Vegas, Macau and the Albatross of Image

In politics, it’s traditional, if not particularly attractive, for the media to make hay of
anything connected with a candidate—birth certificates, pet ethics, wives’ hobbies. So it’s not surprising that Sheldon Adelson’s support for Mitt Romney has quickly transformed the Las Vegas/Macau casino mogul into the press’ favorite stick with which to beat the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. 

The most recent example is a blog item by The New Yorker’s China correspondent, Evan Osnos. The piece updates Adelson’s long-running legal battle with former executive Steve Jacobs, then segues to the recent attack on Ng Man-sun, an investor in Macau’s Greek Mythology casino, which is not owned by Adelson. No direct connection is drawn between the story’s two elements, but everyone gets a little dirty by association. In national political journalism, Las Vegas remains a stand-in for all sorts of unsavory interests. But its place as the favorite synecdoche for shadiness may be eclipsed by Macau, the mere mention of which tars everyone in splashing range. It’s got gambling, prostitution and gangland violence. Hence the ease with which the association game plays out: Romney-linked-with-Adelson; Adelson-linked-with-Macau; Macau-linked-with-very-bad-things. 

What’s amazing is that Las Vegas is nowhere mentioned in the story. What’s frustrating is that it’s there, anyway, hovering in the consciousness of a nation that loves to connect us with the dark side.