Don't believe the hype

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Evening Post & Mail
On dirty-minded copy editors, effigies of British prime ministers, and the obvious rule that propagandists are too obtuse to recognize

The timeless advice in the world of communications is to put the person with the dirtiest mind in line to be the final editor before any item is released to the public. Where an institutional reputation needs to be protected, the person with the best chance of catching double entendres and unintentional malapropisms is the person most likely to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them.
■ Someone may need to establish a corollary rule for propagandists: One which says that the final editors should be the ones least committed to the cause. Some of the people who are the most inclined to believe the nonsense of totalitarian machines appear to be the people in charge of propagandizing on their behalf.
■ Take the case of Chinese Communist propagandist Hu Xijin, who thinks that it’s somehow a hilarious takedown of Western institutions to point out that Liz Truss lasted only 45 days as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom before being replaced by her own party, and has subsequently been roasted in effigy to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night.
■ If people like Hu weren’t so deeply gullible about their own worldview, they would understand that there’s nothing at all insulting in saying that the people of Western liberal democracies feel free to jettison leaders who no longer suit their needs or who show themselves to be incapable of the task at hand. That’s not a flaw; it’s a central feature of the design.
■ Any institution worth its salt needs to be equipped to replace low performers with high performers. It is a characteristic shortcoming of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes that they don’t have an equivalent process for removing leaders who fail to respond to public expectations. It takes a certain kind of dope to believe that democratic processes are anything less than a good thing for serving the public.
■ As the columnist Matthew Brooker notes, “Try getting rid of Xi Jinping. Or burning an effigy of him.” He can’t be mocked or lampooned, much less removed by democratic initiative. He has stacked the deck to make himself impervious to criticism.
■ Along the way, Xi will be propped up by obtuse half-wits who don’t know enough to recognize that a little turnover in high office is usually a good thing. While no one of goodwill ought to be trying to help those particular dopes, it is perhaps amusing to realize that what they need most are editors who don’t really believe their own hype.
■ Ultimately, authoritarian systems collapse under their own weight. Unaccountability creates bad feedback loops, and an institutional resistance to contrarian thoughts only guarantees that high-quality information never reaches the right decision-makers in time. The sad part is that there is always so much human suffering in the meantime, while inertia keeps bad regimes afloat.
■ There is incalculable sclerosis of thought within Communist circles. They are interested only in raw power, and that deeply crass view of the world ought to be rewarded with nothing but firings all around. Unfortunately, that won’t be forthcoming in the near term under China’s Communist power structure. And when it ultimately does, lots of innocent people will suffer even more than they have already.
We institutionalize rejection
We institutionalize rejection
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Brian Gongol
Brian Gongol @briangongol

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