The Atlantic Daily: Why Human Rights Have Disappeared From Our Politics

This year’s Olympic Games are a grim illustration of an indifferent new attitude toward human rights, George Packer argues.

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Amid the fanfare and glittery medals at this year’s Olympic Games, a human-rights crisis remains tucked out of sight: China’s brutal repression of the Uyghurs. The United States sent athletes to compete in Beijing, but declared a diplomatic boycott in protest of China’s continued persecution of its Uyghur Muslim minority and other human-rights abuses. A handful of other countries followed suit, but far more—including many that are majority Muslim—have remained silent.

As my colleague George Packer put it, “The whole world has sent its athletes to celebrate a festival of youth and peace in the global capital of totalitarianism.” And we’re tuning in anyway.

George argues that this fact reflects a bigger shift in how we, as countries and individuals, think about human rights. He argues that the decay of liberal democracy, and the high costs of recent military interventions, have transformed us into realists. He also speaks with the former Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom, whose strident advocacy on behalf of the Uyghurs put him at odds with the NBA.

“Because we no longer think we can change the behavior of the world’s oppressors—because the cost of trying will be too high—we no longer think much about human rights at all,” he argues. Read the story.

Further reading: Last summer, we published a firsthand account of the genocide by the Uyghur poet Tahir Hamut Izgil, who evaded detention and now resides in the United States. Revisit it now.

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) Russia is still amassing troops near its border with Ukraine despite its claims to the contrary, the U.S. and NATO said.

(2) The Federal Reserve discussed raising interest rates even faster than anticipated, according to newly released minutes from a meeting last month.

(3) President Joe Biden told the National Archives to hand over Donald Trump’s White House visitor logs to the House January 6 committee.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Snack on something sour while you consider just how evolutionarily strange that category of taste is: “It’s a weird sense to need.

A break from the news:

Let kids be bad at things.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.