Posts tagged ‘Ronald Reagan’

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Xi Jinping’s Heroes (1): the Blood of countless Martyrs

Every once in a while, a topic or text looks too big (or too much of a tasteless nuisance) to me to be processed in a blog, although I still want to translate it. When it’s too much in one go, I might opt for a serial.

This blog is meant to be more than just a public waste book, but it certainly fulfills a waste book’s tasks, too, and helps to tidy up my mind.

The following are excerpts from an article published by “People’s Daily” (the CPC’s central party organ), and republished, probably among many others, by “The Paper” (澎湃新闻), Shanghai.

Note the frequent references to movies – Xi Jinping (or his advisors, or both) appear to have been impressed by Ronald Reagan’s use of cinema, or cinema-worty, propaganda during the 1980s.1)

Main Link: “The Secretary General has talked about Heroes like these”, by Wen Hongyan and Song Jingsi, published on Sept 29
Links within blockquotes added during translation.

0916_blessing

Jiangxi inspection tour 2019, background left:
Red Army Long March Starting Point Monument,
Yudu County

“A nation with hope cannot be without heroes, a country cannot be without pioneers.”
“一个有希望的民族不能没有英雄,一个有前途的国家不能没有先锋。”

Ever since the 18th National Congress, Secretary General Xi Jinping has attached great importance to praising heroic models, carrying forward the heroic spirit, looking for heroes, commemorated the heroes’ footprints north and south of the Yangtse River, told moving stories about heroes on many occasions, expressed his veneration for heroes, called on the whole party and the whole country to hold the heroes in high esteem, to defend them, to learn about them, and to show concern and care for them. The Secretary General emphasized: only high esteem for heroes can bring about heroes, and only the strife to become heroes can make heroes come forth in large numbers.
党的十八大以来,习近平总书记高度重视褒奖英雄模范、弘扬英雄精神,踏寻英雄、缅怀英烈的足迹遍布大江南北,在多个场合讲述英雄感人故事,表达对英雄的崇敬之情,号召全党全国崇尚英雄、捍卫英雄、学习英雄、关爱英雄。总书记强调:“崇尚英雄才会产生英雄,争做英雄才能英雄辈出。”

[…..]

Never to be forgotten
永志不忘——

“The republic is red, and can’t weaken this color. The blood of countless martyrs gave our flag its color. There is no way that we would not build the republic well that they hoped, fought and sacrificed for.”
“共和国是红色的,不能淡化这个颜色。无数的先烈鲜血染红了我们的旗帜,我们不建设好他们所盼望向往、为之奋斗、为之牺牲的共和国,是绝对不行的。”

On the median of Tian An Men Square, the Monument to the People’s Heroes stands tall and towering.
On November 29, 2012, not long after the party’s 18th national congress, Secretary General Xi Jinping entered the National Museum east of the Monument to the People’s Heroes, visiting the “Road to National Rejuvenation” exhibit. The Secretary General pointed out: “During modernity2), the scale to which the Chinese nation has suffered and made sacrifices is something rarely seen in the history of the world.
天安门广场的南北中轴线上,人民英雄纪念碑巍然耸立。
2012年11月29日,党的十八大闭幕不久,习近平总书记走进人民英雄纪念碑东侧的国家博物馆,参观《复兴之路》展览。总书记指出:“近代以后,中华民族遭受的苦难之重、付出的牺牲之大,在世界历史上都是罕见的。”

The October revolution’s momentous events gave China Marxism-Leninism. Marxism-Leninism’s dissemination in China advanced the great awakening of the Chinese people, drove the birth of the Communist Party of China, and ignited the light of the Chinese nation’s rejuvenation.
十月革命一声炮响,给中国送来了马克思列宁主义。马克思列宁主义在中国的传播,促进了中国人民的伟大觉醒,催生了中国共产党,点亮了中华民族的复兴之光。

“China surely has an admirably bright future.” During that grim era, Fang Zhimin and countless other people all had lofty ideals, with their hearts full of hope and expectations.
“中国一定有个可赞美的光明前途。”在那个风雨如晦的年代,方志敏等无数仁人志士都如此满心期待、满怀憧憬。

[…..]

On May 22, 2019, Secretary General Xi Jinping, while ending an inspection tour in Jiangxi, pointed out: “‘The enemy can only chop off our heads, but he can’t shake our faith’ – this was Comrade Fang Zhimin’s resounding promise before sacrificing his life.”
2019年5月22日,习近平总书记在江西考察工作结束时的重要讲话中指出:“‘敌人只能砍下我们的头颅,决不能动摇我们的信仰’,这是方志敏同志牺牲前留下的铮铮誓言。”

“The light of ideals can’t be extinguished, and the light of faith can’t be extinguished.” Secretary General Xi Jinping told many moving stories about the revolutionary martyrs’ selfless pursuit of the light of ideals, and how they gave their lives to protect the revolutionary faith.
“理想之光不灭,信念之光不灭。”习近平总书记曾在不同场合讲述许多革命先烈忘我追寻理想之光、舍身保护信仰火种的感人故事。

“Before martyr Liu Renkan was killed for the righteous cause, the enemy mercilessly cut off his tongue. Still, he used his foot and his spilling blood to write ‘Long live the revolution’.”
“刘仁堪烈士在就义前,敌人残忍地割下了他的舌头,他仍然用脚蘸着流下的鲜血写下‘革命成功万岁’。”

“Martyr Jiang Shanzhong left a letter behind, written with his own blood, ‘Death to the underworld will not turn back water, and protect the Communist Party for thousands of years’.”3)
“江善忠烈士留下血书,‘死到阴间不反水,保护共产党万万年’。”

Xia Minghan went to prison, faithful and unchanging. In a letter to his wife, he sent the heroic oath of ‘persist in our aspirations, vow to spread the truth to the earthly world’.”
“夏明翰身陷牢狱坚贞不屈,在给妻子的家书中发出‘坚持革命继吾志,誓将真理传人寰’的豪迈誓言。”

“In the Battle of Xiangjiang River, martyr Chen Shuxiang‘s feats, ‘heartbreakingly showing his sincere convictions’, touch people, it really is ‘a thousand drops of blood from the Red Army on every inch of the ground, and an honorable hero’s body on every step’.”
“在湘江战役中,陈树湘烈士‘断肠明志’的事迹十分感人,真是‘寸土千滴红军血,一步一尊英雄躯’。”

____________

Notes

Stuff like this:

1) 1/11/84 Lars‑Erik Nelson suggests another source for the Medal of Honor story: an apocryphal item in the April 1944 issue of Reader’s Digest, a magazine known to be a life‑long Reagan favorite.
“The bomber had been almost ripped apart by German cannon,” it read. “The ball turret gunner was badly wounded and stuck in the blister on the underside of the fuselage. Crewmen worked frantically to extricate the youngster, but there was nothing they could do. They began to jump. The terror‑stricken lad screamed in fear as he saw what was happening. The last man to jump heard the remaining crewman, a gunner, say, ‘Take it easy, kid. We’ll take this ride together.’”
2) Seems this could be translated as after modernity, but that wouldn’t make sense to me because 近代 – among Chinese, and not among Americans or Taiwanese – usually refers to the times from around 1912 and 1949. Among the latter, it would be from the late Ming dynasty to 1912 (according to Wikipedia as of Oct 20).
3) Not necessarily a correct translation; found online, on a site full of commercials and reroutings

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Xi Jinping’s “Resisting U.S. speech”: a few remarks

Curt publication

What strikes me while translating Xi Jinping’s October 23 speech, commemorating the Korean War, is Beijing’s departure from seeking truth in the facts. Contrary to what Xi tells in his “majestic epic that scared heaven and earth and made supernatural beings cry” (驚天地、泣鬼神的雄壯史詩), China was involved in North Korea’s and Russia’s war preparations, although probably rather passively and not enthusiastically. China supported an enabled an aggression, rather than defending itself against one. Xi, in his speech, emphasized the need to be “brave to be innovative” so as to “advance further”, and to be “good at creating” so as to be “victorious” (勇于創新者進,善于創造者勝). And if being inventive enough seventy years later to win the Korean War after all (or at least make it useful), so be it, seems to be Xi’s line of thought.

But what is the use of it? The next batches of translation may turn out to be self-explanatory, though there is probably always room for different interpretations. In Xi’s view, China is in dire need of an army that will not only defend the country or to quash uprisings, but that will also be able to invade, for example, Taiwan.

To arouse a “spirit” that defies death, Xi rewrites history. Doing that has a long imperial tradition in China, but to lie as fundamentally as Xi did on October 23 marks a revival of faking the records that hasn’t been seen for decades.

