In today's tour of state-sponsored propaganda: Chinese media blackout coverage of activist Chen Guangcheng, Cuba throws a party for May Day and Mali's junta retakes control of state TV. We begin in China.
Blind Activist Blackout
A blind Chinese activist may have escaped his well-guarded home and thwarted Chinese authorities, but you won't hear a gripping story like that in Chinese state media, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. "China's tightly controlled state media has remained silent over the blind human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng, who is believed to have sought sanctuary in the US embassy, despite debate raging across the nation's microblogs," reports Philip Wen. Not only that but the Associated Press reports that authorities have begun scrubbing the Internet of Chen's name and other names associated with him on social media networks and blogs. "As word of Chen Guangcheng's flight surfaced and spread last Friday, admirers rushed to popular Chinese social media to cheer him on — and the censors swung into action to block key phrases," writes AP's Didi Tang. Banned phrases include the name of Chen's home villages and surrounding villages, "Bing" a popular blind folk musician who admirers were using for Chen until censors caught on, "Blind Man," "American Embassy," "Great Escape" and others. (The full list of banned words is here.) It's not clear how long China plans to keep up this game of whack-a-mole but you can guarantee clever activists will continue to find a way to talk about him.
Who Says May Day Demands a Protest?
For capitalist countries around the world today, May Day or International Workers' Day, is about protesting capitalism. But if you live in a Communist country, it's a state-sanctioned celebration! Take the homepage of the Cuban News Agency today. It's all about "hundreds of thousands" rallying in May Day celebrations.
Not only did the country put on a big party but in a second story, CNA reports that Raul Castro invited cancer-stricken Hugo Chavez over to celebrate in Havana. How nice of him! So how did May Day, which was born in the U.S., become a Communist holiday? According to The Los Angeles Times' Michael Muskal, the modern understanding of May Day was spawned out of the May 4, 1886 Haymarket Square massacre in Chicago: "Protesters, as part of a general strike for the eight-hour workday, had gathered there, and a bomb was tossed at police." But eventually, U.S. elites felt it was too socialistic and it was discouraged as a sign of anti-Americanism. However, "Ten years later, Socialists had anointed May 1 as a proletarian holiday when workers and other progressives would demonstrate for their causes," writes Muskal. "As socialist-themed parties took state power, May Day eventually evolved into a holiday with massive displays of state military power as the rule. In countries such as the former Soviet Union and China, May Day became a nationalist holiday rather than one for the workers."
Fight for Your Right to Public Television
The coup that ignited in Mali is still raging following a counter-coup attempt this week. One of the main signs of who has control is who's broadcasting from the country's state media arm. With a fight between guards loyal to ousted Malian President Toumani Touré and the junta playing out on Monday, it appears the junta has won out. "Mali's ruling military junta said on Tuesday in a message aired over state television that it is in control of the state broadcaster building, the airport, and the military base in Kati near the capital after a counter-coup attempt," reports Reuters. To the victor go the spoils.