We indulge in our hobbies to escape the often painful experience of living. But in many cases, we remain blissfully ignorant of how close some of our pastimes bring us to some of the most harrowing realities out there. F1 has been hand-in-hand with some controversial sponsors throughout history, with Heineken being only the most recent.
But never before has it so blatantly endorsed some of the most corrupt, ruthless regimes in the world. And we have Bernie Ecclestone to thank for that. A man who makes no secret of his love for Hitler and his friendship with Vladimir Putin, he has never been one to let moral qualms get in the way of business. Let’s examine some brand new F1 partnerships he’ll use to give the finger to common decency.
The most recent host country for the European Grand Prix is the last place you want to be if you value speaking your mind. This tiny Caucasian nation is known for its tyrannical treatment of journalists and news agencies who run afoul of Ilham Aliyev’s government.
An alarming quantity of journalists willing to expose Aliyev and his family for the criminals they are have been promptly persecuted and thrown into jail under spurious, fabricated claims. The most notable of these is Khadija Ismayilova, an award-winning investigative reporter who was jailed for seven years last September. The Aliyev regime also threatened to turn this serious journalist into the Kylie Jenner of the Caucasus, blackmailing her into staying silent with a sex tape of her and her boyfriend taken without her consent.
— Seventeen (@seventeen) June 22, 2016
Despite all these glaring issues, Ecclestone remains willfully ignorant of the human rights abuses he is enabling.
“The minute people tell me what human rights are, then you can have a look at them and see how and when and where it applies. Do any of you know what human rights are?”
Pretty simple concept, Bernie, if you have a basic command of the human language and a heart. He’s damn fortunate that daughter Tamara has at no point in her life been an investigative journalist in Azerbaijan, considering her own indiscretions with sex tapes.
Alas, it’s not the first time he’s turned a blind eye to this sort of thing before. During the 2015 Bahrain Grand Prix, protestors raged outside of the stadium to demand the release of unjustly interned political prisoners. In response, the Bahraini government cracked down even harder on dissent. Those who could not be suppressed with tear gas and birdshot were arrested, a grim fate for any discordant voice in Bahrain.
— Index on Censorship (@IndexCensorship) June 22, 2016
For this was hardly a new thing in this Middle Eastern country, which has a track record of wantonly imprisoning and torturing its critics, often to death. To nip any kind of resistance in the bud, it has banned demonstrations in the capital Manama and narrowly restricts freedom of assembly and association. As ever, Ecclestone had a most disappointing response to these rampant abuses.
“We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run.”
Pretty typical response, considering Ecclestone’s quite the accomplished dictator in his own right. His tyrannical grip on F1 shows no signs of easing anytime soon and we’re sure he won’t take kindly to any outside intervention himself. You know the old adage, do unto others what you what them to do unto you? He’s just looking out for others. Those who matter, anyway.
And need we mention the Grand Prix in Russia and China? Where homosexual people are being beaten and tortured regularly by mobs? Where agents of free press like Hong Kong’s Lam Wing-kee disappear for months at a time? The man will literally stop at nothing to make money off like-minded individuals. His broken moral compass is an ironically accurate indication of where the Grand Prix of the future might be.
Our guess? A Syrian Grand Prix might be looming on the ever-impending horizon. It will be the debut of a new brand of war-torn chic, with gleaming Ferraris weaving in between the skeletons of abandoned buildings and crushing the bones of small children beneath their wheels. We even have an artist already lined up for the opening ceremony.