When the News becomes Propaganda

June 5, 2010

As a teen in China, my wife saw news film showing American solders using spoons to dig eyeballs out of Vietnamese children—blinding them. This is one example of how easy it is to use lies to demonize an enemy.

During the 19th century, to justify the Opium Wars and the brutal suppression of the Boxer Rebellion, the Western media demonized China and the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi. Then, about a century later in “Dragon Lady”, Sterling Seagrave revealed that radicals and reformers who were in exile at the time spread lies saying the empress was an evil hag, and the Western media gobbled those lies up as if they were sweet chocolate.

In fact, a Western journalist, Dr. George Ernest Morrison was responsible for many of the slanders and half-truths about China that persist to this day.

In the June Smithsonian, one of those half- truths surfaced in 110 Years Ago, Sobby Boxers. The piece said the empress ordered the peasant’s known as the “Righteous and Harmonious Fists”, called Boxers by the Western Media, to kill all foreigners.

What it didn’t say was that the empress also told her military to make sure no foreigners died and water and food was carried to the legations through tunnels while the “Boxers” thought the empress was on their side.

The politics were complex. The Empress had nothing to do with the uprising. It was a popular peasant uprising against Christianity and the foreign powers. If she hadn’t supported the “Boxers”, the peasants might have turned on her.

Also see Media Slugfest Using Taiwan


Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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