Most people have seen the “2030″ advertisement produced by Citizens Against Government Waste. It’s an atrocious ad — not the least of all because it’s factually wrong — and sad proof that no matter how you dress it up, ‘Yellow Peril’ and ‘Fu Manchu’ are alive and well and lingering in the American psyche.
Fortunately, not everybody is taking the ad seriously, a campus group has released their own version, one which mocks the xenophobia and factual inaccuracies of the original. CAGW was unamused and has gone to great lengths to have the offending spoof removed from video sharing sites like YouTube, in a campaign against dissent that the WSJ Real Time China Report points out seems eerily reminiscent of the CCP circa 2010.
It’s hardly surprising, really. It’s a political axiom that the extremes often have a lot in common, and this is certainly true of the CCP and the American Right. In a recent piece on the desperation of the conservative media to smear President Obama for any slight or wrongdoing no matter how trivial, James Fallows remarked, “The combination of ignorance, lack of curiosity, and certitude is a very difficult one to offset.” Anyone who has spent even a few minutes watching Fox News or listening to conservative talk radio will immediately recognize the willful ignorance and proud parochialism wrapped in the flag of defiant anti-intellectualism which characterizes the Tea Party movement and their supporters. (See: Palin, Sarah)
But this ‘ignorant incurious certitude’ (to use Fallows’ phrase) is also very much a defining quality of the Chinese state media and Chinese nationalists. Paranoid xenophobia is the propaganda’s bureau most common coin, in fact one wonders if they know how to write any other way. The whole state media apparatus (and not a few nitwit nationalist Internet commenters) labor under a profound cognitive dissonance caused when trying to reconcile a pathetically narrow worldview with an increasingly cacophonous din of alternative perspectives and opposing evidence — in short, to borrow from Levenson, that which is mine is colliding against that which is true and the result is well…somebody like Li Hongmei.
What the American Right doesn’t realize however is that Li Hongmei is just a bespectacled slightly prim version of Ann Coulter; Xinhua and Fox News actually have a whole lot in common. Both maintain a thin fiction of objectivity while in reality functioning as the propaganda department for a single party. Neither has any room for ‘opposition,’ unless it’s to set up said opposition as a straw man. Finally, both are tone-deaf to their own inherent shrillness.
Perhaps the greatest commonality is this: When confronted with a situation that clearly challenges (if not dismantles) their painstakingly constructed ideological facades, rather than rise to the challenge, both organizations have an unsettling habit of diving for the deepest part of the muck — xenophobia and fear.