Washington Post columnist Paul Farhi on Saturday offered an obnoxious comparison for the widespread American patriotism on display during the just-ended Olympics: He brought up Hitler. Regarding the quest for gold medals, Farhi connected, “Certainly, America’s current Olympic chauvinism (USA! USA!) is mild compared with Adolf Hitler’s grotesque perversion of the 1936 Berlin Games or the long arc of the Cold War era.”
(Well, it’s a good thing America’s “chauvinism” isn’t quite as bad as Hitler.) The Post journalist seemed to want to have it both ways, acknowledging the prestige and advertising money U.S. viewers bring to the Olympics and at the same time worrying about how Chinese athletes “don’t get many humanizing breaks.” Farhi lamented, “Bob Costas hasn’t been having them over for many post-game chats, nor is Visa likely to feature them in its golden-tinged commercials anytime soon.”
Regarding the apparently serious problem of excess patriotism, Farhi floated this idea:
If it were serious about the athletes-not-nations thing, the IOC would ban the parade of nations during the Opening Ceremonies and scrap the playing of national anthems during medal ceremonies. It might also consider banning nations altogether and letting the best athletes, regardless of citizenship, compete against one another.
However, Farhi tried to take it all back at the end of the column, noting the money and sponsorship brought in from U.S. companies. He reconsidered, “So ignore the quaint rhetoric in the Olympic Charter. By all means, root, root, root for the home team. Because if they don’t win, well . . . no Games.”
Whatever Farhi’s muddled point, comparing, even mildly, honest pride in America to that of Hitler’s Germany is incredibly inappropriate.
An August 1 piece in Salon.com by David Sirota discussed the “pangs of discomfort” over watching Americans cheer Team USA.