BILLUND – Crushed by social justice warriors and nude activist Ai Weiwei (following his demands for prompt delivery of a massive ‘bulk order’ of toy bricks for his political activism), Danish toymaker LEGO surrendered to Master Ai and his mob in a historical moment of corporate humiliation and acute spinelessness.
In a clever publicity stunt last year, the Master ordered (allegedly) hundreds of thousands of LEGO bricks before Christmas 2015, just when the Danish company had foreseen a ‘supply shortage’ in several European countries. (The colorful bricks are most popular with children age 5-14.) When LEGO learned, however, that Ai Weiwei wanted to exploit the toy brand’s visibility during Christmas season for his anti-Sinicism and political attention-seeking, the company politely declined, citing its time-honored ‘No LEGO politics’ rule.
Predictably, the Chinese dissident immediately played his ‘victim card’ and informed our Western press soldiers that he was being “oppressed.” Jointly, the Master and his journalist friends false-flagged the Danish company for “censorship” and for sabotaging the Master’s “freedom of expression.” LEGO defended its position by arguing that the Master could, in practice and in theory, take all the LEGO bricks he brought and found and shovel them up his rear; only that he could NOT POSSIBLY bully his way into LEGO-Group de facto sponsoring his boundless vanity and sense of entitlement, let alone his political activism. [Something like that.]
To which Master Ai Weiwei and his Twitter followers replied with shaming tactics: trolling the toymaker (and its defenders) as enemies of freedom or, worse, as China collaborators. And if anybody said anything back, critics got banned and their comments were deleted. The Western media of matters manufactured a fantastic narrative of Good versus Evil – here: the dissident Ai Weiwei fighting for the Western cause; there: the LEGO-Group apparently siding with the dark side of communist China.
With so much drama and attention, hundreds of Facebook white knights volunteered to “donate” LEGO bricks for the wealthy Master’s planned exhibition in Melbourne, Australia; despite the fact that the celebrity never actually specified what exact pieces or sets and in which colors and how many of them he needed. We sent him ‘Juniors Pony Farm’.
Long story cut short: LEGO quickly lost its cool and haplessly succumbed to the Master’s will and the verdict of the Western thought police. As of January 1, 2016, the LEGO-Group announced it would no longer want to hear about the final purposes of bulk orders (as long as they were paid for), citing that whatever political message this would sent across it was totally NOT the Group’s business but that of the client!
Cynics noticed parallels to the “high moral standards” of the US gun industry that is, in president Obama’s words “almost entirely unaccountable” and selling its toys to anybody who pays, no questions asked. Some commentators have evoked comparison to a paint factory that sells its products to paint the interiors of … you know… gulags and concentration camps! To which we respond that a responsible company should know full well that irresponsible clients do exist and that house rules (especially if the stuff is marketed at kids) are plain common sense, no?
What were the board members of LEGO thinking? The ‘No politics’ policy for massive orders of the toy was appropriate and responsible. The systematic coercion and orchestrated intimidation of the LEGO-Group and its owner, the Kirk Kristiansen family, was not: Either you give Master Ai what he wants or we prosecute you on the internet and drag you through the halls of anonymous terror and endless defamation.
So, now LEGO is officially political. Congratulations! This is what the world and Europe really needed: Toys as propaganda tools. The Far Right will want to order brown bricks, the Muslims other ones, and build monuments of mutual hate and distrust in the name of democracy. The New York Times and the CIA may want to subscribe to shitloads of bricks and erecting mighty anti-Putin busts all along the Russian-Ukraine border (instead of, say, soliciting unoriginal hit pieces). LEGO would make a formidable NATO-partner, too.
The Dalai Lama may want to extort LEGO bricks for rebuilding life-size feudalism. Scientology may want to amend its bad rep with baby-blue colored bricks from the LEGO ‘Friends’ line. Political parties, drug cartels, and little dictators will be happy placing bulk orders. Kindergartens and nurseries in Europe will just have to check every other week, though, by whom LEGO has been taken advantage of lately: Is it the feminazis? Or Fox News and Donald Trump? Or ISIS? The US War on Terror?
You may think this all far fetched. But mind you, a US $300m Schwarzman scholarship for ‘future world leaders’ at China’s prestigious Tsinghua University (allegedly) used LEGO bricks last year in its ‘admission process’; while the LEGO-Group is building a LEGO-land amusement park close to Shanghai. Truth been told, it was only a matter of time for brutal ‘LEGO politics’. The reason is quite simple: It is precisely not 5-14 years old kids who buy the overpriced bricks – they have neither jobs nor income – it’s their dads!
Political impartiality is a virtue. When Martin Heidegger in the Mid-20th Century formulated his existential philosophy, he faced immense pressure on why he wasn’t putting his services to a grander ideology full of noble ideas about Freiheit (the Germans lost WWI and where “oppressed” by the Allies); for surely he wasn’t a traitor of Western values, was he? He all-too-well understood the enormous profits and benefits from pleasing the powerful media and siding with the “correct” political forces. So he gave up his impartiality. It was precisely this cowardice, and his partisanship, that ruined not just his reputation but that of his (no longer neutral) professional class.
Certain industries must resist the militant methods and manipulation of political interest groups. Our Western media and academics, it is no secret, often fail catastrophically at that. Now it is toys and play that they want to corrupt: LEGO once had this beautiful philosophy I found written on their website: It reads: “Good quality play” that “enriches a child’s life”. Who could have imagined that such a sovereign company was so easily played by a nudist charlatan who effortlessly enriched his personality cult while pushing the LEGO-Group over and down the perilous road of professional victimhood and political activism.
Thorsten J. Pattberg is a German writer and cultural critic.