Propaganda in Southeast Asia — a True “Success
- It is all done in a fully barefaced manner. Those
who are not part of this world could never even
dream about such a ‘perfect’ design.
You come to
your club, in my case to The Foreign Correspondent
Club of Thailand (FCCT), and immediately the long
arm of indoctrination begins stretching towards you.
yourself on a comfortable couch, and soon after get
fully serviced. You get instructed, told what to
think and how to formulate or modify your ideas.
periodically shown movies about “corruption and
immorality” in China. You get encouraged to
participate in some public discussions that are,
among other things, trashing the anti-Western
president of the Philippines.
lately also the Middle East, and particularly Syria,
are brought into the spotlight.
almost all that is on offer in such places like FCCT
is the Western view, or concretely a set of Western
views raging from conservative to ‘liberal’. The
club is located in Asia, in the heart of Southeast
Asia, but very few Asians are invited to speak here,
except the few Thais who are well versed in the
Western way of thinking. Or Western agents like the
Dalai Lama, of course – such individuals can come
anytime they want! Forget about hearing from ‘the
other side’ – you’d never stumble here over speakers
such as Communist thinkers or writers from Mainland
China, or pro-Duterte academics or activists from
Most of the
Thais who get spotted at the FCCT are actually those
who provide support services for the Western gurus
of mainstream media: interpreters, fixers, waiters
and as well as some administrative support staff.
This is not a
place for Asians to lecture Westerners about Asia;
this is where Westerners tell Asians how to think in
general, and what to think about their own countries
On the same
floor as the FCCT, right down the narrow carpeted
corridor, there are the offices of the BBC, the NBC
and several other mainstream Western media outlets.
‘The Penthouse’ of the Maneeya Center Building in
Bangkok is actually a self-sufficient propaganda
And tonight it
is offering a free screening (free for us, members)
of a U.S. documentary film called Salam Neighbor,
about Jordan’s huge Za’atari refugee camp, which
hosts approximately 80,000 refugees just a few miles
away from the Syrian border.
On the FCCT
flier it says openly: “In partnership with the U.S.
Embassy Bangkok and The American Film Showcase.“
A U.S. embassy
official introduces the film. It is also being
sponsored (openly) by the U.S. Department of State.
The FCCT is
packed. Beer flows. People obediently clap to all
the opening speeches. No one seems to be noticing
the irony: The Empire’s foreign ministry hosting an
event at the foreign correspondent’s club in the
most important city of Southeast Asia. There are no
jokes flying about, no sarcasm. Western media people
are well disciplined. Forget about “Salvador” by
Oliver Stone – these are quite different times.
It all feels
mildly embarrassing. Here, one can never really
witness a fiery ideological confrontation. People
know their place. They are well aware of what they
should say, and how to behave. But most importantly,
they know what to write.
The film is
short, only some 75 minutes, and it is truly
predictable. It is not out-rightly bad.
Cinematography is fine, and there are very few
factual errors, perhaps because there are only a few
facts on offer. The filmmakers are ‘politically
correct’: they periodically break down in tears,
particularly when interacting with some refugee
It is full of
clichés, such as: “….. inhabitants of the camp
opened their hearts and homes to us”.
But there are
also several clearly predictable scenes, appearing
on the monitors in all corners of the FCCT, with
chilling regularity. Here is one, for instance: kids
are playing violent war video games. One child
“Yes, and this is Assad’s regime flag… They give
me ammunition and weapons…”
We are fed
with soft, ‘well-intentioned’ and well-filmed
propaganda. Not one word is uttered about the
essential and monstrous role of the West in the
Syrian war. There is nothing about the Za’atari Camp
being one of the training camps for the most extreme
pro-Western and pro-Gulf terrorist organizations.
films ends, I decide to participate in the Q/A
sarcastically, I congratulate the two filmmakers who
were flown to Thailand at the US taxpayer’s expense.
I mention that I have also made some films inside
refugee camps, including the notorious and brutal
Dadaab on the Kenyan-Somali border. Then I ask,
know that Syrian refugees were allowed to tell
you only one side of the story? I am well
familiar with the Za’atari camp. There, as well
as in the camps for Syrian refugees located in
the Iraqi Kurdish region, Syrians are screened
and unless they declare that they are against
President Assad, they have no chance of getting
processed and receiving assistance.”
faces of veteran Western propaganda-makers now stare
at me, point blank. The US embassy apparatchiks
maintain their composure. These people are
professionals and they hardly ever lose their calm.
people are scandalized. I exaggerate my Russia
accent and I mention South American Telesur as one
of the channels for which I have been making films.
