Emulating China

We all know how China keeps the media away from regions beset by controversy, be it bird flu outbreaks or peasant riots. They don’t want people to ever have the perception things might not be “stable” and “harmonious.” That’s a standard practice for a paranoid, frightened, prickly and insecure dictatorship.

To my true horror, it now appears our own president might be following the sordid CCP example, restricting reporters and photographers covering the New Orleans catastrophe. Who ever thought we would see this day? Maybe Philip Cunningham is onto something??

The Discussion: 28 Comments

Okay, let me start this comment by saying that I didn’t put up the post, so all you wingnuts who’ve been slagging me the last two weeks? Ummm…bite me, okay?

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way.

First, for all the laziness and collusion and negligence of the American press in recent years – well, I’m not gonna take all that criticism back, but god bless the press. They’ve recaptured their critical faculties and their outrage, and if it weren’t for their coverage, who knows what we would actually be learning about the disaster in the Gulf?

The one here in the States, I mean.

What Josh Marshall (the post Richard linked to) reports here doesn’t surprise me in the least, unfortunately. And here are a few more examples.

One of the reasons that the Federal Government was so slow to authorize additional National Guard troops was because they wanted to Federalize the entire disaster control/relief effort, and the Governor refused to cede her authority. The locals had some very real fears that if this had happened, the White House would use the opportunity to cover up and blame the local governments for everything that went wrong. This was reported in that wild, lefty journal the Washington Post.

I’m not saying that local governments are blameless here. A disaster plan in a city of poor people that did not adequately plan for getting said poor people to safely is obviously flawed. This still doesn’t in any way explain or excuse the delays, incompetence, disorganization and downright criminal negligance of the Federal response.

And right now, the White House is trying to spread outright lies about who did what when. They are saying that the Governor of Louisiana didn’t declare a State of Emergency as of Saturday August 27. This is simply not true.

Here is a good timeline about who did what when.

So am I surprised that they would try to hide the truth of what happened in the Gulf? Not one little bit. If the American people were to realize the depths of venal incompetence of their leadership, their moral and ideological bankruptcy, and what the logical consequences of their “leadership” are, thousands of wasted lives, old people, sick people, poor people,dying while Bush played golf and air guitar, why, who knows what might happen? They might start wondering if the leadership that claims to represent their moral values actually gives a shit whether they live or die, and if they live, what the quality of their lives might be.

I’m not generally a conspiracist (and I’m waiting for the howls of outrage from our wingnut contingent for that statement). But I’ve been compulsively watching this disaster unfold. And I can tell you – there are thousands of bodies in the rubble, ruins and sewage of the Gulf Coast. 10,000 is pretty plausible. And if we start getting reports that, oh, not so many folks actually died, it wasn’t so bad, FEMA didn’t turn away help, your government didn’t fail you, really, we didn’t…

Well, I’m getting out the tinfoil hat.

Actually, let me rephrase that. Those of you who still don’t want to believe it? I’m donating my tinfoil hat to you. You’re going to need it.

September 7, 2005 @ 11:43 pm | Comment

I’d say that in the US it’s a form of voluntary self-censorship through a combination of laziness and collusion. Here in China it’s censorship through fear and the power of the gov’t to crack down on dissent. It hasn’t come to that in the US I should think.

September 8, 2005 @ 2:06 am | Comment

Think about it. You can’t have a free press when the George Bush government prevents the press from getting the facts on a situation of national importance. It is called prior restrain in legal terms and generally unconstitutional. People can’t exercise their constitutional rights to travel and petition the government when the George Bush government prevents people from going where they choose, limited by safety and health concerns and form collecting information with which to baed petitions to the government for redress.

Let’s impeach the no nothing Bush and then try him for high crimes and misdemeanors and toss him out, now. And as he is leaving the WH tag him with a permanent sign reading:
I am living proof of all of the
warnings the Founding Fathers
and other Americans have given
about allowing unbrideled power
to rest in the hands of a few or in
the hands of a fool (that’s me.)

September 8, 2005 @ 2:08 am | Comment

I agree with you Pete, but maintain there’s nothing that stops the press from reporting his blatant ignorance and incompetence. Look at the NY Times for evidence. It’s just that they can’t be bothered. I blame downsizing. Go into google news search- all the headlines pretty much read the same and nearly all lack any analysis. I doubt it’s a matter of the Bush regime putting the screws on; the media if it really cared (and mind that it’s owned by tycoons in thrall of Bush) would figure a way to get the message out.

