth on the frictionless skids of euphemism.

“To eat your own children is a barbarian act.” So read posters distributed by Soviet authorities in the Ukraine, where 6 to 8 million people were forcibly starved to death so that the socialist Stalin could sell every speck of grain to the West, including seed stock for the next year’s harvest and food for the farmers themselves. The posters were the Soviet response to the cannibalism they orchestrated.

If it is conventional wisdom that the Nazi Holocaust was worse than the Soviet Terror, you would at least think earning the silver in the Devil’s Olympics would earn something more than feckless wordsmithery and smug eye-rolling from journalists and intellectuals. Imagine if instead of Sochi these games were in Germany, and suppose the organizers floated out the swastika while NBC talked of the “pivotal experiment” of Nazism. Imagine the controversy.

But when the hammer and sickle float by, there’s no outrage. There is only the evil of banality.

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