Sorry About the Propaganda, Righties

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Obama Administration

Last night I was bummed out about Chinese government propaganda about Tibet. You may know that tomorrow is Serf Liberation Day in Tibet, an observance of the “glorious liberation” of the Tibetan people by Chairman Mao. I understand that tomorrow it will be 50 years since the last free Tibetan parliament was broken up by China.

Here’s a typical Xinhua photograph of happy liberated Tibetans preparing to celebrate. You just know Tibetans spontaneously throw on matching ethnic attire and carry icons of the Chinese Communist Party while grinning insanely. The white scarf draped around the picture frame is a nice touch.

Xinhua

Xinhua

But I went to bed last night thinking about Ground Zero in Manhattan. One of the several points of contention that has held up reconstruction there is propaganda. For a time the righties wanted to turn the hole in the ground in the Financial District into a glorious tribute to Dear Leader Bush and the glorious liberation of Iraq.

One plan I remember was to prominently display in a visitors’ center a billboard-size photograph of an Iraqi voter — a happy Iraqi voter, mind you — happily waving a purple finger. Some of us who were actually in Manhattan on 9/11 had this crazy idea that what should be memorialized is, you know, 9/11. Not bleeping Iraq, which didn’t have a bleeping thing to do with 9/11.

People dug in their heels and would not budge, so the hole in the ground is still mostly a hole in the ground.

Construction of the “Freedom Tower” has begun, but lo, according to the New York Post the Port Authority has decided not to call it the “Freedom Tower,” but One World Trade Center. Naturally, righties are miffed because some of us don’t appreciate “freedom.”

I do appreciate freedom, which is one reason it’s a relief to me the tower won’t be called the “Freedom Tower.” That name is so, like, Xinhua. I would have had to put quotations marks for irony around “Freedom” every time I keyboarded it.

Rightie propaganda to the contrary, what happened on 9/11 didn’t revolve around the issue of political oppression versus political freedom. It revolved around the fact that some religious fanatics worked themselves into a homicidal rage and killed a lot of good people for no sane reason. If you want to give the tower a name that actually means something relating to 9/11, call it the Rationality Tower. Or, the Peace, Love and/or Compassion Tower would work for me also.

“They hate our freedoms” never was an honest answer to the question, “Why did al Qaeda attack the U.S.?” Al Qaeda didn’t give a bleep about our freedoms, one way or another. A more honest answer would have been “Because they’re crazy.” It was fanaticism that drove them. Certainly, the Western Powers — not the U.S. alone — have a history in the Middle East that doesn’t always shine with the glory of righteousness. But there were many other, saner ways that any outstanding grievances could have been remedied.

The objective for the 9/11 attacks was to goad the U.S. into attacking a Muslim country, which is what Osama bin Laden had wanted for years. That would, he thought, provide the impetus to rally the Muslim world against the West. And, by golly, the idiot righties and the idiot Bush Administration were all too happy to give Osama bin Laden what he wanted.

Maybe we should call the thing the We’re Sorry We Took the Bait Tower.

I think the Chinese genuinely want Tibetans to be happy they are “liberated,” or at least to pretend they are. Any expression to the contrary enrages the Chinese so. Monks are routinely hauled away and tortured merely for possessing a photograph of the Dalai Lama. What is the point of the torture, except to act out rage?

By the same token, by many accounts President Bush was obsessed with wanting the Iraqis to thank him for liberating them. And the Right complained perpetually that news media “weren’t telling the real story” about what was going on in Iraq. If you listened to them closely, you suspect they longed for the kind of news reporting that Xinhua provides the Chinese about Tibet, an alternate reality I call “the happy happiness of happyland.”

They wanted mass parades of Iraqis waving American flags and images of Dear Leader Bush. Instead, they got a guy throwing a shoe. And I understand that guy has been sentenced to three years in prison for throwing a shoe. That’s about what a Tibetan monk gets if he’s caught with a photo of the Dalai Lama.

And the Right is pissed that we can’t use the word “freedom”? My dears, “freedom” means to a rightie what “liberation” means to the Chinese Communist Party — raw exercise of power.

I did a riff on the word freedom and what it means to righties back in 2005. “What we can see unfold before our eyes is the appropriation of the word freedom to mean ‘policies of the Bush Administration.’” I said then. And I quoted Riverbend,

We’re so free, we often find ourselves prisoners of our homes, with roads cut off indefinitely and complete areas made inaccessible. We are so free to assemble that people now fear having gatherings because a large number of friends or family members may attract too much attention and provoke a raid by American or Iraqi forces.

You’ll remember that Riverbend was so happy in Iraqi happyland she and her family went into exile. Happy days.

Update:
Based on responses so far to David Dunlap’s New York Times website post, I’m not the only one who cringes at the name “Freedom Tower.” It will always be the World Trade Center, said one commenter. A New Yorker, I bet. Also, a whopping majority of responders to a Gothamist poll say they prefer One World Trade Center to “Freedom Tower.”