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Related / Updates

Xi speech (1)
Xi speech (2)
Xi speech (3)

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Saturday, June 8, 2019

Once upon a time in America

We pride ourselves on our friendly relations and open borders with our two North American neighbors.

Ronald Reagan, US president, November 9, 1985

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 Headlines (3) – Tsai Ing-wen’s Presidency after the November Municipal Elections

Radio Taiwan International (RTI) aired interviews with two political scientists on December 21, Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) of Tamkang University and Yu Chin-hsin (or Yu Ching-hsin, 游清鑫?) of National Chengchi University, discuss Taiwan’s November municipal elections and Tsai’s chances to get re-elected as president early in 2021, and the future of Tsai’s mainland policies.

Lin Chong-bin discussing Trump Kim meeting, South China Sea, on July 1, on VoA Haixia Luntan (click picture for video)

Lin Chong-bin discussing Trump Kim meeting, South China Sea,
on July 1, on VoA Haixia Luntan (click picture for video)

Born in 1942, Lin Chong-pin is a rather familiar face in Taiwanese and North American media. According to Wikipedia, he became a geologist around 1970, after studies at National Taiwan University and Bowling Green State University, and started political studies in 1978, at Georgetown University.

He served as an assistant to then US ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and returned to Taiwan in 1995. He became a member of the Mainland Affairs Council in 1996, served as an advising member of the National Security Council from 2002, and as deputy defense minister from 2003 to 2004.

The Wiki entry also contains a list of books he authored, in English and in Chinese, and a gist of his views and assessment records of international politics.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Blog and Press Review: Frugal New Year

Warning: the following translation from a classic is just my guesswork – if you copy that for your homework, the mistakes will be your fault, not mine. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Frugal New Year: the Xi Style

The year of the dog is upon us, and it must be a dog’s life if you are a cadre in the Xi Jinping era. That’s what you might believe, anyway, if you read secretary general Xi Jinping’s spiritual nourishment for comrades. After all, in a totalitarian society, administration, legislation, crackdowns and Something Understood all need to come from the same source.

People’s Daily has published three instalments of Xi Jinping thought. The first: go and visit the poor, and ask about their suffering, find solutions to the problems and dump the worries. The second: have an affectionate reunion with your family, as a good family style promotes virtue.

For the third instalment, the sermon turns to the New Book of Tang:
奢靡之始,危亡之渐 (which means something like “what begins lavishly will move towards danger”, I suppose).

I can only find the Chinese original [no English edition] of the  New Book of Tang online, and there, in chapter 105, Chu Suiliang, an advisor with morals, tells his surprised sovereign the meaning of things that only appear to be innocent at first glance:

帝尝怪:“舜造漆器,禹雕其俎,谏者十馀不止,小物何必尔邪?”遂良曰:“雕琢害力农,纂绣伤女工,奢靡之始,危亡之渐也。漆器不止,必金为之,金又不止,必玉为之,故谏者救其源,不使得开。及夫横流,则无复事矣。”帝咨美之。

The emperor said: “Shun made the lacquer, Yu gave us the embroideries, but the remonstrances never seem to end. How can small things be evil?”
Suiliang said: “ornate artwork harms the peasantry, and embroidery hurts the working women. What begins lavishly, will indeed move towards danger. It doesn’t end at lacquerware, it takes gold, too. It doesn’t end there, but jade will be required, too. Those who remonstrate do not want to see things pass the point of no return.”

If my impression of the Chinese texts is basically correct, Xi seems to present himself as someone who speaks truth to power – which is corny at best, and quite probably populist. The latter, anyway, is a tool lavishly handed around among the Davos jetset more recently, and it probably works fine, especially at the grass-roots level, with people who routinely delude themselves.

Roar back, if you still dare, fly or tiger.

Xi Jinping probably found a lot to copy from Ronald Reagan. His May 4 speech in 2013 resembled Reagan’s endless-opportunities speech in 1984. While frequently considered risk averse when it comes to reform, optimism, a “determination … to educate his audience” and “unobtrusive and imperceptible moral influence” (OK – it depends on how much corniness you’ve grown up with) are features Xi’s propaganda style seems to share with the late US president’s.

Footnote: when it comes to education on the ground, education of the public appears to be anything but imperceptible, as The Capital in the North reported in January.

