In today's tour of state-sponsored propaganda: China tells Burma democracy isn't that great, Saudi Arabia funds propaganda in Syria, and an American propagandist loses work. We begin in China.
China may not be too experienced in the ways of democracy but that doesn't mean it can't have an opinion on the subject. In a column in Communist Party newspaper The Global Times, Ding Gang worries that Burma, which is in the midst of a gradual democratic reform process, is acting too quickly to change the country. "Excessive and hasty democracy may bury the fragile reconciliation which has just been achieved," writes Ding. Citing Australian scholar John Funston, Ding writes that democracy is "not the universal elixir that some believe in. More democracy may provide chances for all kinds of extremists." The article argues that "Western-style democracy" could accentuate ethnic conflicts between Buddhists and Muslims in the country's western regions. While Burma does have a problem with creating peace with its Muslim minority, it's difficult to accept that China's warnings about democratic reforms have nothing to do with the fact that the military junta has been its chief ally for years, and that the country isn't looking to prevent a leadership shakeup in Burma.
Saudi Propaganda Hits Syria
Ever since the conflict in Syria began, President Bashar al-Assad's regime has been guilty of shameless propaganda tactics, such as depicting any dissidents as terrorists. But it appears Saudi Arabia getting in the Syrian propaganda business as well. In an interesting report in The Daily Beast, Riad al Khouri reports that Saudi Arabia has been astroturfing the protest movement in Syria. "Today, money is coming into the country from many sources, including Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, among other nations who are supporting one or more of the various players," he reports. "This includes Saudi money coming into Syria via Lebanon to fund demonstrations, with people getting $30 a day to protest—in front of cameras and microphones, of course." Al Khouri acknowledges that the propaganda game is being played by both sides but warns that it is dangerous regardless. "Such stage-management, along with fake torture videos and a host of other propaganda stunts, provide false justification for or against outside meddling, with some Europeans and certain people in Washington pushing for various military options, and a broad group led by Russia and China, but also including many in the region, calling for diplomatic solutions to the crisis."
American Propagandist Loses a Big Client
Remember the American propagandist wo admitted to launching an online campaign against U.S. journalists? Well, he just lost quite the client: The U.S. Army. This week, the army suspended Camille Chidiac, who owns 49 percent of Leonie Industries, from being eligible to receive federal contracts, report USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook and Gregory Korte:
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who is on the Armed Services Committee, asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday to expand the Pentagon investigations into Leonie Industries. In a letter, Johnson cited allegations that the company may have misrepresented its finances while bidding for federal contracts and had started an online smear campaign directed against two journalists.
Those actions, Johnson wrote, “suggest a pattern of malice, dishonesty, and incompetence that renders Leonie Industries unsuitable for continued service as a federal contractor. The intimidation of journalists, in particular, is unacceptable. The notion that taxpayers’ dollars would go to such a company is abhorrent.”
While it's good that the Army is no longer dealing with him, it's a bit troubling that all of Leonie Industries isn't put on the black list. Then again, it's not completely surprising that it isn't given that it's the Army's top propaganda firm and has been paid more than $120 million in federal contracts since 2009. Sounds like bad company.