Saturday, November 21, 2015

Stuff That Has Nothing to do With Wikipedia: "China Uncensored" and "Russia!" magazine

This is one I've wanted to do for a long time....

China Uncensored

This one has something to do with Wikipedia, but only tangentially. China Uncensored is a YouTube series run by a Sinophile named Chris Chappell who may-or-may-not be fluent in Mandarin aka "Standard Chinese" (Putonghua). His shtik is that he plays this Stephen Colbert-like anchorman who talks about mainland Chinese news stories, most of whom paint the Chinese Communist Party in a bad light. The only problem is that Chappell is aligned in a "open secret" way with New Tang Dynasty Television, which is the satellite network run by Falun Gong practitioners, but you would not know it from the "about us" page of the website.

                         Chris Chappell and the NDT.tv "bug" that came and went from his videos.

And what is "Falun Gong"? That's complicated; it's a form of "qigong" (pronounced "chee gung") exercises (think Tai Chi but with more meditating) founded by a man named Li Hongzhi in the 1990s during a post-Tienanmen Square Massacre "back to the roots" fad in the early 1990s. Another name for it is Falun Dafa. The CCP is not happy about the growth of folksy religions after the Cultural Revolution, so they have banned Falun Gong. My problem with all of this is that Chappell is not open about his links to NTD.tv on YouTube, nor whether or not he is a Falun Gong user or in it to talk about the "house Christians" (Chinese Protestants or Catholics who won't attend the State-approved churches, so they have illegal masses/services in their homes.) We don't know, and nobody in the media is willing to talk to Chappell, even though China Uncensored has been on YouTube for three years and counting. The other thing that bugs us is that Chris uses The Epoch Times as a heavy source, and that newspaper was founded by the same group of people who founded New Tang Dynasty Television: Chinese-Americans who may or may not be Falun Gong practitioners. Here is Chris Chappell spending most of a video talking to an Epoch Times reporter about how China is running a secret economic war against America. Did I mention they also run a dance troupe? The Yelp reviews are fascinating. Something should be said about the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, the "anonymously written" anti-Communist screed that appeared in 2004; it has become the bulwark and lodestone of the Falun Gong press movement, to copy the sort of anti-Communist ranting of the John Birch Society and Christian Anti-Communist Crusade. Chris Chappell uses comedy to get that message across, and it works, mostly.

The Wikipedia element only has to do with The Epoch Times and NTD.tv; they have SPAs dumping in pro-Falun Gong material and there is a lot of infighting. User OhConfucius had this to say about the situation last year: Falun Gong does not exist in a vacuum, as its leadership is at loggerheads with the PRC regime. Although Falun Gong claim the moral high ground, neither side has the gospel truth on its side although both claim it. FLG is certainly more of the victim in this game, but you can expect a violent reaction if you poke a wild animal enough times. Disliking both in equal measure, I edit without pro-Falun Gong nor pro-PRC government agenda....The Falun Gong have a formidable propaganda machine in New York under Gail Rachlin which grew out of the same Cultural Revolution mindset as the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China, otherwise known as the "Propaganda Department". In a small way, I'm happy to say Rachlin's operation now qualitatively surpasses the regime's – it's much more reactive, and imaginative on the attack, but it's still paranoid and highly sensitive to criticism, like its counterpart. Operating in exile [NTD.tv and The Epoch Times are based in New York City, as is China Uncensored] against a regime that is as brutal as it is opaque, there are no party lines to follow. Shen Yun becomes the vanguard, and propaganda gets dressed up deceptively as art. Li Hongzhi ordered followers to pick fights with the regime while he himself is safely in the US. His footsoldiers irritate the monster and add to their statistics. Ever imaginative, Falun Gong rides on the PRC's abysmal human rights record, their propaganda machine, in addition to hiding behind glossy silky dance performances, generates and spreads stories of Nazi-like atrocities that only a brutal totalitarian regime could conceivably commit. Like all smears, plausibility is key; never let the lack of evidence get into the way of a good story. One anonymous informant hiding behind dark glasses and waiting political asylum, without documentary or photographic proof.....Pointing to their motto but being cagey about the true and kooky nature of some of their teachings, Falun Gong hold themselves up as virtuous; anyone who dares to utter any criticism is labelled "evil". Their declared primary objective is the overthrow of the Communist Party of China – as can be seen from any issue of Epoch Times. Falun Gong hold themselves up as champions of human rights but actually only care about themselves; they are wary of other human rights defenders who are not Falun Gong. Anyone who dares to criticise them is thus a human rights abuser. Their proselytism is a defining trait, and they seek to discredit anyone who is not totally in support of them. Although the term "enemy" is usually reserved for the any observer who isn't completely on board is considered "the enemy" or a collaborator. They discredited cult-buster Rick Ross, vilified the sceptics He Zuoxiu and Sima Nan; poured scorn over the work of respectable academics like Margaret Singer, Heather Kavan by tarring with guilt by association to the regime. Initially welcoming him, they have scorned Harry Wu – probably the world's foremost authority on Chinese forced labour camps – since he declared that he found no evidence of the organ harvesting allegations. They spread rumours about Wu turning collaborator after his swift release from PRC arrest. Falun Gong editors quote extensively from texts written by "investigative journalist" Danny Schechter, whose discourse concerning Falun Gong is disconcertingly similar in tone and content to Falun Gong propaganda. Another favourite is Ethan Gutman, who writes for the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, and whose storyline repeating FLG allegations of live organ harvesting on FLG practitioners marries well with the journal's US-centric/anti-PRC agenda and rhetoric. Wikipedian Colipon discusses the issue of Falun Gong members editing Wikipedia here; the short version is that Wikipedia has seen waves of SPAs (single-purpose accounts) run by Falun Gong members trying to control Falun Gong articles since 2004; they were chased off twice, but now control the articles either because nobody gives a damn anymore or there are not enough people left smart enough/thick-skinned enough to deal with the problem.