September 8, 2005 @ 5:23 am | Comment

Do you read american press? Bush has been “destroyed” by most american information beyond any limit. Everything happened was Bush’s blame in the view of most american newspapers. Hurricane was Bush blame for Kyoto, local mismanagement was Bush blame, black people dead was Bush blame etc…
What are you talking about, guys?

September 8, 2005 @ 7:30 am | Comment

I don’t know what you guys are talking about. From where I’m sitting in Florida (at the moment) there doesn’t seem to be any press “self censorship” or even restrictions for that matter.

From the posting in question, in regards to banning images of the dead, “a blanket ban serves only to prevent the public from knowing what really happened last week.”

I honestly don’t see anyone in the dark about what has happened or is happening….except those who refuse to stay informed. I am not of the mind that we need to see pictures of dead bodies for the impact to kick in. Personal accounts are far more poignant. And I fully agree that nobody should see their dead relative on the Nightly News before they know they are dead.

“And the right of FEMA or any branch of the federal government for that matter to issue such a ban [about the pictures of dead bodies] on American soil seems highly dubious to me.”

Well here we have a conflict between the right to a free press and the right to privacy. I believe the latter is more important. There is no way I would want to embarrass people by distributing images of their loved ones. If this irks you because it happens to serve the aims of an administration you hate as well, then I say sux to be you. It is an unfortunate link, but I prefer to respect the families who have been traumatized by this disaster. And, as I said, personal accounts can have just as much impact (and I don’t recall any of those being limited). So the “emulating China” comparison is not exactly a just one for that reason. Nobody is restricting the flow of information…just the flow of possibly disrespectful or too shocking images.

As for reporters being barred from taking pictures in other areas, I don’t doubt there have been a few cases where they have been denied. But judging on the images that are already coming out, I would not be crying to the winds about a crackdown on journalists as a whole. As I said….the coverage seems pretty good.

September 8, 2005 @ 8:07 am | Comment

Thank you Thomas for this comment. A bit of rationality in a sea of prejudice.

September 8, 2005 @ 8:25 am | Comment

I should clarify a bit;
My point (badly stated) was not that the press is being censored. You’re both right- no one sees the flag-decked coffins of soldiers KIA in Iraq, but everyone knows about the fact they’re not being shown. I did say the NY Times which I read and enjoy is scathing about Bush and certainly are not put under any wraps, but they show what I see is the polarisation of US media- you’re either fully with the admin. or fully against. There’s no mddle course, and that’s the media’s own fault, although again if the admin. is going to deny you access to the Prez. or accreditation in Iraq, that is gov’t attempts at manipulation information. BUT I DO TAKE EXCEPTION TO THAT BEING COMPARED WITH WHAT THE CHINESE GOV’T IS DOING which I took to be the point of this post.

September 8, 2005 @ 8:34 am | Comment

Thomas, it is pure BS for FEMA to suddenly declare they don’t want photos taken of the hurricane’s victims out of “respect for their families.” This is unheard of in America. We see photos of victims all the time, photos from battlefields, hospitals, liberated death camps, accident scenes, etc. This is identical to the banning of photos of flag-draped coffins of our soldiers killed in Iraq – it is pure spin, used to avoid embarrassing the president, and it is being roundly denounced by conservative and liberal bloggers and pundits alike.

They are not being barred from taking pictures. But FEMA is refusing to take them to areas where bodies might be seen. They will now get their own boats and stand up to the recommended censorship, as they should. This is a natrional crisis and we have the right to know what the scene looks like, with words, pictures and any other means available ro the media.

I honestly don’t see anyone in the dark about what has happened or is happening

This, too, is an inaccurate perception. Bush is intentionally trying to keep people in the dark. This is documented in its attempts to put ouit the spin that the Louisiana governor failed to declare a state of emergency, and that failure prevented Bush from taking action right away. This is a total lie and has been debunked. But if you haven’t noticed, there is a massive campaign underway, based on the new “blame game” meme, that puts all blame on local officials and none on Bush. The president even had the temerity to tell the public Michael Brown is doing “one heck of a job!” This technique of deception is keeping many people in the dark. The media need to ruthlessly expose it, as well as any screw-ups by the local officials. Compared to the way the media handled Iraq, they are doing a decent job now, but a poor job by previous standards.

September 8, 2005 @ 8:37 am | Comment

Keir, obviously this isn’t on the scale of China’s total censorship. But when the government refuses to take reporters to places where bad things happen because they don’t want the world to see pictures of misery (in this case much of it caused more by government ineptitude than the hurricane) I can’t help but think of China keeping reporters from visiting areas afflicted with bird flu. It is a very dangerous trend and one that needs to be denounced.

