Authoritarian regimes often dream through propaganda. To see what they're fantasizing about, we regularly check in on what state-controlled media outlets have been churning out.
Venezuela gushes over Hugo Chavez's popularity on Twitter
Venezuela's state-run media has wall-to-wall coverage right now of the fact that President Hugo Chavez has surpassed two million followers on Twitter, in a prime example of the adoring coverage the leader often receives at these outlets (the photo above shows the homepage of Radio Nacional de Venezuela). Chavez, who is battling cancer, marked the occasion by embracing his #2millonesYvenciendo hashtag and tweeting, in reference to his Twitter handle, "The Twitter revolution is called Chavezcandanga!" The Agencia Venezolana de Noticias argues that Chavez's accomplishment affirms the fact that he's "the most popular Latin American leader in social media." Since Chavez first appeared on Twitter in April 2010, the news agency explains, "thousands of Venezuelans have begun to use the social network to reinforce their connection with the national leader, send good wishes, issue requests, or express their support of the revolutionary process." What messages were his followers sending him today? One tweet quoted by AVN read, "Don't allow the imperialists to take what belongs to your people! Your gold, petroleum, natural resources, and businesses!" What a lovely note.
Venezolana de Televisión, meanwhile, is running a video explaining how Chavez's Twitter account has become a "revolutionary tool." Here's a screenshot of the clip:
China permits bashing of its pop music policy
We often hear about China's strict media censorship. But every so often a startling critique of the government surfaces in state-run media. Late last week, China's Ministry of Culture ordered music download sites to delete 100 songs by Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and other artists in order to preserve China's "national cultural security" (the songs included a blast from the past: "I Want It That Way"). China Daily issued two dry reports on the move, regurgitating official talking points about "official approval procedures" and "copyright infringement."
But today, out of nowhere, the Communist Party tabloid Global Times decided to unleash some venom. Commentator Wang Juan asks what has spooked the Ministry of Culture into silencing the "eccentric goddess" Lady Gaga and "the "sexy beauty" Beyoncé. "Riots? A crime wave sparked by Katy Perry fans? ... Perhaps the Backstreet Boys' I want it that way is really a rousing cry for separatist sentiments, if you listen closely enough." A staff editorial entitled "Sorry but who exactly doesn't like Lady Gaga?" is a bit more subdued, dismissing the notion that the Communist Party has a thing against Lady Gaga or is engaging in "wider cultural censorship." It questions the Ministry of Culture's methods, not motives. "Instead of covering their ears," the paper argues, "many people are curious to listen to these songs. A banning list thus becomes a promotion list." Here's the illustration that ran with Wang's column:
Zimbabwe pats itself on the back for expelling Libyan ambassador
Zimbabwe's government, which has maintained close ties with Muammar Qaddafi because of the Libyan leader's anti-Western convictions and financial and military support of the ruling ZANU PF party , recently expelled the Libyan ambassador to Zimbabwe, Taher El-Magrahi, for throwing his support to the rebel National Transitional Council, which now controls most of Libya. And the country's media is seizing on the move to make the government distaste for the Libyan opposition and Western powers perfectly clear. Under the headline, "Diplomat Expulsion Hailed," the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation writes that analysts believe the expulsion El-Magrahi was "most appropriate" given that the African Union has yet to recognize the rebel leadership. An op-ed by the deputy editor of The Herald Online before the El-Megrahi incident summed up the thinking in Zimbabwe's state-controlled newsrooms:
Should Nato succeed in hounding Gaddafi out of Tripoli, kill him or cart him off to their Kangaroo Court in The Hague, soon, very soon those Libyans backing this western sacrilege will discover that the devil has no free lunch as the Nato Alliance will soon demand its pound of flesh in return for the billions of dollars in material and logistical support they gave their proxies from Benghazi.
The curious timing of Syria's kidnap story
Syrian Arab News Agency reports on "armed terrorist groups" attacking security forces in Syrian cities and towns tend to precede military offensives on those locations, as in the case of Jisr al-Shughour back in June. One wonders whether a similar strategy may be behind the state-run news outlet's report on Tuesday that an "armed group" had kidnapped Adnan Bakkour, the attorney general of the restive city of Hama, a day earlier and transported him to an "unknown place." On Wednesday, a video surfaced on YouTube in which a man who appeared to be Bakkour announced that he was resigning after witnessing crimes against humanity, including 70 executions, hundreds of cases of torture, and evidence of mass graves and people being buried alive, according to translations by the BBC and The Telegraph. If the video is authentic, SANA may have published its article to preemptively counter news of a prominent defection. Or, of course, the clip could be a hoax developed in response to SANA's report. Here's the footage in question: