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Americans don’t care about the Uyghurs. Here’s why.

By Matthew Delaney

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

Thank you, Chamath Palihapitiya, for having the courage to say what no one else did. 

The Facebook veteran-turned-part-owner of the Golden State Warriors boldly stated that he doesn’t care about the Uyghurs — the Muslim minority that is subjected to sterilization, torture, and genocide in concentration camps run by the Chinese Communist Party.  

Don’t worry, he made sure to speak up for you, too. 

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK? You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care,” he said. “I’m just telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line. Of all the things that I care about, it is below my line.” 

Palihapitiya went on to ask whether China actually is a dictatorship, and even said that the U.S. is no better than China. His reason? The U.S. also has its failings, such as allowing prisoner mistreatment at Rikers Island. So, expressing any kind of concern for China’s shortcomings is virtue signaling to him. 

Again, for clarity, he said: “That’s another luxury belief. And the reason I think it’s a luxury belief is because we don’t do enough domestically to actually express that view in real tangible ways. So, until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside of our borders with us sort of morally virtue signaling about somebody else’s human rights track record is deplorable.” 

The delicious irony in all this is that Palihapitiya is a part owner of the wokest team in the wokest professional sports league in our country. Like all NBA owners, he knows that “wokeness” concerning China’s injustices is biting the hand that feeds. Not to mention the founder and CEO of Social Capital has multiple other investments tied up in China through back channels, according to New York Magazine

Like a lot of liberal elites in entertainment, media, and tech, Palihapitiya’s business interests in China make him a silent partner in the CCP. He’s just another shill for arguably our greatest geopolitical enemy of this century. 

So why are we thanking him? Because Palihapitiya’s comments on the “very hard, ugly truth” have forced us to ask ourselves if that’s actually true. We’re finding it hard to disagree with him given how much China supports the consumerism that defines us. 

Steve Quartz, a college professor of philosophy and neuroscience, said that our material goods have long been ways of distinguishing ourselves and selecting social groups. For example, if you wear a Carhartt beanie, you may be young and hip. If you drive a BMW, you may be making a good bit of money. If you own an Android, you may be trying too hard to be different. 

Our items broadcast things about ourselves to the world, Quartz argues, so they play a massive role in our social status and our self-esteem. Quartz said this tendency was ratcheted up in the 1950s, when “…something happened to how we consume, which allowed new forms of status to emerge, helping to solve a critically important but underappreciated social problem: if our happiness depends on attaining esteem and the respect of others through participating in social groups, how can a society meet that demand?” 

That’s easy — you go to China. 

When President Richard Nixon opened our relations with the Chinese in the 1970s, he made a deal with the devil: We get to produce cheap goods in mass quantities, and an always-flawed China gets a reliable clientele that funds and legitimizes its authoritarian regime. 

Our abundance is built around this arrangement, from new iPhones and high-tech cars to baseball bats and blenders. Three generations of Americans don’t know what life is like without “Made in China” providing our every desire – and as we know now, our sense of self.   

That’s why the largely right-wing criticisms of Palihapitiya fall flat. I agree with them that the political left’s moralizing is shallow and hypocritical. I also agree that the calls for boycotts on the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing are totally justified. Finally, I agree with how darkly comical it is that our left-wing friends don’t care about imprisoning the Uyghurs because they’d just as soon lock up their fellow citizens over not getting the Covid-19 vaccine

But pointing out these things won’t replace an identity. What we buy, wear, and use are one of the few conscious things we do daily. We’re completely involved in those decisions because we understand how much they are a reflection of us. It may be the last thing we take seriously in this country. 

If you don’t believe me, look at how the last two years have played out. Most of America uncritically accepted that the Covid-19 shutdowns would last only two weeks, that funerals weren’t as important as mass protests, and that a flimsy piece of cloth would stop us from catching a virus. Only when those choices led to the kind of governance that made us miserable did we start to rethink them. 

To acknowledge the genocide of the Uyghurs, however, would be to acknowledge that our personal growth has been shepherded along by one of the world’s most visible evils. Considering that we still can’t digest the sins of our past, any introspection about our current moral failings may cause us to seek out the nearest padded room. 

Thankfully, we have Palihapitiya to remind us that we don’t need to care about the millions of oppressed bodies responsible for our peace of mind. We need to “add to cart” until those feelings are lost while transforming into the new you. 

For speaking that “very hard, ugly truth,” he deserves our gratitude.

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Matthew Delaney


Matthew Delaney is a local journalist based in Washington, D.C. When he’s not questioning why he joined the media, he’s doing his part to restore some of its credibility with quality work

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