Critical thinking on China

22 Jul

Remember how the BBC reversed its Orgreave footage to make it appear as if police were attacking striking miners in response to having stones hurled at them? Many were taken in by this simple ploy. While the camera may not lie (actually it does, all the time, but let’s keep this simple) the spinmeisters of the cutting room can and do.

Likewise the caption writers. I once had a FB exchange with a friend – one of many passionate but confused Remainers who read support for the EU as internationalist, and take all Leavers to be racists and xenophobes – who’d posted a video of England soccer fans bullying young boys in Lille, France.

In fact only the caption steered us towards this interpretation. Mainstream media, liberal and right wing alike, were happy to inform us that these were nasty thugs, cruelly taunting poor children by throwing coins at them. When I suggested that my friend look again while trying to forget the caption, he said he didn’t need to since the contents of the clip make it “obvious” what was going on.

Maybe they do. Maybe this really is a slice of nastiness caught on a phonecam. It wouldn’t be the first time. But I see more signs of good natured joshing, most tellingly in the nonchalant ambience and on faces – kids and “bullies” alike – devoid of fear or hostility. Whether through cynicism, laziness or unthinking prejudice the caption writers wrapped up the incident to serve overarching agendas: England’s lawless yobbery in the case of Mail and Express; Little England xenophobia in the case of liberal media.

And millions bought it.

Bear this in mind when considering the “new” video currently doing the rounds – in the context of war drums beating over China – to show, allegedly, China’s Uighurs herded onto trains, Auschwitz style, for “shipment to concentration camps”. Ask yourself, is there anything in the footage – as opposed to its interpretation by media hostile to states which challenge or defy Washington and junior partners – to support that understanding of what we’re seeing?

Here once more is Caitlin Johnstone on the subject.

I Don’t Always Believe CIA Narratives. But When I Do, I Believe Them About China.

My social media notifications have been lighting up the last few days with virulent Chinagaters sharing a video which purports to show Uighur Muslims being loaded onto a train to be taken to concentration camps. It’s actually an old video that had already surfaced last year, but it is magically making the rounds again as a new and shocking revelation in 2020 now that western China hysteria has been kicked into high gear, at exactly the same time the US enacts one of the most dangerous and incendiary escalations of recent years in the South China Sea.

Everyone tagging me in this video presents it as a “gotcha” moment, in exactly the same way Russiagaters spent years tagging me in every HUGE BOMBSHELL WALLS ARE CLOSING IN item of thinly sourced narrative fluff in their debunked conspiracy theory that the Kremlin had infiltrated the highest levels of the US government.

They are one hundred percent certain that the video shows Uighurs being loaded onto a train to go to a concentration camp, solely because that is what the bit of text over the video tells them that that’s what they are seeing. They aren’t looking at the actual data and thinking critically about it, they’re looking at the narrative and believing it on blind faith. Which, in a post-Iraq invasion world, is an absolutely insane thing to do when presented with information about a nation that is targeted by the US-centralized empire.

In reality there’s nothing in the video which tells us these are Uighur people being sent to a “re-education camp” and not merely a conventional prison transfer of convicted criminals, the likes of which take place in the far more populous US prison system all the time. It’s an unknown. We are told by the BBC’s Andrew Marr (whose phony journalism Noam Chomsky derided years ago) that it has been “authenticated by western intelligence agencies and by Australian experts”, which in practice are the same thing, and that’s really the extent of the evidence. Again, this is an insane source to take on faith in a post-Iraq invasion world.

There are in fact an abundance of reasons to be highly skeptical of the establishment narrative about what is happening to Uighurs in Xinjiang. But that isn’t the point that I am trying to make here.

The point I am trying to make here is that the only sane response to any narrative that is being promoted by western intelligence agencies and their media stenographers about governments which have resisted absorption into the imperial blob is intense and unrelenting skepticism. These organizations have such an extensive and well-known history of lying about exactly this sort of thing that they have left us no choice but to withhold belief from anything they say absent a mountain of independently verifiable evidence if we want to have a fact-based relationship with reality.

None of this means that China has a wonderful government. It doesn’t even mean that all the bad things we’re being told about what the Chinese government is doing are false. It’s entirely possible that that video shows exactly what we’re being urgently told to believe it shows. There’s simply no way to be sure one way or the other in an information ecosystem that is so severely tainted by propagandistic narrative manipulation.

Surely the Chinese government is far from sinless. It seems to be a constant that power structures which keep secrets and use propaganda will always wind up doing ugly things. But this doesn’t mean you go believing whatever cold war-facilitating story we are fed by western power structures about it. Not if we want to avoid being duped into serving as pro bono CIA propagandists, unwitting tools of a murderous war machine.