September 8, 2005 @ 8:45 am | Comment

It’s worse than I thought. From NBC anchor Brian Williams:

While we were attempting to take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter, the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won’t be any pictures of this particular group of guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.

At that same fire scene, a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media… obvious members of the media… armed only with notepads. Her actions (apparently because she thought reporters were encroaching on the scene) were over the top and she was told. There are automatic weapons and shotguns everywhere you look. It’s a stance that perhaps would have been appropriate during the open lawlessness that has long since ended on most of these streets. Someone else points out on television as I post this: the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.

September 8, 2005 @ 8:51 am | Comment

Conservative former Bush-defender Andrew Sullivan says:

The press should ignore those requests, get boats themselves and show the world what has actually happened. (Hey, much of the media was ahead of FEMA during the worst of it. Why not again now?) That goes for any intrepid bloggers with camera-phones or anyone else who can slip through the censorship net. If necessary, faces can be blurred to protect the dignity of the dead. But it matters that we see the full consequences of government delinquency. That’s what the press is for. Ignore FEMA. Photobloggers, here’s an opportunity for important and necessary work.

September 8, 2005 @ 8:58 am | Comment

This latest incident reminds me of the “embeded journalism” used by the Bush administration to control news reporting of the Iraqi war. I watched a very good documentary the other day on one of the TV channels here (I think it’s SBS. It compares media reports of the first Gulf War with the recent Iraqi war to highlight the amount of censorship and media manipulation that had been put in place by the George W Bush in an effort to justify his decision. My friends and I were shocked by the level of control that a self-proclaimed democratic regime can exercise on media censorship.

September 8, 2005 @ 9:21 am | Comment

And it goes beyond censorship to dirty tricks to actually manipulate the news. The worst sin was the Karl Rove-initiated campaign to clear Bush by claiming as fact that the LA governor failed to declare a state of emergency – something she did a full day before the storm hit, on August 27. This actually got picked up by Newsweek and the Washington Post without question, a smoking gun example of the ineptitude and cowardice of so many “MSM” reporters. Then there was the use of the firefighters to pose for a lengthy photo op with Commander Codpiece – an exercize that caused some of them to protest and even refuse to participate. It’s all trickery with Bush, all smoke and mirrors, zero substance, whether he’s carrying fake turkeys or speaking to handpicked audiences selected for their passivity and obeisance.

September 8, 2005 @ 9:28 am | Comment

Richard, I wonder in which parallel world you’re living. Really, to say that Bush is in control of informations flow is not only a lie, it’s ridiculous. We’re witnessing one of the worst press campaigns against a president in American history. But not in Peking Duck’s world. In Peking Duck’s world there’s government censorship. If you’re not Cunningham, you’re a worthy pupil.

September 8, 2005 @ 9:35 am | Comment

Bob, as a former journalist I know a lot about the media and how they work. Have you read All the President’s Spin? It documents point by point the media manipulation generated by Karen Hughes and Karl Rove. This is a matter of fact, not speculation. This is not a liberal viewpoint and it is not a Peking Duck inanity. It is a widespread opinion now being expressed by conservatives as well, even by David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan. Even deranged conservafascist Michelle Malkin is condemning what went on in New Orleans and demanding Michael Brown be fired at once. So please, don’t make like this is some crackpot extremist viewpoint. The press is simply telling what happened, though they are still timid and all too willing to repeat the calculated little lies, just as they did with the Swfit Boat slimeballs and the anti-Joseph Wilson campaign. Thank God they are getting a little better. How sad, that in the minds of the deluded any reporting of what actually happened is a sign of media bias and Bush hatred if it finds fault with what he’s done. That kind of denial was fashionable and even understandable post-911, but not anymore. That’s now out the window, and any claims that Bush does not attempt to control the media (with, until now, a shocking degree of success) now appears quaint, even antique.

September 8, 2005 @ 9:52 am | Comment

The world upside down.
Enjoy your comfortable planet.

September 8, 2005 @ 10:04 am | Comment

From the ultra-liberal Salt Lake City Tribune.

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters – his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week – a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.
Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.
Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.
On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Yeah, it’s just me, making all this stuff up from my parallel universe.

