But wait, there’s more.
Even the gag reflexes of the most papo-philic bead-clickers might have been triggered by the wall-to-wall media coverage of Joseph Ratzinger’s performances over the weekend. But for those of us sick of the media acting as uncritical cheerleaders of absurd ideologies – or even those who’d just like to see some actual news get reported — WYD was just a warm-up. Even as the “pilgrims” retreat to their Third World homes and the media parses the papal apology to determine if it was “enough”, the Australian media is gearing up for the Olympics.
Let’s not labour the analogy. Both Christianity and the Olympics have their rituals, if you can call the hilarious Olympic pagan-Nazi torch lighting ceremony a ritual; both are generally run by sinister old European men; both have their holy relics, both attract extensive taxpayer support. But at least, when you take away the superstition and moralistic humbug of Catholicism (and admit it – which Aussie heart didn’t beat just a little prouder when Ratzinger said Mary McKillop was almost there in the “it’s a miracoil” race to sainthood?), there’s a core message of love that inspires millions of its adherents to do good for others. The Olympics is just humbug, with a core message of making money.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind sport. I don’t know if I agree with the International Olympic Committee that it is a human right, but it provides many of society’s least pleasant and dumbest people with a fulfilling career for several years. But the Olympics has as much to do with sport as the Iraq War had to do with WMD.
The placement of sponsors and broadcasters near the top of the inverted apex of “the Olympic movement” gives the, um, game away. Despite the usual budget blow-outs and predictable creative accounting of flow-on benefits, the Beijing Olympics will generate billions from TV revenue and nearly two billion US dollars from sponsorship and marketing. The Olympics is about hundreds of millions of eyeballs, and exposing them to products.
That bit will be skipped over in the coverage. Instead, for the next few weeks we’ll be bombarded with propaganda about the Olympic “movement”, as it styles itself, as if it was some groundswell of mass agitation, extending from the IOC outward to the “world population” — truly a catholic church.
The Chinese are doing their best to spoil things, effortlessly producing a stream of stories about their idea of what constitutes an “orderly, happy and harmonious environment” for the Olympics, including bans on internet access for journalists, foreign food, black people in bars, signs and pop stars who might, say, mention human rights.
While not unexpected from a regime with a human rights record far inferior to that of Zimbabwe, which it is currently protecting in the UN Security Council, the restrictions don’t go as far as the NSW Government’s attempt to impose bans on “annoying” people.
Nonetheless, the uncritical media hype is already winding up, and soon the separate “Special Olympics Coverage” sections will be break out of their own sites and pages and take over our newspapers, while those TV networks that aren’t Seven prepare to run dead.”
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With the Olympics, of course, we get the bonus of nationalism (“Aussies banned from taking Vegemite to Beijing!”). This is probably appropriate, given the entire event is an exercise in Chinese triumphalism, declaring “we have arrived in the First World, we are rich, and you can stick that “democracy” cr-p you go on about”.
Those hoping for some airtime and column space for actual news might have to wait a bit longer. Our newspapers and TV networks have stuff to sell you, and the Olympics is the biggest selling opportunity on the planet.