Personifying the Torch, Diminishing the Protests

Jim Yardley of the New York Times has indulged in some markedly poor reporting on the upcoming running of the torch through San Francisco (emphasis mine):

The Olympic torch arrived at the airport here from Paris in the wee hours Tuesday morning, exited out a side door and was escorted by motorcade to a downtown hotel. There it took a well-deserved break in a room complete with cable TV, room service and views of the city’s popular Union Square shopping district.

So it starts.  The article puffs up the flame as a person:

The most exposed runner of all, of course, will be the naked flame at the end of the torch. Organizers would not divulge the flame’s exact location on Tuesday, but said it was being well taken care of at its hotel.

And how did the flame look, after all of its travails?

“Let’s just say,” said Mr. McCarron, the airport spokesman, who got to work at 3 a.m. to meet the flame and its jet-lagged Chinese Olympic delegates, “it looked better than we did.”

Which is really rather interesting in the context of attempts to put the flame out, isn’t it?

The tone of the article is fear.  Will the runners be attacked?

Ms. Couglin said she was not worried because the U.S. Olympic Committee had assigned a retired F.B.I. agent to run with her.

Will the city be able to handle the crazies?

Downtown buildings also stepped up security, and restaurants along the route pulled in — rather than pulled out — patio seating. Sources of anxiety were everywhere: protests atop tourist attractions, famous and not-so-famous Tibet supporters and, of course, the city’s lunatic fringe.

The message hidden in this is pretty clear.  That the people protesting China’s routine violation of even the most basic human rights are dangerous, not quite right in the head, and missing the point:

“It’s terrible,” said Lily Chang, 58, an American citizen who immigrated from Shanghai six years ago and now works at a gift shop in Chinatown. “This is not political. It’s sports.”

The Olympics is innately political, and has a rich history of athletes and their countrymen who stood up to the tyrants of the day.  Today the attention of the games is on China, who is making a play for more legitimacy and normalcy in their international standing.  However these efforts fail in the face of their human rights record, and all forecasts point to continued protests up through the games.  These are well deserved.  China ought to be condemned for its failures in the realm of human rights and ethical conduct.

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