In today's tour of state-sponsored propaganda: A Chinese propagandist hits the mark, North Korea misidentifies its own foreign minister and press freedoms dwindle in Egypt. We begin in China.
China Nails It
We poke fun at China's media a lot here at Propaganda Parade, but today we have nothing but praise for the Middle Kingdom. This morning, China's state-run news agency Xinhua published an editorial slamming U.S. politicians for their recent outrage over the made-in-China uniforms of the U.S. Olympic team. In case you missed it, lawmakers bristled at the news that the Ralph Lauren outfits were made in China rather than the United States. "I think they should take all the outfits, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. Today's editorial is having none of it:
The fury over the U.S. Olympic uniforms is just another example of the fierce, and sometimes ridiculous, political fighting going on the Capitol Hill in the year of election, which is dominated by economic growth and job creation.
By criticizing Ralph Lauren for outsourcing jobs, the politicians attempted to reap political gains by portraying themselves as a champion of insourcing U.S. jobs so as to attract greater support among U.S. voters ...
The Olympic Spirit, which has nothing to do with politics, chants mutual understanding and fair play, so tagging the uniforms with politics by those U.S. politicians exposes narrow nationalism and ignorance, and violates the original Olympic Spirit.
Bingo. The editorial hits it on the money. For every lawmaker that came forward whining about the origin of the uniforms, we'd love to poll them about the origins of their computers, mobile phones, undershirts, footwear and pretty much anything else they keep in their home. While the editorial's appeal to Olympic global harmony is a little precious, it's exactly right about this cheap, attention-getting display of nationalism during an election year. Honestly, U.S. athlete's wearing shirts made in China? Have you been to a mall? We can't think of anything more American.
North Korea Misidentifies Its Own Foreign Minister
You've got to sympathize with North Korea's communications team: The country's politics and policies are so static, after a while every political official starts sounding the same. It appears that this monotony may have contributed to a botched press release issued on Thursday about an address by Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun. The problem? It was attributed to Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, who died in January 2007. The Wall Street Journal's Evan Ramstad caught the mixup:
Of course, Mr. Pak said little that the foreign ministers attending the event, and the world at large, hadn’t heard before. Kyodo News Agency summarized the North’s press release as saying that Mr. Pak defended the legitimacy of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and said it is intended to defend the North from nuclear threats posed by the United States.
The press release didn’t appear to be a total cut-and-paste job, though. It did mention the North Korea rocket launch earlier this year and repeated Pyongyang’s assertion, heard often since the March 16 announcement of the launch plan, that it was intended to convey a satellite into space rather than be a test of long-range missile capabilities.
Well, at least they get points for not plagiarizing themselves like some people have been known to do.
In Egypt, the State Retains Its Grip Over the Press
Bad news in Egypt. Although the country's new president Mohamed Morsi made gestures toward press freedoms back in June, the country's upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, has announced that it will start accepting applications for editor positions for Egypt's state-run publications. As Dahlia El Zein writes for the Committee to Protect Journalists, this process of vetting editors is plagued by unsavory influence:
Under ousted former President Hosni Mubarak's regime, the Shura Council would simply appoint editor-in-chiefs, placing its own supporters in these powerful positions to ensure coverage sympathetic to the regime. Mubarak's control over national newspapers was legendary--not one day would go by without his face on the cover of every state daily. CPJ research shows that many newspaper heads were corrupt; and if any dared to step out of line with the ruling party, they were replaced. Even after Mubarak's overthrow, SCAF has used tactics of politicized trials to intimidate journalists ... No matter where they come from, restrictions on the press impede an aspiring democracy. Regardless of who is ruling, whether it is the military council, the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi, or all or none of the above, the press is vital to giving people access to information, especially in such times of uncertainty.
No one's sure how this will play out but it certainly seems like one of those "more things change, more they stay the same," type of deals.