In today's tour of state-sponsored propaganda: Iran spots a spooky trend in America, China cleans up its flood coverage and a propaganda legend dies. We begin in Iran.
In the aftermath of last week's Colorado shootings, the foreign press has searched for explanations for American gun culture and its disregard for human life. But none have been as outlandish as Iran's, whose state-run news agency Press TV attributes the Aurora killings to some sort of Frankenstein epidemic taking over the country. In a 24-minute segment, the network introduces analyst Mauri Saalakhan, a "human rights activist" from America who supposedly advances this theory:
The US way of life, which is devoid of spirituality, has led to the production of “state-of-the-art” Frankensteins, who are incapable of controlling their desires, says an American human rights activist.
“We just marginalize God and we end up paying a price for that. We are in America and in the West producing brilliant state-of-the-art psychotics who at the end of the day end up being unable to control their own impulses because spirituality has been taken out of the equation,” said Mauri Saalakhan in a Press TV interview on Monday.
You'll notice that in Saalakhan's actual quote, she doesn't say "state-of-the-art Frankensteins" she says "state-of-the-art psychotics," which most would agree are two very different things. And you don't have to go as far as Iran to find people citing a lack of religiosity for the violence. Still, one does have to give credit for the Press TV writer who came up with the much sexier Frankenstein American formulation. Do state propaganda arms keep track of web traffic? Well done, guys.
China Stops the Flood ... Coverage
This weekend, widespread flooding in Beijing has killed at least 37 people, generating headlines that China's Communist leadership would prefer not surface. Interestingly, the China Digital Times claims to have uncovered a censorship directive from a state official attempting to quash negative stories. The directive appears below:
Beijing Municipal Committee Department of Propaganda: For public opinion guidance (舆论引导) concerning yesterday’s rainstorms, all media outlets, including central news organizations, must emphasize the power of human compassion over the elements. All Youth League committees and branches must coordinate positive reports and information on the storm in their commentaries, forum posts, and reprints of articles. Public Weibo accounts, accounts of individual Youth League members and newly registered accounts must all complete report forms.
Beijing Municipal Office of Internet Propaganda Management: Remove Li Chengpeng’s essay “Totem”.
While Agence France Presse corroborates the report, it also says censors "deleted microblog posts criticizing the official response to the disaster." While that may be true, it didn't do a very good job in terms of thoroughness, reports The New York Times' Mark McDonald. He says a "flood" of angry comments have inundated microblogging sites despite attempts to block them. Additionally, a commentary in Communist Party rag The Global Times sneaked through, criticizing the country's "inadequate drainage system and emergency response."
A Propaganda Legend Dies
Also in China, the country's former chief of propaganda for the Communist Party Ding Guangen died on Sunday after a lifetime of work. As the AP reports, Ding had quite the busy job working in a country like China all his life:
Mr. Ding returned to prominence in 1992, becoming the party’s chief of propaganda under President Jiang Zemin. (Some attributed his rise in the party to the fact that he and the leader Deng Xiaoping were longtime bridge partners.) In his new post, he affirmed party control of the news media and called on artists to show political loyalty and adhere to the party line.
In 1996, Mr. Ding convened a meeting of film industry leaders at which he told them that spiritual pollution was threatening to undermine the socialist values of the Chinese, and that they needed to start making more patriotic films. Directors who tried to avoid censorship or to export their films without permission, he announced, would have to pay a substantial fine.