Terrible Comment is Free articles, number 94

Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, might not be considered such a suitable candidate for the award were people to know what opinions he has really expressed in the past. So says an article on Comment Is Free today by Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong. Upon reading the opening paragraph I was intrigued. Then I read further.

If Liu’s politics were well-known, most people would not favour him for a prize, because he is a champion of war, not peace. He has endorsed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and he applauded the Vietnam and Korean wars retrospectively in a 2001 essay. All these conflicts have entailed massive violations of human rights.

Well, goodness. Take the award back immediately then. Supporting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban clearly makes him a “champion of war”. Case closed. He is obviously a wretched neo-con hellbent on waging war at every opportunity.

This is a typical act of reasoning on the part of many who did not support (or actively opposed) the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan. The conclusion is drawn that nobody who argued the case for either could possibly be driven by anything other than a bloodthirsty desire to inflict destruction. Never mind the moral case for either war, never mind the many and varied arguments. No. There is no grey area here: only those who opposed have any moral authority. Xiaobo is therefore disqualified for contention for the Nobel Peace Prize on this basis and this basis alone. How dare he dissent from the ‘anti-war’ orthodoxy.

Alternatively, maybe his support for these conflicts is based on a desire to reduce the amount of totalitarian or theocratic fascist states on the planet. Strikes me as being a good stance to take as opposed to the lame acquiescence to vile regimes espoused by many in the ‘anti-war’ movement.

Further on it says:

Liu has also one-sidedly praised Israel’s stance in the Middle East conflict. He places the blame for the Israel/Palestine conflict on Palestinians, who he regards as “often the provocateurs”.

Liu has also advocated the total westernisation of China. In a 1988 interview he stated that “to choose westernisation is to choose to be human”. He also faulted a television documentary, He Shang, or River Elegy, for not thoroughly criticising Chinese culture and not advocating westernisation enthusiastically enough: “If I were to make this I would show just how wimpy, spineless and fucked-up [weisuo, ruanruo, caodan] the Chinese really are”.

Good grief. So as well as not considering any military action by the US and the west to be doing the work of Satan he also sides with Israel. Call the thought police! How dare he suggest that Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, isn’t the de facto aggressor in every instance of any confrontation with the enemies on its borders. Enemies that refuse to even acknowledge its right to exist, enemies that have stated their intention to wipe them off the map given the opportunity. Not satisfied with that, he also argues that China – a repressive gerontocracy that forbids freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and most freedoms you could think of – would benefit from being ‘westernised’.

Of course China would benefit from being ‘westernised’. If, by ‘westernised’, you mean to accept the fundamental notions of individual liberty, to cease censorship, to operate as a liberal democracy. I would say that would be pretty beneficial to the people that lived there actually. One of those people, of course, is Liu Xiaobo himself, who is currently serving a 25 year prison sentence for being a co-author of Charter 08, a call for China to grant its citizens fundamental freedoms.

Xiaobo is clearly a perfectly legitimate recipient of such an award. The Cuddly Chinese Communist Party went to great lengths to dissuade the committee from awarding it to him. When he did win, of course, any mention of it was vigorously censored within its borders. A routine action in all non-westernised states.

Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong have authored one of the most wretched articles I have ever read on Comment is Free. As anyone familiar with the site will attest: this is up against some extraordinarily stiff competition.

Centrist. Atlanticist. Dry liberal. Anti-totalitarian. Post-ideological pragmatist. Child of The Enlightenment. Toucan.

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