Joseph Kahn, Abre Los Ojos!
October 5, 2005
“Forget everything you know, and open your eyes.”
— Tagline from “Vanilla Sky” (2001, directed by Cameron Crowe, written by Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gil)
According to a September 23, 2005 New York Times op ed piece entitled “China Lectured by Taiwan Ally”:
China’s [i.e., mainland China’s] leaders may have felt they had no better friend in Taiwan than Li Ao, a defiant and outspoken politician and author who says that Taiwan should unify with Communist [sic] China. But when [mainland] China invited Mr. Li to tour the mainland this week, the Communist Party got a taste of its rival’s pungent democracy. During an address at Beijing University on Wednesday evening, broadcast live on a cable television network, Mr. Li chided [mainland] China’s leaders for suppressing free speech … Mr. Li … has an outsize reputation among intellectuals in [mainland] China for his … fervent belief that Taiwanese [Chinese people on Taiwan] should be proud to be part of greater China. When Taiwan became a democracy, he attacked those who supported separatism. He ran for president in 2000 on a platform of unification with [mainland] China, supporting its government’s vision of “one country, two systems.” But when he arrived in [mainland] China, he surprised his hosts with caustic comments aimed not at Taiwanese separatism but at mainland authoritarianism … and suggested that the “poker-faced” bureaucrats of the Communist Party did not have enough faith in their legitimacy to allow normal intellectual discussion.
Does Joseph Kahn really believe Li Ao “surprised his hosts?” Does he really believe mainland leaders had no idea what Li Ao was likely to say? To answer this question, let’s read what Kahn himself wrote:
Mr. Li, 70, is … the host of a popular talk show on the mainland-backed Phoenix TV of Hong Kong, which helped arrange his trip to China. Mr. Li … has an outsize reputation among intellectuals in [mainland] China for his prolific writings – he has written nearly 100 books.
Think about what that means.
Li Ao’s widely watched talk show is known as “Li Ao Yu Hua Shuo” or “Li Ao has Something to Say.” And as anyone who knows Li Ao knows, when Li Ao has something to say, he says it.
Li Ao has Something to Say
Li Ao’s political views are no secret. Television viewers on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have been tuning into Li Ao’s caustic commentaries for years. Chinese readers on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have pored over Li Ao’s books from cover to cover. Li Ao’s political views are as well known on Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China as Rush Limbaugh’s or Michael Moore’s political views are in the United States.
Would Kahn snigger at the Democratic Party if it invited Rush Limbaugh to speak before assembled Democrats, and Limbaugh criticized liberals and liberalism? Would Kahn claim that Rush Limbaugh “surprised his hosts?”
Would Kahn snigger at the Republican Party if it invited Michael Moore to speak before assembled Republicans, and Moore criticized conservatives and conservatism? Would Kahn claim that Michael Moore “surprised his hosts?”
Or would Kahn correctly conclude that both the Democratic and Republican parties deserved enormous credit for providing bully pulpits to their harshest critics?
The mainland Chinese government has long known what Li Ao’s views are on every topic under the sun. The mainland Chinese government has long known that Li Ao is an “enfant terrible.” The mainland Chinese government was not the least bit surprised by Li Ao’s egomaniacal boasting before admiring students on campus. The mainland Chinese government approved his visit to Beida, Qinhua, and Fudan knowing full well what this intellectual “bull in a china shop” was likely to say and do.
That mainland Chinese government leaders would permit Li Ao to visit the mainland anyway, knowing full well he would probably criticize and even insult them means only one thing: an increasingly confident, increasingly tolerant mainland Chinese leadership is not nearly as afraid of intellectual dissent as Kahn would have the world believe.
Does Joseph Kahn really believe Li Ao “surprised his hosts?” Or is Kahn simply determined to deny the mainland Chinese government one iota of credit for increased tolerance?
Like David Aames, the spoiled, self-indulgent, dissolute heir to a publishing empire in the nightmarish science fiction film “Vanilla Sky,” Joseph Kahn and his fellow Neoconservatives inhabit a subjective idealist mental universe of their own making.
In David Aames’ virtual reality, the horribly disfigured Aames imagines that he is still a handsome playboy irresistible to beautiful young women.
In Joseph Kahn’s virtual reality, Kahn and his fellow Neoimperialists (their own term) imagine that they are handsome Supermen — defenders of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, when in fact they are horribly disfigured Orcs, “half-men,” monsters who lost whatever humanity they might have possessed long ago.
Like David Aames in “Vanilla Sky,” Joseph Kahn and his fellow China Threat theorists are increasingly confronted by jarring inconsistencies in their narcissistic dream world. Even staunch “Anglosphere” allies such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are finding it increasingly difficult to continue rationalizing away Imperium Americanus’ paranoid Sinophobia.
Unlike David Aames in “Vanilla Sky” however, Kahn and his fellow Benevolent Global Hegemonists refuse to examine the disturbing inconsistencies with reality that continue to pop up. Instead they fall back on the residual “soft power” of the US major media to persuade themselves and others that their delusions of grandeur are the way the world actually is.
Joseph Kahn and your fellow Neocons, abre los ojos! Time to open your eyes.
The only people you’re fooling are yourselves.