How dare I? Don’t I know my place? A non-Westerner
telling Western opinion-makers about the world!
the Syrian refugees are not escaping from their
government. They are fleeing from the horrors of
war, triggered and upheld by the West and its
allies in the Gulf and elsewhere.”
The silence is
Then a girl, a
local Thai miss, obviously coming from the upper
middle class and groomed in the West, approaches the
microphone and asks with a cute giggle:
“I want to
visit the Za’atari Camp early next year. I don’t
know why, as I don’t know anything about the
Middle East… but maybe I can do something for
the refugees, no? And maybe I learn something?”
take some selfies,” I think.
Soon after I
begin to feel sick, and literally flee the place.
Southeast Asia is imprisoned in the tight
straightjacket of Western and Japanese pro-Western
propaganda. However, the mainstream media and the
way it disseminates Western propaganda is not the
only example of how the straightjacket works.
serious and large bookstores, (at least those that
are selling books in English), have already been
‘defeated’ by Kinokuniya, a Japanese mega seller.
Kinokuniya is to bookselling in Southeast Asia, what
Carrefour is to food vending. It operates in
Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, and its
shops look elegant and sleek. But unless you want to
buy some mainstream stuff, you may be truly
disappointed, even shocked, by what you find (or not
find) on the shelves.
without saying that in those stores, one would
always be able to find hundreds of appalling
anti-Soviet propaganda books, such as those of the
Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, Svetlana
Alexievich. But try to search for a great, iconic
Mexican left-wing author like Elena Poniatowska, and
you will get nothing! And forget about finding most
of works there of such enormous (but Communist)
thinkers like Jose Saramago, Dario Fo, and Harold
Pinter (all three authors were also awarded with the
Nobel prizes in literature, but are strongly hated
by the regime). If you are lucky, you will find one
or two books from each of them, but not more than
may also find one or two plays by Bertolt Brecht. I
searched in Bangkok, and found only one – Galileo.
Asian bookstores, you can have “all you can eat”
anti-Chinese, anti-Communist propaganda, but except
for Mo Yan, not one book of any truly great modern
Chinese Communist novelist or a poet.
Of course, you
should never even try to find some “offensive
materials”; and by offensive I mean sarcastically
critical of all that the West has been implanting
and upholding in this part of the world – religion,
neo-colonialism, monarchism, or even local
feudalistic structures which often hide behind such
terms as ‘cultures’…
the situation is the most ridiculous. There, all
decent bookstores that mushroomed after Suharto
stepped down have literally disappeared. Thereafter,
Kinokuniya ‘modified’ its operation in Jakarta, and
is presently selling only pop fiction, some Penguin
classics and similar mainstream stuff.
Mr. Ariff, a
staff marketing person at Kinokuniya, Plaza Senayang
in Jakarta, explained:
“Arrangement of the shells has to be the same as
in our Singapore store, but Indonesian
management decides what to sell here.”
they do! As expected, many books about Adolf Hitler
(very popular historic individual in Indonesia),
including his ‘best selling’ (at least in Jakarta)
“Mein Kampf.” Right next to it, there are few
shelves filled with anti-Communist propaganda of the
been, since 1965, always a Southeast Asian leader in
brainwashing of the population.
One could of
course argue that there are also some local chains
of bookstores, selling books exclusively in the
languages of Southeast Asia. However, the offering
there is very limited. Frankly, there is no culture
of high-quality translations of books in this part
of the world, and the number of titles published in
local languages is relatively small. Even the most
prominent Indonesian novelist, Pramoedya Ananta
Toer, once confessed to me, that while translating
Maxim Gorky’s “Mother” to Bahasa Indonesia
(“Ibunda”), he used the Dutch translation for his
work, as well as his ‘intuition’ while scrolling
through the original Russian text (he did not really
speak much Russian, as he admitted).
of great effort, the Western intellectual
indoctrination of Southeast Asia is now almost
partially being done through ‘education’, by
disbursing scholarships for students and offering
conditional funding for Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian
and other ‘scholars’ and professors.
