If there is something remarkable about the Taiwanese / Republic of China flag in Regent Street, and the way it was removed, it’s that all kinds of stakeholders were discussing it – except those who, allegedly, reportedly, took offense, i. e. the Chinese embassy in London. According to AFP, the Chinese embassy did not respond to repeated requests to comment.
It’s probably a wise move that the Taiwanese president – if at all – wants the issue to be raised with China, rather than with Britain. Let the Chinese antagonize at least some in the European public, and don’t antagonize the European public against Taiwan – by calling us out on our servile efforts to please Beijing, for example. That would make us very angry, wouldn’t it?
But as Europeans, and among ourselves, we should look at the incident, feel ashamed, and try to improve.
What strikes me about as much our embarrassment to see a free country’s flag in a highstreet is an apparent online trend to react to symbolic incidents, rather than to real trends. I mean, this blog had only seen modest traffic since early summer. It’s the same every year; once summer has arrived on the northern half of the globe, clicks go down.
But once I had posted about the flag removal on Regent Street on Tuesday, traffic skyrocketed.
Not entirely surprisingly though – after all, there wasn’t much coverage during the first one or two days, except by the BBC‘s Mandarin service. But the way the internet public gets excited – or bored – also suggests that the global village isn’t really interested in politics, not even where it ostensibly talks politics most of the time.
Among a European public, the story doesn’t sell. Stories like these tell us more about our moral weaknesses than we want to hear.
“A guy called Mitt Romney” who apparently managed to hurt the feelings of some, many, or no Londoners seemed to matter much more.
The BBC‘s English website does mention the Chinese “intervention”, however, even if only as a footnote here:
London 2012 organisers said the business association behind the display decided to put up the “correct flag… the one used for Olympic Games”.
But they could have decided to keep the actual flag up there, too.
Or couldn’t they? Maybe the answer to the question follows one paragraph further down:
A global investment conference in London kicked off a series of business summits intended to showcase the UK …
That’s where the symbolism ends, and real life begins. If you believe that the Olympic Games are about sports, think again.
» The Sporting Spirit, orwell.ru, accessed July 27, 2012