David Owenby wrote a good book on the issue over a decade ago, Falun Gong and the Future of China; seek it out if you want to know how nutty they truly get.


                               Award given to people willing to call the Chief of Daqing City Police to release the mother-in-law of 
                               Ben Hedges, host of the You Tube show "Lao Wai Kan Zhongguo" (A Foreigner's View of China.)


Russia! magazine

This one is less complicated; Russia! magazine is a website about the largest country on Earth that originally was kind of like Soviet Life during the perestroika period or it's successor Russian Life: focused on what was going on within the country while also discussing culture, art, etc. The only problem was that new websites began emerging in the last decade or so that did Russia!'s job better (Russia Beyond the Headlines, The Russian Reader, KinoKultura, etc.) so it switched over to more and more of an economic/political magazine, and after the Crimea-Donbass War started, it moved over to sounding more like a narrowly-focused defense issues blog. That written, I will never sass Jim Kovpak for going into the Ukrainian war zone to report on how it is (surreal, bombed out, and shitty for the elderly), my problem is with Mark Adomanis, who unlike Kovpak, does not live in Russia; he reminds me of Michael McFaul, the American Ambassador to Russia. He once wrote a column titled "Revenge of the Losers" slamming Soviet refrigerators and Igor Strelkov (the former insurgent leader of Novorossiya), a piece which has since vanished. If they could find a Russian writer who is as pro-markets as Adomanis without being as annoying, Russia! would probably drop-kick him to the curb.....not that it matters as he also writes for Forbes. If I had to pay for Russia! as a physical publication, I would rather read back issues in a college library. Rodina deserves better.

3 comments:

  1. Look up the Neelix affair - see how much the Tara Teng article has changed in under a month.

    A lot of really bad, heavily POV material on Wikipedia can stay so long as it never irritates one of the powerful factions. I would wager that the way that Scientology funds anti-gay political activity upsets geeks in America enormously and they fight to keep anti-scientology material included, but Falun Gong has never pissed off that many English speaking wiki editors.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't know why, but it seems Mark Adomanis' work has disappeared from everywhere. Try looking up his stuff on Forbes and you'll see what I mean.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just watched Chris Chappell for the first time and was immediately suspicious because of his strangely accented English, unlike any I've ever experienced from someone who supposedly grew up in the US with English as his first language. But maybe he didn't? His LinkedIn page gives some clues, including his "Interest" in NDT TV and his education in music theory and composition, but is otherwise pretty thin. But bottom line, his whole manner and presentation screamed "shill."

    ReplyDelete