For weeks on end the international media was full of sentimental stories of Chinese ‘dissident’ Chen Guancheng. His escape from house arrest was dramatised to make it look like it was a scene from the Hollywood blockbuster The Great Escape.
Chen was our new Steve McQueen. But unlike McQueen, who had to go back to jail, Chen had a happy ending. He is now in the US studying law.
That was not all. There were stories of his family members and how they were running scared of the terrible Chinese government. Their lives were in danger and at any moment any one of them could be shot dead. Suspense hung in the air like a floppy hat.
That was not all. There were pictures of Chen’s wife and kids on one day and on another an interview with his brother who spoke lovingly and nostalgically of Chen’s childhood heroics and how his childhood antics with the ‘communist regime’ helped him escape from house arrest.
His good looks, accentuated by his dark shades, and his blindness were subtly rolled into the story to give it a romantic hue. There was more to come. We were shown pictures of Chen’s village and the places where he played as a child. The last pictures we saw were of his old and impoverished mother cooking a meal on a primitive stove like millions of Sub-Continent women who go unnoticed in the bigger scheme of things.
All this was carefully orchestrated to provoke sympathy in the minds of viewers and a few tears in their eyes.
In the forefront of the minds of readers and viewers were images of a kind, altruistic and benign America doing all it has to do for a freedom loving man like Chen and negative images of China oppressing its own people who are craving for freedom and justice from the ‘communist regime’.
This brings us to another dissident. He is an American and his name is Bradley Manning. It was he who allegedly did the free world a big favour when he exposed the crimes his country was committing in Iraq. The horrific images of US Air Force personnel firing on unarmed civilians in a suburb in Baghdad killing 17 civilians, including children, shall haunt all right thinking people till their last days like the My Lai massacre.
Those responsible for the slaughter are free men. Manning who exposed them is in military custody facing the prospects of life in prison. How’s that for justice!
The Western media (and it’s largely American owned) which pounces on any opportunity to espouse causes of dissidents like Chen go curiously quiet when it comes to defending their own. Is it because they too are of an imperialist mindset like their leaders?
Maybe. Or else why is it that we don’t hear Bradley Manning’s mother pouring tears over her son’s fate like we saw Chen’s mother do? Why is that we don’t see scenes of Manning’s hometown (if not ‘village’) with its parks and oak trees and beautiful homes?
Why is that we do not hear from Manning’s friends about how principled a boy he was in his childhood and about his penchant to expose the lies evil men tell? If Manning has a brother, why is that we don’t see him singing paeans to his imprisoned dissident brother like we saw Chen’s brother do?
While the US calls for accountability for war crimes, torture and abuse of power the world over, the war criminals in the US and UK go scot-free and it is Bradley Manning who has to pay for allegedly releasing videos of war crimes and documents that has embarrassed the empire.
The US military has banned the media from reporting Bradley Manning’s trial. If this happened to Chen in China, what would be the song that Hillary Clinton would sing? Song of Freedom or Sounds of Silence? Or what would the so called free media pundits say?
Why, I can picture all those guys climbing on the roof tops of their plush offices going hoarse denouncing China for the entire world to hear. And quite rightly too! But when it comes to matters at home, they go into deaf and dumb mode. And yet Patricia Butenis, US ambassador to Sri Lanka, has the gall to say the US doesn’t have double standards!
If Bradley were a Chinese dissident, the Western media would make him a world hero. Conversely speaking, if Chen Guancheng were an American dissident, he would be thrown behind bars for life.
Or he might be killed in accordance with President Barack Obama’s fatwa that it’s kosher to kill his fellow American citizens if they do not toe the empire’s line. Anwar al Awlaki was the first known American to be killed under Obama’s new dispensation. You can be sure he won’t be the last.