American Liberal Elites and the Great Communist Firewall
How polarization of political satire by American Late Night Talk show hosts have helped the Chinese censorship regime curate its anti-America narratives ?
When it comes to Political satires, the British sitcoms such as Yes Minister, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Blackadder, Citizen Khan have undoubtedly stood out tall in content quality and relevance without resorting to polarising the society on religious, racial, and gender terms. In the past decade, political satire assumed the new form of sarcasm and irony, 'the talk shows.' Talk shows had a great appeal amongst the American audience, which soon became part of the mainstream discourse in mobilizing opinions. The United States became an attractive destination for talented satirists and comedians across the globe. British political commentator John Oliver and South African comedian Trevor Noah became one of America's most favoured late-night talk show hosts. However, American talk show producers had a hidden political agenda.
In the early days of social media, radical left-wing, anti-American forces were propagating selective political satires akin to Bill Maher and George Carlin to demoralize the American society and give the world a window of opportunity to peek into America's domestic problems of elitism, racism, and sexism. In Douglas Murray's words, most Western Left-liberals, including the political commentators, comedians and satirists, suffer from the past baggage of racism and colonialism, similar to Germany's Holocaust guilt. The elites' baggage does not allow any realistic discourse on immigration and Islamization if not followed with an obsequity to liberal narrative.
Ever since President Trump assumed power, the left-liberal media grew intolerant, provocative, and divisive. Talk show hosts such as Stephe Colbert, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon have reduced political satire to mere 'Trump-bashing.' TV Shows such as 'Good Fight,' to Late Night Talk shows such as 'Tonight Show' became highly politicized and polarizing, leaving the US citizen divided to a whole new height. Moreover, the talk show commentators have shied away from airing any political issue which puts the Democratic Party of the US in bad light or critical of any Democrats policies, social behaviour, or scandals. By making a mockery of American democracy and openness, these talk show hosts gave the tooth to the dictatorship regimes abroad, adding to their anti-human rights, anti-west, anti-democracy propaganda. From Russia, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Egypt to Cambodia, American soft power and reputations of democracy was fading away, as these 'Talk Show' hosts were consistently denouncing their very own elected President Donald Trump; and ridiculing him and responding to his tweets had become a major pass time amongst the American media elites.
Ironically, amongst the Chinese who get 'filtered' global news content, Trevor Noah became a massive hit for his Trump parodies and satires. In Beijing, the Great firewall carefully curated and picked narratives and political satires, which were often a mockery of America, its institutions, and its President, to disseminate it to its citizens of a 'Bad America story.' This way, American talk shows were indirectly helping the Chinese propaganda machinery feed its citizens of 'how chaotic democracy is.'
In 2019, Political satirist, Comedian, and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah roasted America's ban of Huawei products as Washington's inability to compete and catch up with Beijing in the 5G technology race; it immediately caught the eyes of the Chinese Internet Gatekeepers and Wu Maos (keyboard warriors). Over time, Trevor became a Chinese favourite, as State media CCTV aired his commentary to its propaganda as 'America's relentless suppression of Huawei.' Since then, the Chinese Internet gatekeepers have carefully been data mining Trevors commentaries attacking President Trump, the US's stance on foreign policies and racism, for its propaganda. As the trend during Trump's presidency was roasting Trump and Trump only, mainstream media ignored even the very compelling issues of human rights violations in China and refused to acknowledge the Hunter-Biden scandal.
Trevor had also earlier used the subtle anecdote humour in his talk show to highlight China's aggressive use of power in influencing 'how Americans act on American soil' by bullying big corporates and the NBA(National Basketball Association) for a tweet sent in support of Hong Kong protesters). Since that particular segment ended with Ronny Chieng's(half Chinese-Malay comedian)slapstick mockery of American values, the Chinese netizen army shrugged-it-off.
However, in December 2020, Trevor turned into a pariah for the Chinese. He came under attack by the paid Netizens of China, the gatekeepers. He sarcastically mentioned in his very recent segment 'China lied about Covid' and satirized its ambitious Chang'e 5 Lunar exploration project. The Chinese offensive propaganda piece Global Times reported that the Chinese netizens perceived Trevor's recent remarks as 'revealing his true colour' and 'double standard,' bringing an end to China's honeymoon period with one of America's most popular talk show host.
This Trevor episode is a reminder of China's oppressive nature and exporting of censorship abroad. The insecure fragile Chinese state is well aware of political satire's vitality and ability to invoke resentment and kindle the grievances that people loath in silence. When resentments get mainstreamed through caricature, cartoon, pop music, tattoos and satire, the CCP empire would crumble. The country has blocked the word 'dictator' from its search tool and aided a 'snowflake' culture of incoherencies and intolerance towards any political satire on China. This was evident went Chinese netizens resented Sasha Baron Cohen's comic stunts at Oscar's red carpet and boycotted South Korean soap operas that depicted Taiwan as a sovereign state.
To China, Winnie The Pooh is undermining the dignity of its President Xi Jinping. However, the state apparatus deliberately undermined the dignity of other heads of states such as Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, and Boris Johnsons through various Douyin(Chinese Tik Tok), Douban, videos, blogs, vlogs, and Weibo. China's irrational ban list includes Peppa Pig, a mere cartoon character, to banning tattoos, hip-hop, and rap culture. The highly insecure Chinese Communist Party was paranoid over 'The Rap of China's (reality TV music contest) popularity as Chinese societies' problems were getting mainstream in strong rap lyrics. The party put out a notice banning TV appearances of any pop and rap artists who do not align with the party's ideological principles and of low integrity and morality.
However, the same CCP weaponized Tik Tok to demoralize other nations with vulgar, obscene, low taste and morality contents while maintaining a high degree of censorship on obscene content for domestic audiences. Such a double standard notion of morality is a hallmark of 'Censorship with Chinese characteristics.' Chinese export of political satire censorship is not restricted to the US; China has officially objected to a Swedish talk show satire and a Danish newspaper over a caricature.
The fundamental rule of Chinese propaganda machinery is to tell the 'Good China story' i.e. 'positive propaganda' about China's development and progress while importing political satires that ridicule democracies and their leaders. China's propaganda army employs bots, irony, and trolls in its aggressive internet war and actively censors and suppresses the import of any negative story or news on China. China has been data mining the global internet for content through its paid and unpaid nationalist 'keyboard army' to manufacture and mobilize support for its narrative of Western decline and China's rise. CCP's right to rule relies heavily on how it seeks to legitimize its single-party authoritarian rule. Economic prosperity, censorship, suppression of dissents, invoking and exploiting selected works of Confucius, imposing a culture of self-censorship, and using political satires of West against Western democracies are few ways through which it seeks to reinforce its right to rule. Since Joe Biden's victory, the American media elites are 'reclining in peace,' that internationalism, liberal world order, human rights, and peace will be automatically restored, not realizing the self-inflicting damage they have caused to America's democratic credentials in the global 'War on Perception' with Communist China.
Maitreya is a Sinologist
Disclaimer: This article is the author’s individual scholastic contribution and does not reflect the organisation’s viewpoint.