Saturday, March 29, 2008

Government Propaganda? Not Here, Surely -- Must Be Chinese!

William Blum:
The Washington Post recently ran a story about how the Chinese people largely support the government suppression of the Tibetan protesters. The heading was: "Beijing's Crackdown Gets Strong Domestic Support. Ethnic Pride Stoked by Government Propaganda."
He's not kidding: here's the link.

Blum writes:
The article spoke of how Beijing officials have "educated" the public about Tibet "through propaganda".
Indeed. Here's Edward Cody in the Washington Post:
In the West, the name Tibet has long evoked unspoiled Himalayan landscapes, cinnamon-robed monks spinning prayer wheels and a peace-loving Dalai Lama seeking freedom for his repressed Buddhist followers.

Here in China, people have embraced a different view; they regard Tibet as a historical part of the nation and see its sympathizers in the West as easily fooled romantics. Thanks to government propaganda, but also to ethnic pride, most Chinese see the Dalai Lama and his monks as obscurantist reactionaries trying to split the country and reverse the economic and social progress that China has brought to a backward and isolated land over the past 58 years.

The violent protests by Buddhist monks and other Tibetans that exploded in Lhasa on Friday, therefore, have generated widespread condemnation among the country's majority Han Chinese. In street conversations, Internet discussions and academic forums, most Chinese have readily embraced the government's contention that the violence resulted from a plot mounted by the Dalai Lama from his exile headquarters in India.
Blum again:
Imagine the Post or any other American mainstream media saying that those Americans who support the war in Iraq do so because they've been educated by government propaganda. ... Ditto those who support the war in Afghanistan. ... Ditto those who supported the bombing of Yugoslavia. ... Ditto scores of other US invasions, bombings, overthrows, and miscellaneous war crimes spanning more than half a century.
Can you imagine? Internet discussions where people speak out in favor of war crimes? Street conversations? Academic forums?

Cody says the people are even urging the government to be more vicious:
Against that background, the Communist Party has met with broad popular approval in vowing to crack down on the rioters -- most of whose victims were Han Chinese -- and in qualifying the "impudent" Dalai Lama as a "master terror maker" who has hoodwinked the West with his appeals for peace. While the rest of the world invokes the Beijing Olympics and advises restraint, Chinese specialists and the public have urged the government to move decisively...
And it all seems so familiar ... Are we sure we don't have any propaganda here?

Blum again:
A recurring theme of Hillary Clinton's campaign for the presidency has been that she has more of the right kind of experience needed to deal with national security and foreign policy issues than Barack Obama. The latest play on this is her advertisement telling you: It's three a.m. and your children are safe and asleep; but there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing; something really bad is happening somewhere; and voters are asked who they want answering the phone. Of course they should want Hillary and her marvelous experience. (If she's actually explained what that marvelous experience is, I missed it. Perhaps her near-death experience in Bosnia?)

Typical of Clinton's growing corps of conservative followers, the Washington Times recently lent support to this theme. The right-wing newspaper interviewed a group of "mostly conservative retired [military] officers, industry executives and current defense officials", who cite Mr. Obama's lack of experience in national security.

And so it goes. And so it has gone for many years. What is it with this experience thing for public office? It was not invented by Hillary Clinton. If I need to have my car repaired I look for a mechanic with experience with my particular car. If I needed an operation I'd seek out a surgeon with lots of experience performing that particular operation. But when it comes to choosing a person for political office, the sine qua non consideration is what their politics are. Who would you choose between two candidates -- one who was strongly against everything you passionately supported but who had decades of holding high government positions, or one who shared your passion on every important issue but had never held any public office? Is there any doubt about which person almost everyone would go for? So why does this "experience" thing keep coming up in so many elections?

A recent national poll questioned registered voters about the candidates' "approach to foreign policy and national security". 43% thought that Obama would be "not tough enough" (probably a reflection of the "experience" factor), while only 3% thought he'd be "too tough". For Clinton the figures were 37% and 9%. The evidence is overwhelming that decades of very tough -- nay, brutal -- US policies toward the Middle East has provoked extensive anti-American terrorism; the same in Latin America in earlier decades, yet this remains an alien concept to most American voters, who think that toughness works (even though they know it doesn't work on Americans -- witness the reaction to 9/11).

John McCain, who is proud to have dropped countless bombs on the people of Vietnam, who had never done him or his country any harm until he and his country invaded them, who now (literally) sings in public about bombing the people of Iran, and who tells us he's prepared to remain in Iraq for 100 years, is still regarded as "not tough enough" by 16% and "too tough" by only 25%. What does it take to convince Americans that one of their leaders is a bloody psychopath? Like the two psychos he may replace. How has 225 years of our grand experiment in democracy wound up like this? And why is McCain regularly referred to as a "war hero"? He was shot down and captured and held prisoner for more than five years. What's heroic about that? In most other kinds of work, such a record would be called a failure.

Winston Churchill said that "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." And if that doesn't do it for you, try a five-minute conversation with almost any American politician. This thing called democracy continues to be used as a substitute for human liberation.

One parting thought about Obama: Is he prepared to distance himself from Rev. Martin Luther King as he has from his own minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright? King vehemently denounced the Vietnam War and called the United States "the most violent nation in the world". Like Wright, he was strongly condemned for his remarks. As T.S. Eliot famously observed: "Humankind can not bear very much reality."
Blum gives his readers quite a few things to think about. Here's a sampling:
Expressing elementary truths about the oppression of the poor by the rich in the United States runs the risk of being accused of "advocating class warfare"; because the trick of class war is to not let the victims know the war is being waged.

What do the CEOs do all day that they should earn a thousand times more than schoolteachers, nurses, firefighters, street cleaners, and social workers? Re-read some medieval history, about feudal lords and serfs.

The campaigns of the anti-regulationists imply that pure food and drugs will be ours as soon as we abolish the pure food and drug laws. ...

The more you care about others, the more you're at a disadvantage competing in the capitalist system.

To say that 1% of the population owns 35% of the resources and wealth, is deceptive. If you own 35% you can control much more than that.

How could the current distribution of property and wealth have emerged from any sort of democratic process? ...

Capitalism is the theory that the worst people, acting from their worst motives, will somehow produce the most good. ...

Communist governments take over companies. Under capitalism, the companies take over the government. ...
How much reality can you bear?

Read the rest here.