Monday 11 Oct 2021 | 21:04 | SYDNEY
Monday 11 Oct 2021 | 21:04 | SYDNEY

Playing with propaganda


Fergus Hanson


11 August 2009 15:57

For fans of authoritarian propaganda there have been some good examples over the last few days. The Iranian Government has traditionally been my favourite regime for general absurdness, but China has recently shown some impressive form.

News that 'political counsellor at the (Chinese) embassy Liu Jing met press club officials last week and requested the club withdraw the invitation to (exiled Uighur leader Rebiya) Kadeer' was a beautiful example of the blindness authoritarian governments are prone to display.

Earlier attempts to prevent Ms Kadeer being issued with a visa and to block the screening of her formerly obscure film at the Melbourne International Film Festival could perhaps be seen as China playing to a domestic audience: even though it would dent its image in Australia and boost Kadeer's following and status abroad, at least it would score points domestically.

But intervening via a private meeting with Press Club officials? Does China really not realise this would make the Press Club more, not less, likely to go ahead with the talk? Does it really not realise the meeting would be leaked and this would only further damage China's image and raise Kadeer's profile?

Greg Sheridan put it well: 'Part of the irony of the situation today is that China's extreme clumsiness in dealing with democratic societies is making Rebiya Kadeer an international super star.'

In other propaganda news, North Korea appears to have tried a similar stunt: winning points at home at the cost of making its rule look even more ghoulish to the rest of the world. After a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson verballed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying 'sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping', Kim Jong-Il managed less than two weeks later to force her husband and former President Bill Clinton to fly over and beg for the release of two US journalists.

Sure, the US got a good news story from the episode, but it must have also played well for the Dear Leader at home.  

Photo by Flickr user ian beaty, used under a Creative Commons license.