There is a slow-motion third world war underway between the US-centralized power alliance and the nations like China which have resisted being absorbed into it, and that war is being largely facilitated by propaganda. If one doesn’t wish to become a propagandist themselves, one ought to withhold belief from the stories they are told about the terrible, awful things the unabsorbed nations are doing which require extensive sanctions, subversion and interventionism in response.

This doesn’t mean you believe the opposite of what you’re told, it simply means you refrain from believing either way and remain agnostic until presented with hard verifiable proof. Believing damaging narratives about US-targeted governments is exactly as stupid as believing the words of a known compulsive liar about someone you know he hates.

China is such a curious anomaly in the narrative matrix. Many who are normally skeptical of claims by western governments immediately swallow anything they’re told about China. They not only believe all such claims, it never even occurs to them to seriously question them. Like they seem to be genuinely unaware that skepticism of establishment China narratives is even an option. The claims just slide right into the “believe” file in their mind, completely unchecked by anything resembling critical thought.

I argue with people all over the political spectrum about China online, and an astonishing percentage of them have clearly put exactly zero research into critically examining these claims, even if they’re people who are normally relatively critical of western foreign policy. They’re often completely unaware that whatever claims they’re advancing are not just disputed but have large amounts of evidence against them. This is because they’ve done no research whatsoever into finding out what they were told is even true. They’ll do that research on Iran, they’ll do it about Russia, they’ll do it about Syria, but with China all skepticism immediately goes right now the window. It’s the weirdest thing.

Always be intensely skeptical of claims made about governments targeted by the known liars who run the US-centralized empire. Always, always, always, always. If you advance imperialist propaganda, then you are just as culpable for the bloodshed and suffering they help facilitate as the people who are actually launching the missiles.

Stay skeptical, my friends.

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10 Replies to “Critical thinking on China

  1. Photos can very easily be used to misdirect. There was the shameless matter of that “shock horror” Bosnian “concentration camp” photo supposedly showing an emaciated man trapped behind barbed wire. But the man was actually OUTSIDE the wire and the concentration camp story was totally fabricated. This didn’t stop the fraudsters from getting away with it when they were challenged and the magazine “Living Marxism” which revealed the scam was ordered to pay damages.

    (And on a related note, I have found that whenever I try to go back and dig up the details of some controversial issue, I find it increasingly hard to do so since the search engines always seem devised to steer towards govt propaganda.)

    But sometimes even the claim of misleading photography can be used fraudulently. I recall a photo from the 80s miner’s strike which showed a woman being pursued by a mounted policeman. The media made a big issue of how the picture gave the wrong impression since it was photographed from an angle that hid a considerable distance between horse and woman. This glossed over a matter that should have been obvious. The horse was in motion and would have taken seconds to catch up with the woman. (It also raises the question as to why there had to be mounted police there in the first place!)

    • It can get depressing, the extent to which debunked ‘evidence’ continues to hold currency simply through its repetition by mainstream media speaking as one. Since MSM do disagree on lesser matters, even important ones – though never on crunch issues like the right of our rulers to take us to war – otherwise intelligent people reason (not always consciously) that unanimity on China, Russia, Syria, Venezuela must be indicative of accuracy.

      Depressing or not, I don’t see walking away in despair as an option. Not when, this January, the Atomic Research Group that monitors the Doomsday Clock advanced the time to 100 seconds to midnight.

      I know the woman of that iconic photo, and once shared a flat with her. She’s a big hearted and courageous soul but, it has to said, the worst listener I ever came across – in the face of stiff competition – and highly given to her own forms of confirmation bias. We fell out over Syria when, on the basis of knowing a few refugees no less hostile to Assad than Cuban exiles in Florida were to Castro, she assured me that “the Syrian people” were “mightily sick” of “mansplainers” like me, who try to understand what is being done to Syria and why. Collecting a few pissed off Syrians and having them round for tea, it seemed, entitles one to speak for a nation of 17 million people!

      Confirmation bias massively informs the ways we interpret texts like photos and video. You may remember a disability awareness campaign twenty years ago which used a series of situations involving a disabled person, setting us up in ways wittily punctured by unexpected punchlines: “Billy’s a sad git …” (below a photo of a teenager in a wheelchair) “… he supports Arsenal”.

      I challenge confirmation bias even, perhaps especially, when the overall narratives thus ‘supported’ are ones I share. See here and here for examples.

      • “mansplainers” – I love it!