Central Europe (1): After the “Czech Reversal”

The China Digital Times has an article by a Czech academic, describing Chinese influence in Eastern Europe (although the Czech Republic is hardly “eastern” European), and more particularly about a “China Energy Fund Committee” (CEFC). Czech president Miloš Zeman, who is quoted there with some of his characteristically tasteless remarks (about Chinese eyes, before he changed his mind), has explicit opinions about journalism, too.

Central Europe (2): German Mittelstand’s Main Thing

If the German Mittelstand can’t be found in China, it’s probably because they are investing and selling in the Visegrád countries, and beyond. the Handelsblatt‘s English-language edition has a critical assessment of Mittelstand companies role in Central Europe, quoting an apolitical German trade functionary to prove its point:

Ultimately, politics is not that important for businesspeople. Order books are full: That’s the main thing.

Obviously, German politicians (and journalists, for that matter) aren’t nearly as sanguine, and following US President Trump’s attendence at a Three Seas Initiative summit in July 2017, the Economist even recorded Teutonic tremors:

Germany is already concerned about China’s “16+1” initiative with central and eastern European states, a series of investment projects that the Chinese expect will build influence in the region. The Germans are also putting pressure on the Polish government over its illiberal attacks on independent newspapers, judges and NGOs. And they are fending off Polish criticisms that their proposed “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline from Russia to Germany will make Europe more dependent on Russia.

But the Mittelstand shows no such unease. In fact, smaller and medium-sized companies often feel easier about countries that are closer to Germany, both regionally and culturally – it takes less time to travel, less time spent abroad, less worries about intercultural competence (or its absence), and less worries about market barriers or technology theft.

Hualien, Taiwan

Most people will have heard and read about the earthquake that caused deaths and injuries, especially in Hualien, on Tuesday.

But the place should be known for its beauty, too. There’s a travel blog about the Taroko Gorge, apparently written by a Singaporean, with some practical advice which  should be quite up to date (based on a visit in November 2016). That, plus some history.

The Spy Radio that anyone can hear

No, that’s not the BBC. They’ve only produced a video about numbers stations.

But what’s the fun in them if anyone can listen? I want some numbers of my own.

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Related

Budapest Guidelines, in Chinese and in English, Nov 2017

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Germany: Is “The Ivan” Back?

The Russians are coming was a standard line when I was a child. Sometimes, everyone into the blockhouses would be added. it was meant to be fun, but there was an underlying fear in it.

Another term for Russians in general would be The Ivan*) (probably an echo from “Ivan the Terrible”). At least in West Germany, fear of Russia was part of collective post-war identity – much more so than in Britain or France.

There may be many possible explanations for this, and I tend to believe that it was a combination of several factors (Germany being subject to allied, including Soviet, control being one that lasted particularly long) was one of them. West Germany’s existence and raison d’être as a frontline state was another. And then, there was a widespread inclination among many Germans to see their country as a victim in the first place, rather than as an initiator of Nazism and boundless war.

By 1983, it had become evident, at least in certain quarters, that the USSR had lost most of its expansionary power. In terms of soft power, Moscows message had become about as attractive as athlete’s foot, and in military terms, the “Evil Empire” was grossly overestimated.

But there was a narrative, and as usual (when the narrative is well crafted), it prevailed over facts. On March 31, 1983, US president Ronald Reagan told a Los Angeles World Affairs Council Luncheon that

In the last 15 years or more, the Soviet Union has engaged in a relentless military buildup, overtaking and surpassing the United States in major categories of military power, acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military capability. All the moral values which this country cherishes-freedom, democracy, the right of peoples and nations to determine their own destiny, to speak and write, to live and worship as they choose—all these basic rights are fundamentally challenged by a powerful adversary which does not wish these values to survive.

Der Spiegel, back then a center-left and liberal German newsmagazine, took issue with Reagan. While the USSR was certainly no paper tiger, and while it was true that Soviet military had seen a huge push during two decades under Leonid Brezhnev (with American military budgets being  reduced by some 2.5 percent per year during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies), the USSR’s military power wasn’t as strong as first reported.

Shortly before a paper was published by US secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger (also in March 1983, and supportive of Reagan’s March-31 remarks), the CIA had retracted all its US statements concerning Moscow’s military budget:

military expenditures had been overestimated by fifty percent. Rather than by three, four, or more percent, there had been growth by a maximum of two percent since 1976.

Such subtleties, however, didn’t put Ronald Reagan off-message. His story remained the same; the Soviet Union was about to put an end to [a]ll the moral values which this country cherishes.

