Don’t be like… China.
A couple of months ago I wrote a little blog about the trip I took to China twenty years ago. Actually it turns out it was only twelve years ago. I’m not too good with Time, but I am good with remembering my gut feelings. I figured out the year I went when someone told me that the Swine Flu pandemic was in 2009. And since I had caught that flu in China, I looked up the videos I took of that trip on my computer, and sure enough, I was there 2009, because my MacBook told me so.
I do remember the date I left for China, only because it was the 4th of July. I got a ride to the airport right after the pancake breakfast, and the red, white and blue Americana hometown-hokey parade. As soon as I was on the plane I missed America. I never felt much patriotism for my country until I spent a couple of weeks in China.
China gave me the creeps. I’ve had the creeps since I was a kid, so it wasn’t all China’s fault; part of it was past conditioning that China triggered. What activates my inner fear? When something is fake, someone is lying, something is inauthentic, and I’m not able to speak my Truth about what I know I see for fear of repercussion. My family system was organized around a big lie, and I prophetically dreamed I found my tongue on the tile floor in the hallway when I was four. Orwell’s 1984 affected me so deeply in 8th grade that I threw the book across my room late at night and huddled under the covers shivering in fear.
And now, during these Covid Times, I wake up with that creepy feeling every day. Maybe those childhood emotions were some kind of premonition that I would be living, right here, right now, in a time where the public narrative is controlled, manipulated, and censored. Not just by the government, but by the news, social media, and worst of all, by each other.
I remember a rare night I was alone while visiting China, with no one around, no one watching my every move. I was in my private cabin on a cruise ship that was floating me down the Yangtze River. It was a relief to be alone for a night, with no roommate, so that I could separate my thoughts from the barrage of information that was being thrown at us teachers who were on the tour. The Three Gorges had given us some spectacular scenery that day, but the brown polluted water and the yellow sky nauseated me. When the tour guides proudly showed us the massive hydroelectric dam the country had built for billions of dollars, and cheerfully explained to us how the government had relocated over a million people in order to flood the river to harness its power, I was further sickened. They explained that the government had built new apartments on higher ground for these displaced farmers, families who had lived for generations on the banks of the river, and the guides pointed out a few of the new structures out to us. I was sure, as I gazed up at the tall, gray, non-descript apartment buildings, void of any character, that these buildings had killed what was left of the river-farming souls of these people. Beyond the polluted sky and water, I was further sickened by the country’s cavalier attitude toward human rights.
My cabin on this luxury cruise ship had a TV, and when I clicked on the remote I found CNN, the only channel that was in English. I felt like family had entered the room. CNN, my trusted friend, the voice of reason, the voice of Truth in this lying god-forsaken country; I was so relieved. God bless the USA where we can breathe and know the real news I thought.
I was finally able to hear about the riots that were going on in the Hubei province of China. The riots had broken out the day that I landed, July 5, 2009, and the only reason I knew about any dissentience going down at all, was because my friends and family had been emailing me, asking if I was all right, if I was anywhere near the violence. I already knew that the Chinese practically invented censorship; I taught that in my 6th grade social studies classes, telling my students that Emperor Qin introduced the concept way back when, with the burning of books and the killing of scholars, the same guy who built all the terra cotta warriors I had gone to China to see.
CNN didn’t censor the riots, in fact they highlighted them in their broadcast, and I was able to see first hand footage of the Uyghur’s protests. Just like in our country’s recent riots, people disagreed as to what turned the protests violent. The Chinese government said the riots were planned, and the Uyghur exile groups said it was because of excessive police force. Laying in my comfy bed, I was grateful to finally be able hear about an event that was going on so close to me, an unbiased account giving multiple points of view, as was what I expected by a news source that I had trusted for years.