        It’s odd hearing about various views that seem incoherent. As well as the rubbish spouted by the media and uncritically assimilated, there are odd mixtures of the reactionary and the progressive within a lot of people. And you hear all sorts of unexpected statements. I’ve been in conversations where others have expressed stupid and sometimes even repellant views and I have not responded because I know it would be futile and perhaps even counterproductive. One work colleague – a perfectly decent guy in his everyday behaviour – astonished me with a comment about how he would like to “man the machine guns” to mow down immigrants trying to get into the UK and he wouldn’t even need to be paid! It wasn’t just a matter of keeping civil but we were in a work situation where tension would be potentially dangerous so I just let it slide.

        • … where others expressed stupid and even repellant views I have not responded because I know it would be futile and even counterproductive.

          This happens frequently to me. I used to feel obliged to challenge every such comment. Not any more. That’s in part because I put out my views in this forum, so feel less impelled to torture folk face to face with them. More importantly, I agree with your assessment on futility. That we so easily get into pissing contests, egoically fuelled, we know to be futile from a persuasion perspective suggests that our motives are mixed at best; that we’re less interested in bringing about change than in scoring points.

          “Mansplaining” is in my experience up there with “conspiracy theory”, “fake news” and “whataboutery” as a handy tool for those who wish to dismiss arguments without the inconvenience of addressing their specifics.

          As for people being full of surprises, not easily summarised, I know big hearted tories, and folk whose political views I share but find them small hearted, narrow minded and mean spirited. Life ain’t simple! I try to keep in mind that the man who braves the inferno to rescue my family from my burning house may be a loudmouthed redneck, while my more progressive friends look on in useless anguish. Life ain’t simple!

  2. And on a related topic, I felt I was suffocating with rage when this came on the news:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-53489611

    In the light of that massive recent report (“The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019”) revealing the whole filthy smear campaign against Labour, this latest news headline was utterly unbearable. But once I calmed down, I realised that it all made sense. That court verdict came out in favour of a “hit piece” programme that had been commissioned by the BBC themselves. And the BBC had already proved themselves to be obscene manipulators in the build up to the last election. One thing is for sure: that report revealing the smear will get zero coverage in the Beeb.

    • I have to declare a direct interest in this issue.

      Without getting too deep into the specifics of what is still an ongoing saga (a submission to the Forde Inquiry went off this morning) two observations are pertinent:

      1. Those former staffers involved in the Panorama hatchet job were clearly misusing membership data in breach of the members GDPR legal rights.

      2. One of those ex staffers from that Panorama programme, Dan Hogan, was dealing with three related complaints submitted in the spring of 2018.

      One of those complaints was fast tracked through the Party system – possibly by either or both the Region and/or the Constituency Office. There is reasonable grounds to suspect that some of the “evidence” in this complaint may have involved, either directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, information obtained via an illicit and illegal recording of a members meeting which is legally classed for these purposes as a private meeting.

      At least three people present, including myself witnessed this. However, even following specific Subject Access,Requests under GDPR legislation it has so far proved impossible to get the Party to supply a simple yes or no to the question as to whether this complaint relied in whole or in part to this illegal recording.

      The other two complaints, one regarding the breach of GDPR arising from this illegal recording, the other regarding breachers of PPERA2000 were initially rejected and then ignored by the Party and took two months to be submitted.

      At some point during July 2018 Dan Hogan, one of the so called “whistleblowers” left the employment of the LP. By accident I found out from the Complaints Unit in a conversation on a different matter, that the two slow tracked complaints were not on the Party system. Subsequently requiring not one but two resubmissions.

      However, the fast tracked complaint, which Dan Hogan was also dealing with, was not “lost” from the Party system as I was contacted by the Complaints Unit to submit verbal answers to certain aspects and incidents which formed part of this complaint during the autumn of 2018.

      Thirteen months after the third submission of the two slow tracked complaints and twenty months after originally been made these two complaints were rejected by the Party. The fast tracked complaint was upheld in a decision made in March 2019 but not conveyed until May 2019 from which time (rather than the time of the original decision) the associated sanction time period was commenced.

      Despite SAR’s involving what investigations were carried out in using the data supplied in the two slow tracked complaints to reach such a bizarre decision no response to those specifics has been received in over nine months.

      Even though information was sought from the GS in July 2019 as to what membership data had been compromised and illegally misused by these ex staff members in the Panorama programme the Party has simply ignored the request. It is therefore not even possible for members to challenge this in the Courts because those making decisions in the Party will not provide the necessary information and have become actively complicit in the breach of members GDPR rights as well as Nandi g over members money and a grovelling apology in court to these charlatans, thieves and liars

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