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. CabinInThe Woods  •  Mar 27, 2009 @10:35 am

    It seems to me that this Recession-come-Depression has been going on a lot longer than many people realize. For years, Faux Nooz, et al, were telling us of our econo- “happy happiness in happyland,” making those who were hit first to feel as if they were alone in their suffering.

    Incomes remained flat while everything else was going up – housing, food, clothing, health care costs, transportation, credit interest rates – squeezing or evaporating our discretionary dollars. Unemployment was kept down via poverty wages, heavier workloads, and reduced or eliminated health insurance. Shhh! Don’t talk about it! Talk about our happy happiness in happyland!

    And, yes, millions of Americans believed the “happy happiness in happyland”.

    (I am not forgetting that other things were/are happening behind the happiness facade, like the trampling of our liberties (which made “because they hate our freedoms” such a joke), but that continues to be a cover-up. Since the Patriot Act was passed, I (and thousands of US-born citizens like me) am so “free” that I have been barred from getting a passport. But that’s another story.)

    When did MSM finally have to stop the econo-happiness farce? Not when enough ordinary people were hit, no. It was when a lofty investment firm revealed it was in trouble. Ordinary people never matter. Especially if they didn’t even have a 401K. And now those people will be ground further into the dirt with cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

    There is still plenty of faux happiness to be peddled.

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Mar 27, 2009 @12:37 pm

    I used to argue with my father back in the ’70′s and early ’80′s that we were moving closer and closer to being like Soviet Russia. He grew up in the ’20′s and ’30′s under Stalin and couldn’t see the forest for the trees sometimes. To him, the difference was huge; to me, it was narrowing, and has continued to narrow.
    All of the “happy, happy, joy, joy” talk reminds me that our right-wing, which was so afraid of “Communism,” has basically, through time, taken on the patina of that which they once feared.
    They made their own Stalin in Bush. They basically turned our Congress into the Politburo. Our courts looked more and more Soviet-like with every appointment. They hired apparatchki in Justice and other bureau’s. And they wanted a PRAVDA-like news corp. It was a huge success in many ways.
    The question is, after all of that, can we change back? Even Obama, as much as I supported and like him, is hesitant to give back all of the powers that Bush and Cheney usurped for themselves.
    As I always feared, if we haven’t lost this country yet, we are damned close to it. What happens in the next few years will determine whether it’s lost or not.

    PS: maha, my heart goes out to the Buddhist monks and the people of Tibet.
    PPS: I would vote for “Justice” Tower. We seek not revenge, but justice. Skip the “Freedom” propaganda. Freedom is a word, a goal, if you will; justice is how you achieve and maintain it.

  3. joanr16  •  Mar 27, 2009 @1:14 pm

    maha, thanks for the recent posts reminding us that China’s cruelty to Tibet goes on. I confess Tibet’s suffering mostly has been off my radar screen the past six years, for reasons having to do with a log in our own eye, as well as China’s. But it’s a key part of the picture of a just world– justice for Iraq, for the Palestinians, for Tibet, and so on.

  4. moonbat  •  Mar 27, 2009 @1:56 pm

    I hope NYC continues to dig in and shun the Freedom tower appelation. I’m reminded of George Lakoff’s Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea (haven’t read it). cu, I think “Justice” is another one of those words that left and right disagree about – it’s only slightly less loaded than “Freedom”. Yes, it was unjust to kill thousands of innocents during 9/11, but America has a long and deep shadow of shameful acts overseas that no one on the right is willing to look at or even acknowledge. You can’t even speak about it out loud in this country, even eight years after 9/11. This doesn’t justify 9/11, but it might shed some understanding and reason beyond the usual dead-end explanations of religious fanatacism or sheer craziness.

    The picture of the smiling Tibetans and the need to have happy Iraqis reminds me of a story I heard over the weekend. Friends in Russia, post-Soviet era, were entreated to a three hour lecture by a doctor on the importance of getting their kids vaccinated. After it was over, my female friend cornered the doctor and asked him if his kids were vaccinated. The doctor looked around, then cupped his hands around his mouth, and quickly and quietly told the woman: “No! Don’t do it!”

    This is the effect of living in a propaganda state. There’s a surface conformity, that everyone is used to, which most feel the need to go along with, but an entire underground of private thoughts and private communication, which is how people find out what is really going on. If they want to, that is – there will always be the clueless, the dishonest, and the moral cowards who will be more than willing to smile for the camera. Or even host a show like Sean Hannity’s or Glenn Beck’s.

