Last week, while Burma’s military junta was busy at home beating and murdering peaceful democratic protesters, Burma’s foreign minister, U Nyan Win, a mouthpiece for the junta, took his country’s allotted turn in the lineup of speakers on the grand stage at the UN General Assembly opening in New York. He used his time in the UN spotlight to declare that “Normalcy has now returned to Myanmar.”
Revolted by this, I wrote a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, noting that it does harm when the UN offers its main stage to such spokesmen for despotic governments. My comment was that while most Americans may regard the pronouncements of assorted tyrannies at the UN as merely so much irrelevant theater, these speeches made at the annual assembly in New York tend to get beamed back into the home countries and regions as evidence that despotic regimes such as Burma’s junta enjoy importance and respect on the world stage. That undermines democratic dissent, and undercuts any messages of support for democratization that America might be trying send.
So imagine the surprise to discover that one of the radio services busy beaming U Nyan Win’s Orwellian message of “normalcy” back into Burma was none other than our very own Voice of America. In a report dated Oct. 2, devoted almost entirely to parroting the bizarre pronouncements on the UN stage of Burma’s foreign minister, VOA simply fed back to its audience his perverse statements blaming Burma’s protests on “political opportunists” — along with his claims that foreign support for the protesters was “the ugly head of neo-colonialism,” and that Burma’s security personnel “exercised utmost restraint” until finally “they had to take action” to restore “normalcy.”
The VOA story goes on in this vein for six paragraphs, before making any specific mention of the junta’s murder of protesters — and then only by way of noting that Burma’s foreign minister “made no mention of the deaths or injuries caused by the security forces during the crackdown.” And only in the final paragraph is there a fleeting mention of actions taken by the U.S. administration to try to penalize members of Burma’s military government by way of economic sanctions.
It’s hard to see how Burma’s military rulers could get more p.r. mileage out of a news story if they’d paid for it themselves. Of course, this being VOA, it’s American taxpayers who paid for it. In theory, Americans bankroll VOA so this public news service can report and explain U.S. policy to listeners abroad. In practice, here we have VOA repeating and amplifying — for consumption abroad — the gross distortions of reality with which Burma’s government is now trying to justify its record of abusing and beggaring its own people, and arresting, beating and murdering Burmese who peacefully protest.
Iran’s repressive, terrorist-sponsoring regime got similarly deferential treatment from VOA in a report filed Oct. 3, about a press conference held at the UN by Iran’s foreign minister. It leads, uncritically, with this gem:
“Tehran’s top diplomat says his country is cooperating with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and wants a peaceful solution to the crisis. VOA’s Margaret Besheer has more from U.N. headquarters.”
Maybe it’s time to stop calling VOA the Voice of America, and start calling it the Voice of Anti-Americanism. And stop dunning American taxpayers to fund these outrages, which have been going on for years. If VOA wants to keep broadcasting stories like this, it’s way past time to yank U.S. taxpayer support, shut down the service, and if the Burmese military junta and the Iranian mullocracy want more of the same, let them pay for it themselves.