Hmmm… (Burma Edition)

The opposition’s biggest mistake, he said, was its belief that “help from the West – through a mix of sanctions and democracy – would somehow force the regime to bargain.” In fact, Thant Myint-U said, sanctions may have entrenched the regime and slowed the pace of reform.

– Burmese Historian Thant Myint-U, quoted in Joshua Hammer’s profile of Aung San Suu Kyi, in this week’s New Yorker (subscription required)

WTF Friday, 11/5/10

The military junta in Burma has decided to cancel elections in several regions populated by ethnic minorities, shunning the ever-popular dictatorial move of rigging elections. Nice. Way to cut out the middle man.

BBC has apologized to Bob Geldof for running a series of reports insinuating that Live Aid money has been used to purchase weapons. This was in March. It is now November. Timely. Especially considering that, according to the BBC, there is “no evidence for these statements.” I think they at least owe him a fruit basket.
Zimbabwe has reached the 5-peat for the lowest ranking on the UNDP Human Development Index despite the life expectancy for the country increasing from 37 to 47 since a few years ago. Kinda calls into question the whole point of this list…

WTF Friday, 5/7/10

  • Speaking of homophobia, check out this little gem that was linked from a banner ad. Really thought-provoking stuff.
  • This sounds just incredibly awkward: “‘If we could work with members drawn from the Rhodesia front that oppressed us, what was there to prevent us from working with him?’ Mr. Mugabe asked, laying his hand on Mr. Tsvangirai’s arm. Mr. Tsvangirai, who has survived at least two assassination attempts in Zimbabwe, remained inscrutable and for several seconds, the room fell silent. Mr. Mugabe only smiled broadly. ‘This young fellow… of mine,’ he added, patting his arm. He coaxed another laugh from Mr. Tsvangirai and the audience.”
  • National League for Democracy (NLD), main opposition and pro-democracy party in Burma, has officially disbanded so as to not recognize bogus law that nullifies their 1990 victory.
  • BBC asks readers of this article about checkpoint bribes in Ivory Coast, “What do you think about bribes being paid at checkpoints?” I really want to hear what an extortionist has to say because, honestly, who else is gonna have a divergent opinion on this one?

The Penguin on Your Television Will Now Explode

This weekend the New York Times ran an article in the Fashion & Style section about the U.S. Campaign for Burma’s efforts to get Burma “into the orbit of A-list activist causes.” It’s all about the process of “branding” the human rights crisis. This hurt my soul (just play along) for a number of reasons. Let’s list them, kay?

  1. Ugh, do we really have so little capacity to care that our causes have to jockey for position on the Who’s Who in Atrocity Hierarchy?
  2. No one appreciates a meta-narrative as much as I do, but really, when the whole problem is a lack of public awareness of a crisis, wouldn’t everybody be better served if the paper of record reported on the crisis, rather than on the efforts to draw attention to the crisis? I’m just saying.
  3. Is it me, or does the article seem to suggest that our nation’s precious celebrities are out to convince us that Hitler has been reincarnated in the person of General Than Shwe? I’m pretty sure that’s not even temporally possible…

So then I looked at the U.S. Campaign for Burma’s website. It turns out, it’s kind of genius. (Where “balls out shamelessness” = genius.) As promised by the Times article, they’ve got tons of celebrities in reasonably clever and informative, high production quality, 30 second spots advocating for their cause. And their slogan is, no joke, “Millions Rallied to Free Nelson Mandela and South Africa. Now it’s Burma’s Turn.”

I mean, seriously guys? It’s Burma’s turn??? Is that really the direction you want to go in? Can’t you kind of hear the objections? North Korea: “We haven’t had lunch in 60 years… isn’t it our turn yet?” Zimbabwe: “I swear we were next – lunatic dictator, insane economic policies, political oppression, remember?” Congo: “We have the GREATEST RAPE IN THE WORLD; are we at least near the top of the list?”