Western propaganda is
also ‘successfully’ distributed through ‘culture’.
Western ‘cultural centers’, which are often
(bizarrely) the only places offering ‘high art’ in
most of the local cities, are clearly advancing
their European and North American imperialist agenda
(as I colorfully described in my latest novel “Aurora”).
here are almost fully subservient to foreign
business and political interests. Patriotism is only
a buzzword, with no substance behind it.
There is no
other part of the world so disconnected from the
ideological and physical opposition to Western
imperialism, as Southeast Asia.
consequences of total Western brainwashing are
devastating: the entire colossus of Southeast Asia
is unable to produce great thinkers, writers,
filmmakers, or scientists. There are only a few
small exceptions in Thailand (including an important
novelist Chart Korbjitti) and in Indonesia (the
political painter Djokopekik, a former political
prisoner during Suharto’s fascist regime, described
by my Australian friend, the artist George Burchett,
as ‘an explosive local fusion of Diego Rivera and
devastated or complex parts of the world are
literally regurgitating entire armies of tremendous
writers, filmmakers and intellectuals: from Nigeria
to Lebanon, from Iran to Mexico.
exception of Vietnam (and to some extent, Laos), the
West has literally uprooted all Communist and
socialist ways of thinking, as well as
internationalism. It was done brutally, though
orchestrating massacres and purges. Hundreds of
thousands of leftists, perhaps millions, were killed
in Indonesia alone, after the 1965 coup. 30% of the
population was murdered by Suharto’s military in
East Timor, after the left-wing FRETILIN movement
won independence from Portugal and consequently took
power in fair and clear elections. In Thailand,
Communists were burned alive in oil barrels. The
killing and disappearing of Communists took place in
Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.
countries, including Indonesia, th entire ‘Communist
ideology’ is still officially banned.
internationalism, anti-imperialism, Communism and
intellectualism were destroyed, Southeast Asia was
injected from abroad with conservative forms of
religion, with consumerism, ‘traditional family
values’ and grotesquely extreme individualism.
and already for years and decades, this part of the
world has become truly famous, even notorious, for
sex tourism, and for armies of ‘expats’ who are
searching for a cheap and easy lifestyle. In the
process they are managing to shape local ‘cultures’,
to de-intellectualize this part of the continent.
While Beijing and Tokyo are attracting, like
magnets, countless great foreign scholars, thinkers
and creative people, Southeast Asia is generally
besieged by, to put it mildly, a very different type
of foreigners. Why are they so comfortable here? It
is because of the ‘great respect’ they can enjoy in
Southeast Asia for just being white, no matter what
their age or life achievements. This respect comes
from the clear indoctrination of locals, from the
pronounced lie, repeated thousands of times (mostly
indirectly), that Western culture is superior, and
in fact the greatest in the world.
Europeans and North Americans even more comfortable
here: in Southeast Asia, almost all basic doctrines
disseminated by Western propaganda, as well as the
most primitive grain of capitalist and right wing
ideologies have been historically accepted,
tolerated, and even dutifully replicated.
For the local
academia, it is only the Western (or Japanese) stamp
of approval that matters. As a result Southeast Asia
forgot what patriotic and independent thought truly
Most of the
Southeast Asian newspapers have no ‘foreign
correspondents’ in faraway places. Almost all of
their international news reports come directly from
Western mainstream agencies such as Reuters, AFP and
AP. No loopholes through which at least some
alternative opposition information could enter and
influence the masses, seems to be available.
You ask on the
streets of Bangkok, Jakarta or even Kuala Lumpur
about ‘South-South’ co-operation, and you will be
greeted with blank stares. You would be suspected of
talking about some new mobile phone application, or
a chain of fast food restaurants. And what is BRICS,
bookstores are basically finished, commercial
cinemas are offering extremely carefully selected
(the emptier the better) Hollywood ‘blockbusters’
and local horror films.
forms, including traditional political theatre in
Indonesia (ketoprak) is lately ‘out of fashion’,
read: sidelined, made fully irrelevant, silenced.
film clubs, like the one in the River City in
Bangkok, has stickers of US and European cultural
institutions (“sponsors”) ‘decorating its entrance.
