I couldn’t help but think of Gresham’s law while reading the twin news of the banner carrying pole climbing protesters in Beijing and the last minute cancellation of Joey Cheek’s visa to go to China.
It is doubtful that many people in China know this economics theory by name, either in English or Chinese (格雷欣法则). But its simplistically summarized version, “bad money drives out good” (劣币驱良币), is widely known and cited by many Chinese in discussions of all sorts of phenomenons in commerce, politics, entertainment, media, etc.
Strictly speaking, many invocations of this phrase are perhaps misguided usages of the concept. Nevertheless, for this post, let’s interpret “bad money drives out good” through a superficial and literal reading of the words to mean
- the perverse effect that something (e.g., goods, services, ideas, acts, etc.) of intrinsically less value manages to dominate or drive out its more qualified competitions,
which can be and often is extended to imply that
- in the presence of the bad, the good survives only by becoming bad as well.
By the way, the fact that Gresham’s law is often inaccurately used arguably demonstrates that the superficial interpretation of the theory as described above is driving out the proper understanding and thus is serving as a good example of itself. But I digress.
upper-middle class kids flying halfway around the world, tipping off the news media, and then climbing a pole
Suffice to say, they are the “bad money”. Seriously, what good did they do besides calling attention to themselves and making some reporters and opinion pushers happy while enraging some Chinese onlookers? They obviously did no bother to consult with any guide on how to reach out to the Chinese people to advance a particular cause, assuming that was their intent to begin with.
Similarly, Mia Farrow is the “bad money” too. Sure, she has been quite successful at focusing the spotlights on herself and garnering praises while touting the “Genocide Olympics” tag. The fact that such in-your-face activism is generally counter-productive does not seem to be a concern to her.
Meanwhile, the “good money” hardly ever get noticed while trying to take more responsible and reasonable approaches in advancing their causes. Quickly, how many of you have heard of Brad Greiner before the news concerning Joey Cheek came out a couple of days ago? He is Joey Cheek’s less famous co-founder of Team Darfur and one with the visa revoked as well.
I am inclined to believe that Brad Greiner was sincere in his claimed non-confrontational philosophy in advocating the Darfur issue as shown in the quoted Q&A below, because otherwise Cheek and he would have been brought up in the media in much higher profiles and frequencies before this visa revocation news hit the fan. As such, they probably own a big thank-you card to whomever in the Chinese government responsible for first granting and then rescinding the visas.
[Question]: If you were a current U.S. Olympic athlete in these games, what would you do? Would you protest? Just compete? What’s the “right” thing to do?
Brad Greiner: If I were a current US Olympic athlete, the first thing I would want to do is use my down-time to learn about major issues surrounding these Olympic Games. As far as protesting is concerned, I feel it is important to honor the ideals of the Olympics, and therefore I would not choose to protest.
Instead I would focus on competing, and if asked by reporters for my views on issues like Darfur, I would give my honest opinion. I think the right thing for athletes to do, regardless of if they chose to join Team Darfur, would be to not stay silent when asked about issues they care about.
I don’t agree with much of the established narratives on the Darfur issue in the western media because of the general pattern of willful ignorance of reality by the loud voices dominating the airwaves. But I certainly respect the reported way Cheek and his partners approached this matter. It’s too bad that according to Gresham’s law, I should be pessimistic about the future survival of this breed of political activism.