Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Comic Book Coup

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article about the role of Internet sites created by Burmese exiles in informing expatriates about life in the country after the national disaster. "Websites provide crucial links in Myanmar cyclone crisis" focuses on sites such as Burma Today and The Irrawaddy, which specialize in news feeds and magazine-style editorial content respectively.

I thought that it might be interesting to visit the official government website of the State Peace and Development Council of the Union of Myanmar, the ruling body of the repressive coup that has stifled political dissidence since 1997. My trip to was somewhat confusing, since it first appeared to be largely a pro-government site with tourist information about life in "The Golden Land," along with horoscopes and movie listings. Information about the effects of the recent disastrous weather in the country was nowhere to be found. Drilling down a little into the site, there were photographs of sham deliberation at the National Convention page, but a "photo gallery" was also full of graphic and unnuanced messages, presumably intended to cross barriers of language and literacy, about what was acceptable and unacceptable conduct according to the military rulers of the country. Photographs of dissident monks, unacceptable news sources, and marches with outlawed political groups were clearly indicated as forbidden with a red "X." The site also included satirical images of President Bush and images of violence and human rights abuses associated with the war in Iraq.

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