December 30, 2013

‘Happy Birthday, Chairman Mao’ — From CNBC and the New York Times

The fascination with and excuse-making for long-gone communist dictators responsible for the murders of millions during their reigns is a long-standing phenomenon.

Both CNBC and the New York Times continued that hoary tradition last week. Each headlined reports on the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong (whose name was written as Mao Tse-Tung until about two decades ago) with “Happy Birthday, Chairman Mao!” headlines. CNBC’s appears after the jump (HT Twitchy; bolds are mine throughout this post):

CNBChappyBirthdayMao122613

The transcript of the NBC Beijing correspondent’s report and her joyous tone while reciting it are equally nauseous (bolds are mine):

Now that Christmas is over, in China, fans of Chairman Mao Zedong are celebrating the birth of a man who they believe to be their savior.

December 26 is the 120th birthday of the founder of the Peoples Republic of China. People here are marking the occasion by eating birthday noodles, singing revolutionary songs, and in fact one city actually erected a golden jade Mao statue worth $16 million.

The current president has to walk a fine line with these celebrations. President Li Keqiang is borrowing from Mao’s playbook, calling for a campaign to restore the Communist Party’s traditional values. At the same time, the new leaders say they want the economy to be based more on markets than on Maoism.

The government is cracking down on extravagance and has ordered that festivities this year be toned down. That’s disappointing diehard Maoists who believe that this day should be as big a holiday here as Christmas is in the United States.

The over 70 million victims of Mao’s reign (documented in “Mao: The Unknown Story”) were unavailable to comment on “their savior.”

Over at the New York Times, the headline was repulsive, but at least Didi Kirsten Tatalow’s December 23 story recognized the existence of ugly realities:

To mark the birth of Mao Zedong 120 years ago on Thursday, Dec. 26, statues of the revolutionary leader will be washed throughout the country, Chinese media reported.

Stamps will be issued, books published, documentaries broadcast, photographic exhibitions staged, “red songs” sung, Mao-themed calligraphy displayed, seminars and speeches held, and a businessman and philanthropist, Chen Guangbiao, and other businessmen will distribute corn, flour and oil to children and elderly people in Yan’an, the Communist forces’ revolutionary base in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

Yet Chairman Mao’s legacy is controversial, even if many ordinary Chinese are deeply proud of the 1949 revolution and revere him.

So despite the celebrations, which will also include concerts in the Great Hall of the People and the Beijing Exhibition Center on Thursday, and at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Wednesday evening, not everyone is enthusiastic.

At the heart of the ambiguity is Mao’s legacy as a leader who is seen by ordinary Chinese as freeing China from foreign influence and class oppression, but who also made “mistakes,” as the state-run Global Times wrote on Monday. Those included the persecution and deaths of millions of people in political campaigns that began in the 1950s and lasted into the early 1970s. After Mao’s death in 1976, the government declared him “70 percent right and 30 percent wrong,” an oft-used Chinese formulation.

Mao’s 70 million-plus victims would beg to differ with that “formulation.”

If we’re to believe both news outlets, there is still a great deal of affection for Mao in China. If that’s indeed true, it still didn’t need to get delivered to U.S. readers in the form of sickening “Happy Birthday, Chairman Mao” headlines, which certainly make it look as if both CNBC and the Times share those ignorant, outrageous sentiments.

Maybe they really do.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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