Thursday, December 09, 2010

One man's hero...

NPR ran a story today comparing China's restriction on Liu Xiabo's attendance at the Nobel ceremony to the Nazis restricting peace activist Carl von Ossietzk from doing the same in 1936. Besides the obvious comparison between China and Nazi Germany, the narrator uses the phrase "growing German militarism" as if underlining the fear rising in the West about China's growing militarism (the Economist titled its lead editorial in the Dec 4 issue The Dangers of a Rising China).

The story goes on to report that one of Carl von Ossietzk's acts which impressed the Nobel committee and pissed off the German government was that he ran an expose of Germany re-arming its air force in violation of the post-WW1 treaty. He was sentenced to prison for "giving away state secrets".

The timing of this comparison could not have been better. As we speak, someone else who gave away state secrets is being persecuted/prosecuted (take your pick). Wikileaks has been forced off the air, its funding has been throttled, and Julian Assange is under arrest on a possibly valid charge but facing a bleak future nevertheless. It is hard not to compare Assange to von Ossietsk and Liu (terms like 'non-violent activist', 'government critic', 'whistleblower', 'rapist' come to mind), but NPR's high-minded editors missed it. Apparently, criticism of the government and non-violent activism to expose its actions are admirable qualities only when directed elsewhere.

NPR may miss the obvious; the Nobel committee may miss it too; but guess who will not.

* * *

China has called the selection of Liu for the Nobel Peace prize an attempt by democratic nations to humiliate the country. While rejecting the everyone-against-me playground conspiracy theory, I agree with China on the humiliation bit, but insist that fewer words describe the idea behind the Nobel for Liu: ऊँगली.

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