art seller, in one of the galleries near the River
City film club, just recently dared to exhibit a
painting depicting Obama, with two obnoxious
missiles hanging in between his legs. But was
apparently asked to remove provocative art work,
right before the official film screening which was
sponsored by the Turkish embassy and attended by
several Western diplomats. “Come with me into the
storage and I will show you,” he whispered to me, as
if he was peddling some illegal pornographic
material or narcotics.
most telling example of “how things are done”, I
encountered several years ago on the premises of the
Goethe Institute in Jakarta. Its curators decided to
exhibit some old photographs from the Polish
‘Solidarity’ days, when, during one protest in the
city of Gdansk, security forces fired at protesters.
was put together, barefacedly, in the capital city
of Indonesia, where ‘Communism’ is patently banned,
where millions were massacred during the
US-sponsored coup of 1965, and where the entire huge
archipelago has been irreversibly plundered and
devastated by multi-national and local mining and
logging cartels. The nightmarish, ultra-extreme
capitalism has been ruling and ruining Indonesia for
years and decades, but it was Gdansk that Germany
decided to show to the Indonesian public!
A handful of
people killed by the Communists, decades ago, in
Poland, was commemorated and shown to the Indonesian
public. Of course the German cultural institute
would never even dream about arranging an exhibition
commemorating the mass slaughter of Communists by
Indonesian pro-Western genocidal forces.
Asia knows nearly nothing about Russia, and almost
nothing about China (except what the Western
demagogues want it to know). Africa, including South
Africa, is located on another planet, and so is
Latin America. Only local elites can afford to
travel to far away places, and these people are
loyal to their Western masters and official
doctrines; they would never tell the truth, never
rock the boat of disinformation.
population knows generally more about North American
pop or European football, than about its neighboring
countries. The Southeast Asian poor are kept totally
ignorant about Latin American attempts to build
just, egalitarian societies. They know close to zero
about Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela or Ecuador.
there is absolutely no way one could discuss, in
Southeast Asia, the recent re-election of MPLA in
Angola (an event of tremendous global significance,
as Angola is one of the symbols of the Western
colonialist crimes against humanity, as well as of
neo-colonial plunder). There is no way of discussing
Cuba and its internationalism here, or even the
coalition of countries, which are now standing
proudly and determinedly against Western
And what about
the Middle East? It is fully limited to the
Palestinian issue, and even that is discussed only
in predominantly Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia.
Another Middle Eastern ‘link’ is the unnaturally
injected hatred for President Assad, who is accused
of being too ‘secular’ and too ‘socialist’ (of
course, these are great ‘crimes’ here, definitely
Asia, the West is clearly victorious. It has
successfully ‘neutralized’, ‘pacified’,
indoctrinated and intellectually enslaved this large
(and in the past diverse) part of the world.
situation will not last forever, and not even for
too long a time.
Philippines and Vietnam are rapidly coming back to
their senses, increasingly determined not to take
dictates from the West.
has suffered a major setback, after its
traditional-style ‘legal coup’ against Jakarta’s
progressive Governor ‘Ahok’, who was smeared and
then imprisoned on thoroughly irrational and bizarre
accusations that he ‘insulted Islam’ (charges so
bizarre that even local linguists came to his
defense, but the verdict was ‘political’ and had
nothing to do with justice). His true ‘sin’: Ahok
tried to implement at least some elements of
socialism in this still hopelessly fascist country.
He fell. Others may make a fresh attempt, soon.
meantime, both China and Russia are making great
inroads in the region. Local ‘creams’ are watching,
attentively. Most of Southeast Asian elites have
always been for sale, for centuries, of course with
the exception of those in North Vietnam.
anti-imperialist coalition is getting stronger and
wealthier, there could actually be some serious
changes of heart in foreseeable future, at the top
of several Southeast Asian countries. Even Communism
could be finally legalized again, but only if it
manages to disperse some funding, scholarships, and
If it would,
than those uniform debates at the FCCT in Bangkok
could finally become vibrant and diverse.
The West will,
of course, work very hard to prevent all this from
Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and
investigative journalist. He has covered wars and
conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his
latest books are revolutionary novel
and two bestselling works of political non-fiction:
Lies Of The Empire”
Against Western Imperialism”.
View his other books
Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen.
his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and
DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa
and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia
and the Middle East, and continues to work around
the world. He can be reached through his website
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