Now CNN has turned into some kind of a Propaganda Theater, much like the rhetoric I heard nonstop during my visit to China. I remember the moment I realized CNN had changed, and that day was last year, when Bernie was clearly dominating that first Super Tuesday in practically every state in the running. Even though he was winning, and winning big, Anderson and Don kept dismissing it, saying it was early, it was early, and everyone knew he wasn’t going to ultimately win. Don Lemon said his mama was a black southern Democrat, and she was voting for Biden. I was like, huh? Bernie is crushing it, what are you talking about? Then there was Chris Cuomo dramatically coming upstairs, Live! to reunite with his family after his bout with Covid. I can only stomach watching it for a few minutes now, watching Chris and Don claim their love for each other, and then go on to dramatically denigrate Republicans, or put the fear porn in overdrive regarding the pandemic.
What happened to that news outlet? It’s more like what happened to all news outlets? I’m not going to try to explain the dizzying array of corporate takeovers, anti-trust lawsuits, financial ties and interests, mega-monopolies like Warner Media, China Media Capital, and ATT, merging, divesting, and merging again and all the billion dollar shenanigans mixed with political interests that have gone down in the past few years. Try reading about who owns what in the media and why. I went down an Internet rabbit hole trying to figure it out, and it is so complicated, I don’t want to waste my time trying to understand it anymore. What I have started researching are independent, unbiased news sources that I can trust and follow, and make up my own mind about things.
I didn’t know about all these takeovers and big money behind the scenes, or I didn’t pay attention. All I know is that I felt it on a gut level. Something had changed. Then I saw it in my beloved Chronicle, and heard it on NPR, the background radio of my life for decades. The tone of voice in both of these news sources was fear mongering and sad, even the little bits of music between stories on NPR now has a melancholy sound. I realized that we, the American people, are being manipulated and censored by the media, because of interests that are gigantic, and have absolutely nothing to do with us, down here in Anytown, USA, flipping the remote, or surfing the web.
Back to my China trip, the surrealistic creepy feeling was intensified when we were being given the tour of Tiananmen Square. Like I said last time, no mention was made of the 1989 movement when some brave students protested for democracy and the Chinese government murdered thousands of them. Our cute, young, diminutive tour guide, with her colorful parasol held high so that we could find her among the crowds, made no mention about this incident. As we waited in line to see Mao’s tomb, and the guide spouted off a litany of facts about the square, Mao, Lenin and Marx and the building, I asked her where she gets all her information. She laughingly told me that she looked a lot of it up on Google. I told her that Google tells us about the Tiananmen Square massacre when we look it up, and she told me what she saw made no mention of such a thing.
I remember thinking at the time: Ew! Google censored information for the Chinese government? How could they? I loved Google back then, even the colorful little logo made me happy, like the Disneyland font, and I was proud that my very own Bay Area had started such a cool hip search engine. For someone like me who loves to research, Google was a dream, after years of playing around with microfiche in college libraries trying to find reliable sources for my school papers and theses.
Update, a dozen years later, on those Uyghur people who were rioting back in
2009. Up to a million of them are now living in over 400 giant “re-education”, (more like prison camps), in Xinjiang where these Muslims are having their “thoughts transformed” by the Chinese government. There are close to 400 of these compounds, with over a million people inside.
While listening to the mainstream media news lately, I heard someone mention the word “reprogramming”. The first time, I was cooking dinner, and it was background noise, but my antennae stood at alert. Did I hear that right? Since then I’ve heard this term used at least four other times, and it is in reference to Trump supporters, which is half the country. No, I am not a Trump supporter, but I’m sure they’d find their reasons to reprogram me too. Then I read my beloved Barbara Boxer had registered as a foreign agent for a Chinese surveillance firm called Hikvision, a company that helps with those reprogramming prisons those Uyghurs are interred in. Her job was to provide “strategic consulting services” to the company’s subsidiary here in the US. She later withdrew, but only because people found out. We should all pay attention and ask what is going on.
Let’s be like… what the United States originally stood for. Let’s not be like China.