Fourty-year-old statistics like those debted in the early 1980s are hard to verify (or falsify). But in at least one respect, the Spiegel authors, in 1983, were wrong: contrary to what they believed (quoting “experts”), America proved able to finish the USSR off in a gargantuan arms race, and the factors that lead to the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991 were pretty much the weaknesses that the Spiegel authors themselves had pointed out less than a decade earlier.

The rest, as they say, is history. The world, from Alaska to Siberia (the long way round, of course), and from Pole to Pole, happily awaited huge peace dividends. After all, we had reached the end of history.

But Russia felt squeezed by NATO – understandably, the Baltic nations and Poland had felt rather urgently that they needed a strong reassurance against potential future Russian expansionism. (Not everyone appeared to trust the story about the end of history, and besides, a democratic society doesn’t necessarily live in a peaceful, unaggressive state.

Germans have viewed Russia – and the Soviet Union – differently since the mid-1980s. By 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had overtaken Ronald Reagan, in terms of popularity here. That didn’t change after the USSR’s demise: while Gorbachev was seen as a failure, or even a “sellout” of sourts, among many Russians, Germans considered him “the” man who had made German unification possible. And Boris Yeltsin‘s Russia, even if not looking terribly respectable at the time, certainly didn’t look like something to fear either.

In an article in Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, a Moscow correspondent stated in May 1994 that once again, a majority of Russians considered the end of the USSR a greater calamity than its beginnings, and that Russian reformers had not been successful in “learning from the West”, as stipulated by Yeltsin two and a half years earlier.

Yeltsin had to accept that the safeguarding of authority, which had for centuries been based on expansion rather than on enlightenment, could not be redesigned with a new constitution alone.

Jelzin hat einsehen müssen, daß Herrschaftssicherung, die seit Jahrhunderten durch Ausdehnung statt durch Aufklärung erfolgte, mit einer neuen Verfassung alleine nicht umgestaltet werden kann.

Only pacts and compromises with conservative forces could save the “autumn” of Yeltsin’s presidency, the correspondent wrote.

In economic terms, a Stratfor paper dating from November 1999 suggested that veterans of perestroika, such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, could strip the oligarchs of their wealth and influence, and enact more centrist policies.

To quite an extent, this seems to be what Vladimir Putin‘s presidency has done. In its early years, it continued the ideological consolidation started by Yeltsin himself, and his administration began to implement a policy that the “Zeit” Moscow correspondent described as west-oriented as a matter of principle, but moving away from America in particular. […] In America, however, the “Zeit” article quoted Yeltsin, forces were concentrating that would like to keep Russia in a state of controllable paralysis. That said, Putin  – in the eyes of investors – may have arrived at a point similar to Yeltsin’s, by now. Too little appears to move, economically.

When reading the press these days – certainly the German press -, you might be forgiven if you think that Russian policies had fundamentally changed since the 1990s. But they haven’t. There has been a remarkable Russian continuity – and a tendency in the West to disregard realities in Russia, and in its remaining sphere of influence.

When late German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told Moscow in December 2013 that it was “not appropriate” for the EU “to ask third parties for permission before inviting the Ukraine to develop into Europe’s direction”, this represented widespread western- and central European illusions.

Russia, too, is a European country – most Russians live on the European continent, and Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Volgograd not least, are European cities. The discriminatory – and self-centred – approach of equating Europe with the EU has done much to its recent crises, be it on its eastern, be it on its northwestern boundaries.

There is an important difference to make: it would have been unethical if NATO had refused Polish or a Baltic country’s accessions, and it would have been particularly unethical if Germany a main author of Polish partition and loss of the Baltic states’ sovereignty,- had demanded such a refusal.

But in Ukraine, there had been no consensus to join an alliance with the West. In a row, administrations closer to Moscow or closer to the West had been elected, but there had been no continuity. There was Russian intervention, but there had been unwarranted Western interference prior to that. I have no doubt that any Russian leader, be it Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev, would have reacted just the way Putin did. That was no matter of conviction; it was a matter of geopolitics.

Now, Germany’s federal government intends to counter Russian espionage, propaganda, and disinformation in Germany, writes German daily Die Welt. What they mean is, that Russian and pro-Putin publications have blown several issues in the news – issues that have recently troubled many Germans – out of proportions, or given them a slant that favored narratives from the fringes, rather than the much-conjured “center” of German society.