    In essence, the right wants everyone to be as unconscious as they are. They are terrified to look inside themselves, and they want a country that is likewise unwilling to look inside to face the hard truths about how we’ve acted in the world. This is why they are so militant about putting their stamp on that hole in lower Manhattan, and it is why they so desperately despise anyone and anything that reminds them of who they really are.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Mar 27, 2009 @3:08 pm

    moonbat,
    You’re right about the word ‘justice.’
    You’re also right in that many people in this country won’t look at the root causes of 9/11. And to explain America’s horrible Middle East policies over the last century, and how that was one of the causes of that horrible day, spits in the face of their idea of American exceptionalism.
    In their eyes, our country is the beautiful virgin bride in white. They don’t see the toothless, bearded hag that is her soul.
    We need to continue to try to do what we can to educate those who are willing to learn. And to do what we can to improve our country. As for the others, we need to try to isolate them from power. There are very dangerous and stupid people who are trying to change this country in their image. An image that would make that toothless, bearded hag look like the most beautiful person in the world.

  6. CabinInThe Woods  •  Mar 27, 2009 @4:48 pm

    I suspect that even the term “justice” can be boiled down even more to that which we have truly lost – and that is the Rule of Law. Perhaps this monument should be titled “9/11/01: The End of the Rule of Law in the United States”.

    This country can only be saved if we manage to reinstate the Rule of Law and, based on recent developments (i.e,. no prosecution of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, et al, no prosecution of the likes of Cassano or any counterparties – i.e. Goldman Sachs, et al), there is no hope.

  7. erinyes  •  Mar 27, 2009 @4:59 pm
  8. biggerbox  •  Mar 27, 2009 @8:48 pm

    Michelle Bachmann is so fiercely committed to living happy happily in Happyland that she’s willing to start a revolution to avoid leaving. But as the boys sang, “if you want money for minds that hate, all I can tell you is brother you have to wait.”

    Perhaps we need the “It’s Gonna Be All Right” Tower. (Though, since I’m in a lyrical rut, maybe the What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding Tower?)

  9. joanr16  •  Mar 27, 2009 @9:58 pm

    Maybe the What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding Tower?

    With all my heart, seconded!

    CNN reports that the first entity to lease space in One World Trade Center, which doesn’t open for another four years, is a Chinese company. Figures. I suppose if the builders are scared of Peace, Love and Understanding, they could call it the “World Domination Tower.”

  10. joanr16  •  Mar 27, 2009 @9:59 pm

    P.S. If you look up “batshit crazy” in the dictionary, you will find a photo of Rep. Michelle Bachman.

  11. Swami  •  Mar 27, 2009 @11:41 pm

    How about the Rooty Giuliani Tower? A big phallic symbol built of steel and glass to remind the world how Bush and his moron cohorts screwed America over as a result of 9/11.

    And they can change the address to… 1 Randy Place

  12. Swami  •  Mar 28, 2009 @7:34 pm

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090328/ap_on_re_us/attacks_freedom_tower

    Here they go with their…” *UNPATRIOTIC” drivel.

    * note to self.. Get lapel pin to insure my patriotism is understood and unquestioned by all who come into my presence.

  13. chinaphile  •  Mar 29, 2009 @8:50 am

    Interestingly, the picture the Tibetans are holding shows former leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, but not current president Hu Jintao.

  14. self exile  •  Mar 29, 2009 @10:03 pm

    Sorry.

    I studied Tibetan history and I have absolutely no sympathy for the Tibetan exiles. They were lower than the mafiosa who ran Cuba before Castro.

    The Chinese were NOT making fun of the Tibetans when they proclaimed Serf Emancipation. The Tibetan leaders had the country one tiny step above official slavery.

    I, also, do not care for the former policy of killing female babies so more males could survive to serve the Dali Lama. Read some of the contemporary comments about Tibet during the British invasion about 1900. They ALL comment on the fact that women had 3 or 4 husbands. They never realized that this could only come by slaughtering 4 out of 5 females given the number of personal male serfs that each nobleman and priest had.

    Spare me the sanctimonious comments about a guy who makes pope Ratzi the Nazi look like a screaming saint. I am no fan of the Chinese communists but in this case they got it right. You will not find workers at the pro Dali rallies. They are much better off. What you see are the descendants of the last set of truly medieval aristocrats in the whole world.

  15. maha  •  Mar 29, 2009 @11:43 pm

    self-exile — This is no longer about what Tibet was 50 years ago. It’s about what is happening right now. Nobody, not even the Dalai Lama, intends to return Tibet to theocracy.

    “You will not find workers at the pro Dali rallies. They are much better off.”

    That’s ignorant and tells me you know nothing. A big part of the resentment of Tibetans is being fueled by economic injustice at the hands of Han Chinese. Learn something before you spout off further, thanks.

    Good bye.

  16. joanr16  •  Mar 30, 2009 @1:19 pm

    do not care for the former policy of killing female babies

    Whether true or not, this rumor is about CHINA, and its one-child-per-family policy.

    Tibet during the British invasion about 1900

    109 years ago? Are you joking? Read about the U.S., Britain, or any other nation in existence in the year 1900 and you’ll read horrible things. Tibet’s history is mild by comparison.

    self exile, your head is stuffed with disinformation and misunderstanding. Your opinions are based on gross ignorance. Since 1950, the Chinese have committed genocide, organized rape, and destruction of the Tibetan environment. If you call that “getting it right,” you’re also more than a little disturbed.



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