Reeves has spent much of the past several years working full-time to shed light on the genocide taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. In this morning’s Globe piece, Reeves takes film director Steven Spielberg and others to task for their participation in the Summer Olympic Games to be held in Beijing next year.
Reeves argues that Sudan has been emboldened in its policy of genocide because of the diplomatic cover and economic support provided by the People’s Republic of China. He believes that China should be held accountable for this cover and support. In his view, “the only lever” that the international community has to influence China on this issue is the Olympic Games. Reeves sees artists, like Spielberg, as being very important to the pressure that should be placed on China. Reeves asks,
What are the obligations of artists in the face of genocide? Spielberg and the others are at two removes from the ethnically targeted killing in Darfur; they are helping with the Olympics that China’s government cares so much about, and China is helping Khartoum. But how do we assess degrees of complicity in the ultimate human crime?
Reeves compares Spielberg’s participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics to that of Leni Riefenstahl’s in the 1936 Berlin Olympics; Riefenstahl’s film “Olympia” became a key piece of German propaganda from that era. This may overstate the case somewhat, but not by much. While Spielberg’s work is not directly supporting a genocidal regime, he is a much more important artist than Riefenstahl was; Spielberg is arguably one of the very greatest film directors of the past 40 years. His greatness is both moral and artistic. His presence in or absence from a given project carries a great deal of weight in the cultural life of the United States – and, indeed, the world.
Reeves makes a strong argument that Spielberg and other Western artists should withdraw their services from the Beijing games. It is likely the strongest action that can be taken in the West to pressure Sudan to change its policies. Official action by the United States government is less tenable because of the large amount of United States Treasury debt – $350 billion at the end of 2006 – that is held by the Central Bank of China. The fact that the United States government has less leverage than it ought to have on this issue speaks volumes about our country’s fiscal policies.
Since an official reaction from this country is less tenable, strong reaction on Darfur from unofficial but powerful elements is not only warranted – it is necessary. I join Reeves in hoping that Steven Spielberg and other artists use their influence to pressure the Chinese government into steering Khartoum away from genocide.
UPDATE: I have exchanged e-mails with Professor Reeves, who sent me additional information on his campaign.
Professor Reeves emphasized again that it is important to maintain pressure on China, “one of the staunchest supporters of the Sudanese government.” According to Reeves, “with enough pressure from the world community, China could help end the Sudan’s government’s actions against Darfur.”
Reeves specifies three actions that individuals can take to maintain this pressure on China.
The first is contacting Wang Guangya, China’s Ambassador to the United Nations [firstname.lastname@example.org] to demand that China stop supporting the Sudanese government’s genocide in Darfur.
The second is contacting the major corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics, asking them to drop their sponsorship unless China changes its policy supporting the Sudanese government. These sponsors include Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s. (Clicking on the links will bring you to contact forms for the respective companies.)
The last is contacting Steven Spielberg to ask that he not help stage the Olympic ceremonies. His address is Dreamworks SKG, 100 Universal Plaza #601, Universal City, CA 91608.