And from rightwing theocon Mark Shea:

Doubtless certain of my readers will again leap to the tired claim that I “hate Bush”. Sorry, but a quick read of my blog will not support that conversation-killing thesis. I don’t hate Bush. I simply wish to hold him responsible to do his job. Do I deny that there is an entitlement mentality? Of course not. But it is not an expression of entitlement mentality to expect the state to ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense. It is not an entitlement mentality to expect to be safe from rape in emergency facilitiies provided by the state. It’s not an entitlement mentality to think you shouldn’t have to watch your baby die of hydration because the Feds couldn’t figure out how to airlift water to helpless thirsty people for five frickin’ days and, in their world-historical and criminal incompetence, actually turned offers of water away.

The Rush Limbaughs of the world will have ample opportunity to blame poor people for foolishly expecting the state to do what the Founders thought it should do: ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense… Bush does have a spin machine. And it’s already swinging into high gear to sayi loudly, “Don’t look at Bush! Look! Incompetent state and local guys! Look! Stupid poor people! Look! Thugs!”

So long as Bush remains the King of Massive Government Spending Coupled with the Promise of “Homeland Security”, guys like Limbaugh are going to have a colossally difficult time shifting the blame for this debacle away from Bush. That’s not “Bush hatred”. That’s cold logic.

Did you read that, Bob. Did you really, really read it with a critical mind? No one’s saying the hurricane was Bush’s fault and that the locals didn’t fuck up as badly as the Feds. What they are saying is there is a huge leadership deficit, the hallmarks of which are deception and a refusal to accept any shred of responsibility.

September 8, 2005 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Thanks Bob, for your maturity and for actually addressing the issues raised. When in trouble, insult and exit fast. Now we all know how you operate.

September 8, 2005 @ 10:08 am | Comment

I should state the obvious.
But I have to acknowledge that “Bush is emulating China” is more interesting in the parallel world.
Enjoy your fun.

September 8, 2005 @ 10:30 am | Comment

Ah, Richard, it’s great to have you back!

September 8, 2005 @ 10:36 am | Comment

Bob, I document what I say with links and quotes from conservative and mainstream sources. Funny, you don’t document your claims at all, just insist that those who disagree with you are in a parallel universe. Could it be you prefer emotional knee-jerk insults to research and documentation? Enjoy your fun. Bye again. (And why do so many commenters say “Goodbye” and then return and comment again five minutes later?)

September 8, 2005 @ 10:38 am | Comment

Thanks Lisa, great to be back.

September 8, 2005 @ 10:50 am | Comment

“This is unheard of in America. We see photos of victims all the time, photos from battlefields, hospitals, liberated death camps, accident scenes, etc. This is identical to the banning of photos of flag-draped coffins of our soldiers killed in Iraq”

Sorry….no it aint (identical). Why? Because in 99.99% of the above-mentioned cases, the identity of the bodies is known at the time. We don’t have that knowledge in New Orleans. Why? Because nobody is on-scene (or anywhere near it) to identify the bodies. I honestly feel you are grasping at straws on this one.

September 8, 2005 @ 9:32 pm | Comment

Gee Thomas, I guess you missed the excerpt from Andrew Sullivan that I posted abov e saying they can simply blur the faces. It’s done all the time. Problem solved, right?

September 8, 2005 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

Wow – what an eye-opener this article is. Unbelievable.

September 8, 2005 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

“when the government refuses to take reporters to places where bad things happen because they don’t want the world to see pictures of misery …….I can’t help but think of China keeping reporters from visiting areas afflicted with bird flu.”
Richard: you don’t need residence permits or internal passports in the US, do you? I remember when I lived in Canada I didn’t even need a passport to enter the States. Really, you’re not suggesting that reporters need to be held by the hand and personally directed to the news because they’d get lost, do you? THIS IS MY POINT: Nothing and no one is stopping these reporters from going there and reporting if they wanted. They could take tonnes of photos of bloated rotting corpses currently floating down New Orleans’s streets and put them on the front page- why don’t they? It’s not because the gov’t will shut down their presses and imprison the editors. Maybe it’s because Americans are queasy about seeing death in their breakfast news, either of their own countrymen or of Johnny Foreigners they’re happening to be killing.

September 9, 2005 @ 2:10 am | Comment


ok, so your logic is this: America is better because at least in America we have reporters. And if there is media censorship, it’s self-censorship because at least it’s due to laziness of the American people to see the truth for themselves. So according to you, America is better than China where it’s the government that imposes the censorship.

I don’t know about your logic. WHICH is worse? A lazy citizenry who have lost the thirst for truth, or an authoritarian regime sitting amidst a populace thirsting for the truth.

September 9, 2005 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

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