If the German public can be persuaded by domestic propaganda to swing back from a rather “russophile” (since the 1980s) to a rather anti-Russian attitude again (as from the 1940s to the 1970s) remains to be seen. But if the political class have their way, it is going to work that way.

That said, there are surprises, once in a while. In May 2015, Joachim Gauck, not particularly famous for being a friend of the Russian people, gave a speech in the Westphalian town of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war campsite during World War 1 and, more notoriously, World War 2. What Gauck said, was this:

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

Saying that was laudable, especially as most Germans I know aren’t even aware of this chapter in their history. But there is a catch: to say something only once hardly changes anything. Only regular repetition – as anyone with just a faint idea of how propaganda works can tell you – will make sink inconvenient truths like these sink in. Most Germans I know aren’t actually aware of the scale of German warcrimes against Soviet war prisoners. And to make the warprisoner story sink in isn’t deemed desirable: neither by most of Germany’s media, nor by the German population in general, many of whom would like to see a Schlußstrich, a “final stroke” underneath the complete chapter of Nazism.

Some time in the early 1980s – prior to Gorbachev’s tenure as Soviet party secretary -, the West German foreign office published a booklet for use in school classes. Our school was a rather conservative environment, but the booklet made it into our classroom anyway. Titled “Aufrüsten-Abrüsten” (Armament-Disarmament), it was a try to educate us in foreign politics, and I don’t remember much of it. But there was a remarkable line in it which basically said that, no matter to which conclusions we, as school students, might come concerning the Soviet Union’s role in Europe, we should develop some sympathy – even if not necessarily acquiescence – in the light of the past.

I guess that this booklet had much to do with the man at the helm of the foreign office at the time – Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, who died on Thursday. As phobic as West German feelings against the “East” might have been back then, there seemed to be an understanding, at least in some substantial quarters of the political class, that you can’t have peace without trying to understand those who may (or may not) become your foes, and that your own decisions may matter in the process.

This understanding may no longer be here, and I’m wondering how much misery it may take before we will regain some common sense.

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Notes

*) Max Frisch, in his novel “Homo Faber”, raised a modest monument for German anti-Russian sentiment, in the shape of an, as it turns out later, otherwise/actually/mostly quite likeable German philistine:

No German desired re-armament, but the Russian forced America into it, tragically, which I, as a Swissman […], couldn’t judge, because I hadn’t been to the Caucasus, he [the German] had been in the Caucasus, he knew the Ivan, who could only be taught a lesson with weapons. He knew the Ivan! He said that several times. Only possible lesson through weapons!, he said, because nothing else would impress him, the Ivan —

I peeled my apple.

Distinction between Herrenmenschen and Untermenschen, as advocated by the good Hitler, was, of course, nonsense; but Asians remained Asians —

I ate my apple.

Kein  Deutscher  wünsche  Wiederbewaffnung,  aber  der  Russe zwinge  Amerika  dazu,  Tragik,  ich  als  Schweizer   (Schwyzzer, wie  er mit Vorliebe sagte)  könne  alldies  nicht   beurteilen,  weil  nie im Kaukasus gewesen,  er sei  im  Kaukasus gewesen,  er  kenne den Iwan, der nur durch Waffen zu belehren sei. Er kenne den Iwan!
Das  sagte  er mehrmals. Nur durch Waffen zu  belehren!  sagte  er, denn alles andere  mache  ihm keinen Eindruck,  dem  Iwan   –

Ich  schälte meinen Apfel.

Unterscheidung   nach  Herrenmenschen   und   Untermenschen, wie’s  der  gute  Hitler  meinte, sei  natürlich  Unsinn;  aber  Asiaten bleiben Asiaten –
Ich  aß meinen Apfel.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

“Optimizing Something”: Russia centralizes Propaganda, scraps Shortwave Broadcaster and other traditional Institutions

As the end of March drew nearer, central Europeans could still hear the station from afar, a muted signal behind some gentle, steady noise. The “Voice of Russia” targeted Australia and New Zealand with an English-language program of four hours daily, from the transmission site of Angarsk, near Irkutsk. Those appear to have been the last programs in English. Chances are that some programs in Japanese were also still aired at the time. A shortwave listener in Taipei kept listening to VoR’s Chinese programs on shortwave, right to the end on March 31 (his post contains some recordings).

