Being nice to the communist government in China means big money for businesses like Blizzard. The Chinese market is billions in revenue; a slice of pie that Blizzard and other businesses feel that can’t afford to lose.
That’s why the consequences for Wai Chung, gamer tag blitzchung, and the two casters were so severe when, during a Hearthstone stream, blitzchung said “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age". Blizzard has seen what happens when the Chinese government’s feelings are hurt.
So immediately following this the two casters were fired, blitzchung was suspended for a year, and lost his prize money.
Now, according to Blizzard’s rules, at their discretion, anything that brings you into a public controversy and offends a group of people or a public will cause you to be removed from participating in their Grandmasters competition and lose your prize money.
However, the issue is the severity of the punishment. Does it fit the crime? Is it a crime to stand by people who support democracy and freedom?
It shouldn’t be, but businesses do their best to remain neutral to ensure their consumers are not offended. Still, it’s clear that their “neutrality” is decided from a monetary gain standpoint. Whereas racist, sexist remarks are often allowed or incur less sever punishments because they are “free speech", supporting a country fighting for their democracy is perceived as divisive and inflammatory.
Quite simply there is no neutrality. Not in business…or media…or government. The act of neutrality, particularly in the midst of human rights violations, is biased as they are taking a side by refusing to take a side.
It’s hard for any legitimate neutrality to exist because of subjectivity. In their own statement they say, “in Blizzard’s sole discretion” meaning they decide what is offensive and what isn’t — what warrants disciplinary action and what does not. So, decisions will be based on their preferences, biases, and prejudices. They are not the only business guilty of this. Twitter selectively chooses when to be “neutral” and what constitutes “free speech”. The tweet below was directed at Ilhan Omar.
Despite multiple users reporting this tweet, it is still up.
All businesses are made up of people and as such there is no ability for them to step outside of their biases and experiences to actually be neutral. A business would not want to be anyway because, in the end, they will cater to the group that brings them the most money.
This is particularly why a controlling power in a business is dangerous, especially when the group that has control comes from a country that hinders free speech and violates human rights (the Chinese government is torturing Uighur’s and herding them in camps that they claim are for “re-education” but are actually being used to eradicate the Uighur’s and any other Muslims by forced assimilation or execution). When they have a controlling share, or when we choose their money over equality and human rights, we are aiding these violations.
We’ve seen other groups, such as the NBA bend to the will of the Chinese government for capitalist gains.
Yet, they are trying to claim their over the top reaction has nothing to do with fear of reprisals from the Chinese government?
They recently walked back their punishment for both blitzchung and the two casters (only because players were cancelling Blizzard subscriptions and their own employees walking out) and chose to suspend all of them for 6 months and return blitzchung’s prize money.
But is this enough? It does not change the fact that blitzchung and the casters are being punished for supporting freedom for Hong Kong. It does not change the fact that money and prejudice are what these businesses use to determine who has the freedom to say what they want.
Companies are comprised of people so neutrality does not exist. They will always choose a side. More often than not, it’s not the right side. Just the profitable one.