In today's tour of state-run propaganda, Fidel Castro makes an April Fool's joke, China's media champions censorship, and a Syrian radio host defects from the country. We begin in Havana.
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It's Okay to Laugh at Fidel Castro
We don't know what's sadder: Fidel Castro's sardonic April Fool's column or the fact that no one seems to have noticed it. On April 1, the Cuban patriarch penned a column for the Cuban News Agency that's still leading the homepage titled "The Wonderful World of Capitalism." The essay drips with sarcasm and explores the plight of rich people who have such difficult decisions to make every day. “Let us suppose that we have left our mansion and we are already tired of hanging around with our yacht, limousine, helicopter or jet," reads a quote he says he lifted from a Western news agency. "We still have the choice to buy an individual submarine or a submarine for two persons." After detailing all the consumer pleasures of capitalism, such as "bulging wallets" and "Ferrari camcorders," Fidel makes a sarcastic quip: "Capitalism, compatriots, is a truly wonderful thing! Maybe it is our fault that not every citizen has its own private submarine at the beach."
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Now we can't be sure this was an April Fool's joke, but given the date of its publication, the fact that we can't find any evidence of where this quote from a "western news agency" came from and its jeering sarcasm, we tend to think Castro pulled a nice Jonathan Swift-style April Fool's prank. Cheers to you, Fidel.
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People's Daily Praises Censorship
Remember that rumor about a coup in China last month? Well the Chinese government hasn't forgotten about it, and it's been on a tear shutting down blogs, penalizing social media sites and detaining bloggers for circulating the hearsay. It's been bad for the 16 independent websites that were shutdown last week but it's been wonderful for China's state media. Not only were they first to carry the news of the government crackdown on Friday (exclusive anyone?) but, in one fell swoop, state media also lost a chunk of its competition. Letting no favor go un-thanked, The People's Daily, the Communist Party's flagship newspaper, is now championing the crackdown.
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"Internet rumors and lies packaged as 'facts' will turn conjecture into 'reality,' stir up trouble online and disturb people's minds," read a commentary extolling the censorship campaign, according to the AP. "If allowed to run amok, they will seriously disrupt social order, affect social stability and harm social integrity." Putting aside the unsavory cheerleading of censorship, it's at least nice to see the state rag embracing it's capitalistic instincts: Laughing at the demise of its competitors. Progress?
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Syria's Ex-Propagandist Embraces Pirate Radio
Once a propagandist, always a propagandist? Not in Syria. On Monday, NPR's Kelly McEvers and Rima Marrouch caught up with a Syrian woman named Rania who used to host morning radio for a station owned by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's cousin. But when protests began last year, Rania was forbidden from covering them. When she refused, her managers gave her a blunt offer:
"They told me, 'You have to tell us the truth: Are you with the regime, or are you against the regime?' Because if you are against the regime, we [are going] to deal with you in a different way,' " Rania says.
After that conversation Rania quit her job, fled the country and is now operating an Internet radio station called New Start Radio with reports from citizen journalists in flash points inside Syria. Unlike Syria's state-owned media, which pretends there are no protests going on, the station attempts to appeal to Syrians on an emotional level about the violence. Per McEvers and Marrouch:
Rania says the language used in these radio reports makes listeners feel the news and empathize.
"Imagine that now there are 25 families that have been killed. There are now 25 mothers [who] will sleep today without their sons," she says. "Imagine today that there are so many men [who are] sleeping on the streets because they have no more homes."
Read and listen to the whole story here.