Listeners who wrote inquiries to VoR got a reaction. But overall, very little, if anything, was mentioned in the programs on shortwave, about the nearing end of the service. For sure, no words of respect were lost about the medium’s use during some eighty-five years of Russian external broadcasting. Maybe they hadn’t been of much use after all, as the message never seemed to sink in in the target areas? In that case, you could hardly blame shortwave.

On April 1, all of VoR’s shortwave transmissions had become history.

APN-Verlag, via Radio Moscow

The old-fashioned way: propaganda booklet by mail, Ria Novosti via Radio Moscow, March 31, 1987.

The “Voice of Russia” (VoR), formerly known as Radio Moscow or Radio Moscow World Service, only exists as a brand now, within the media empire of Russia Today, which also swallowed Ria Novosti. “We will use the old brand for the time being, but leading international specialists are already working on the new brands and they will be ready soon, the “Voice of Russia” and/or Interfax quoted Russia Today’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan. A renewed English newswire would be launched on April 1, and it would be available round-the-clock on June 1.

No additional funding would be needed, the editor-in-chief was quoted as saying: “We are not asking additional money for all that, which means we will have to optimize something to get resources for the creation of something more modern. We will stop using obsolete radio broadcasting models, when the signal is transmitted without any control and when it is impossible to calculate who listens to it and where.”

Indeed, this had been the message of Vladimir Putin‘s presidential decree in December, on certain measures to raise the operational effectiveness of state-owned mass media.

Radio Moscow QSL, apparently featuring the Lenin Mausoleum, 1980s.

Radio Moscow QSL, Lenin Mausoleum, 1980s.

On the same day, December 9, Ria Novosti offered a comparatively candid interpretation of the decree: The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape that appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector,

Ria Novosti wrote, and added that

In a separate decree published Monday, the Kremlin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent Russian television presenter and media manager recently embroiled in a scandal over anti-gay remarks, to head Rossiya Segodnya.

Russia Today is the English translation for the actual Russian name, Rossiya Segodnya. Rossiya Segodnya, however, is apparently not related to the English-language television channel whose name had also been “Russia Today”, Ria Novosti wrote.

Ria Novosti then added some more information, beyond its own dissolution:

RIA Novosti was set up in 1941, two days after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, as the Soviet Information Bureau, and now has reporters in over 45 countries providing news in 14 languages.

Last month Gazprom-Media, which is closely linked to state-run gas giant Gazprom, bought control of Russian media company Profmedia from Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin. In October, Mikhail Lesin, a former Kremlin advisor, was appointed to head Gazprom-Media.

Reuters also reported the Gazprom-Media story, in November last year.

Radio Moscow, the “Voice of Russia’s” predecessor as the Russian (or Soviet) foreign broadcasting service, was a superpower on the air, during the 1980s. 2094 program hours per week are said to have been produced in that decade,  compared with 1901 hours per week by their American competitors at the Voice of America (VoA).

The discrepancy was even greater when it came to transmitters and kilowatts,according to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel at the time: while Radio Moscow had threehundred transmission sites at their disposal, it was only 110 on the American side – and VoA only had one-twentieth the budget of Radio Moscow.

That was to change, at least in relative terms: the Reagan administration had convinced Congress to provide considerable funding. But as the Cold War came to an end, government interest on all sides in foreign broadcasting faded.

As far as Russia’s external broadcasters, now named “The Voice of Russia”, was concerned, not only the financial or technical equipment weakened, but so, apparently, did their self-image. Religious and esoteric organizations populated many last quarters of the Voice’s – still numerous – broadcasting hours in German, and at least among German-language broadcasters, there seemed to be different concepts of what would be successful or professional coverage of Russian affairs, a feature by German broadcaster DLF suggested.

The broadcasting house certainly no longer came across as the elites’ jumping board, as a place where Egon Erwin Kisch or Bertolt Brecht once worked.

The Kremlin, apparently, saw neither glory and soft power, nor a sufficient degree of checkability in VoR and put an end to the station. It’s hardly conceivable that it could still be revived as a mere “brand”, without actual radio whose signals would reach beyond a few square miles.

But “daily Russian life” – something Russia Today is supposed to cover – may still look different from the ideas of the “new generation” of media planners. On ham radio bands with wide reaches, Russian operators are active above average. And even if Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia’s new propaganda mega-medium, may be unaware of ham radio or finds it uncool, her boss, Dmitry Kiselyov, should still like it: a ham radio contest commemorating Yuri Gagarin’s 80th birthday.

After all, the internet is a rather non-traditional form of propaganda.

Will Putin’s message sink in, where Stalin’s, Khrushchev’s, or Brezhnev’s mostly failed? If not, don’t blame shortwave – and don’t blame the internet, for that matter.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Gatekeepers of Information: When Democracy begins to Rot

Aaron Swartz, the American coder, hacker, and internet activist who took his own life last week after two years of – possibly political – prosecution – would have needed critical solidarity. There is no need to believe in people like him, but there is a need to see their rights, and to see the infringements on their rights. There are many of Mr. Swartz’ kind, and most of them go unnoticed. When I wrote about Deutsche Welle‘s Chinese service, and published this interview, I kept in mind that while the judicial system doesn’t always amount to justice, the main problem – probably – is general apathy.

I see a parallel between Mr. Swartz’ case, and China – and I think I can afford to point this out without being considered a CCP apologist. Obvious abuse of state power (if in a legal sense, remains to be seen, but clearly abuse in an ethical sense) leads to flaring tempers both in America and in China. It is a universal experience – most people can relate to it in one way or another. But those moments are rare.

One news agency in Germany – an agency with an official church background – published a long report, with a lot of verification in favor of the four Deutsche-Welle journalists that had been sacked. Apparently, not one single paper or broadcaster in Germany cared to air it. One regional radio station had it on their website for a limited period – they announced in advance that it was only temporarily online. I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I’m imagining how news-and-analysis people put their eggheads together and write smart articles when things like these go on in China. In a democratic country? No, never! News that is in the public interest will always see the light of day! Truth does not burn in the fire or drown in the water!

Noone seemed to demand coverage about the four sacked journalists, either. The report was apparently available to all the German press, in a common database. So there is no reason to believe that the press people were unaware of the story. Unfortunately, the newsagency didn’t put the story online. Maybe that would have helped. Maybe.

Their problem there at the press, as I interpret it: their industrial-relations and journalist issues ware a sensitive issue all over the commercial (and publicly-owned) media. Hence no interest in covering it.

As long as the big papers don’t cover a story, it won’t have happened. The traditional media are still the gate-keepers for politically relevant information. That’s where questions about the “4th estate” need to be asked. They may address many issues and flaws, but to address ones own doesn’t come easily.

There are a few “beacons” in public awareness, like Julian Assange or Bradley Manning. Their merits – and mistakes, in my view -, would need to be debated extensively, rather than simply be praised or condemned. People like them seem to serve as some post-modern kinds of Jesuses-on-the-cross. People pay their respects to them as they do to Brian, as he hangs on the cross in that great Monty-Python movie, and then go back to their routines.

That kills every issue. When “Jesus” is in charge, you don’t need to do anything. When Assange and Manning are saints, you can’t live up to their example anyway. Only a society that is prepared to look into the shades of grey, to judge, and to decide what to do, can become a more fair society.

It is right to mourn Mr. Swartz. But the main question is: how to handle the issue? It’s a question to society. To get either careerist or politicized prosecutors fired – guys who were apparently not obliged to prosecute, but did it anyway -, would be a beginning. It wouldn’t only be an achievement for those who make it into the headlines, but also for the many who go unnoticed, in their neighborhoods, and nationwide. Power needs to learn to respect the “common people”.

That’s why I maintain that the main difference between China and most Western country isn’t about human rights. It is about totalitarianism. Our press isn’t controlled centrally, but business (and, at times, political) principles control it anyway. We can speak out, provided that what we say is backed by evidence, but too many people who matter won’t speak out. That’s when things start going into the wrong direction, even in democratic countries. Democracy is nothing static. It can rot, if it isn’t defended against adversaries from within (who frequently like to present themselves as democracy’s greatest champions).

Here is another problem: networking. It’s another field where Western countries are becoming more similar to China. The law is becoming unpredictable here, given the technicalities. You can twist every paragraph – or any well-paid lawyer can – until it fits the interests of the powerful. Much will depend on your connections. Not only in China.

Still too vague? OK – let’s talk Turkey: when torture becomes something a public intellectual can advocate in a European paper without becoming a pariah in his own established network, things are going wrong.

If our fundamental rights matter as much to us as our economic prospects do, it’s time to go from mourning to action, however small. Just as meditation is a skill one needs to learn, awareness for the small, but important things one can do in the real world, can be learned, too.

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Related

» Shredding a Principle, Aug 16, 2012
» When your Employer suspects…, Feb 18, 2012

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