The First Atrocity
Freedom House’s Crimes against the Truth
December 23, 2005
“The U.S. major media and much of the minor media are not free and independent, as they claim. They are not the watchdog of democracy but the lapdog of the national security state. They help reverse the roles of victims and victimizers, warmongers and peacekeepers, reactionaries and reformers. The first atrocity, the first war crime committed in any war of aggression by the aggressors is against the truth.”
— Michael Parenti, political scientist, from his essay “The Media and their Atrocities”
I have quoted Michael Parenti many times before, and make no apology for quoting him yet again.
Am I afraid of sounding like a broken record?
Not at all. Parenti’s scathing observation is as relevant today as when he originally made it. It will remain relevant as long as interventionist-oriented media, thinktanks, and pundits in the US insist on reversing the roles of victims and victimizers, warmongers and peacekeepers, reactionaries and reformers.
Let’s examine one of Freedom House’s crimes against the truth. On December 21, 2005, a Taipei Times article entitled “Taiwan makes progress on liberties, GAINING GROUND,” reported that:
The US-based Freedom House gave the nation [sic] the highest mark on both political rights and civil liberties, while [mainland] China was again dubbed “not free.” Taiwan has made progress on rights and liberties in the past year, according to the latest report by the US-based organization Freedom House. Beginning in 1978, the Freedom House has released its annual Freedom in the World report in mid-December every year. Countries are ranked from one to seven in two categories — political rights and civil liberties — with one the top score. In this year’s report, Taiwan won the top score in both categories and was one of 88 countries listed as “free” out of 129 total nations. Fifty-eight countries were listed as “partially free” and 45 countries — including [mainland] China — were judged “not free.” “Freedom House has affirmed that Taiwan is a highly-developed democratic country [sic]. The glory belongs to all Taiwanese [sic] people,” Government Information Office Minister Pasuya Yao said yesterday. “It is also a recognition of the government’s hard work and efforts to protect and promote human rights, as well as advance democracy,” Yao said. Yao pointed out [mainland] China’s poor performance again in this year’s report. Yao said that the [mainland] Chinese government’s efforts and achievements on the economy were recognized and remarkable. However, Freedom House identified [mainland] China as “not a free country,” a clear sign that there is still much room for the [mainland] Chinese government to improve when it comes to democracy and human rights, he said. Freedom House said it will release another index sometime next spring. In that index, there will more specific categories, including “the process of elections,” “political diversity,” “freedom of religion,” “freedom of establishing companies,” and “justice.”
As usual, I have corrected the Taipei Times’ intentionally misleading references to Taiwan as a “nation,” and to mainland China as “China.” This devious practice on the part of Taiwan independence activists and Taiwan independence fellow travelers attempts to convey the impression that “Taiwan” is the name of a nation rather than a province, that “China” refers only to the mainland portion of China, and that Taiwan is not an integral part of China.
The Taipei Times, as readers of this column know full well, is the English language mouthpiece for the Taiwan independence movement. The Taipei Times is not so much a newspaper, as the quasi-official propaganda organ for the Taiwan independence movement.
The Taipei Times, however, is not the target of my criticism. The target of my criticism at the moment is the Orwellian-named Freedom House, a lapdog of the national security state in watchdog of democracy clothing. Freedom House is apparently determined to play the role of heartless, soulless, conscienceless mouthpiece for America’s global interventionist ruling elite. I have commented on this in the past, but Freedom House is a repeat offender, therefore my remarks bear repeating as well.
In fact, Freedom House is not merely a repeat offender, it is an escalating offender. Freedom House, despite being confronted with a mountain of evidence to the contrary, has become increasingly indifferent to the truth. Consider for example Freedom House’s annual “Freedom in the World” report, which classified Taiwan’s cronyist dictatorship as “Free” in the face of conclusive and damning evidence to the contrary, for at least two years in a row.
Freedom House divides freedom into two categories, PR for Political Rights, and CL for Civil Liberties. A rating of 1 represents the most free and a rating of 7 the least free. An up or down arrow ▲ ▼ next to each of the categories indicates a change in Political Rights or Civil Liberties since the previous survey, for better or worse. A star * next to the country or territory rated indicates a so-called “electoral democracy.”
In Freedom House’s just released annual report, Taiwan received a “Taiwan* / PR 1▲ / CL 1 / Free” rating. Taiwan received a star “*” next to its name, indicating an electoral democracy; a rating of “1▲” for Political Rights, indicating an improvement [sic!] in political rights since the last survey; and a rating of “1” for Civil Liberties, indicating no deterioration [sic!] in civil liberties since the last survey.
As Freedom House put it, “In addition to the countries that registered a status improvement in 2005, 19 countries showed gains in freedom that, while significant, did not produce a change in their overall freedom designation: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Israel, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Namibia, Romania, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Whether the other 18 countries or territories on Freedom House’s list in fact experienced gains in freedom is not my immediate concern. My immediate concern is Freedom House’s appallingly high rating for Taiwan. For Freedom House to give Chen Shui-bian’s cronyist dictatorship a “Taiwan* / PR 1▲ / CL 1 / Free” rating is a slap in the face of 23 million Republic of China citizens on Taiwan, not to mention an insult to their intelligence.
Republic of China citizens on Taiwan have endured six years of Chen Shui-bian regime misrule, right on the heels of 12 years of Lee Teng-hui regime misrule. They have made their own evaluation of Taiwan’s 18 year long Green Terror abundantly clear by the way they have responded to public opinion polls, by the way they have taken to the streets in protest, and perhaps most dramatically, by the way over one million of them have picked themselves up bodily and moved to mainland China, which Freedom House stubbornly persists in classifying as Unfree instead of Partly Free.
Chen Shui-bian’s approval ratings have fallen from a high of just under 80% immediately following his Y2K “New Centrist Path” Inaugural Speech, to 10% [ ! ] immediately following the island-wide 2005 Three in One County and Municipal Elections.
Contrast this with Freedom House’s patently absurd raised rating for Taiwan, as well as Freedom House’s lowered rating for Russia: “Russia / PR 6 / CL 5 / Not Free.”
As Freedom House put it: “In Russia — whose freedom status Freedom House lowered from Partly Free to Not Free one year ago — the Putin leadership’s anti-democratic tendencies appeared, if anything, more pronounced in 2005” and has “adopted policies that will make it more difficult for the development of a genuine civil society and will impede the development of a democratic political opposition.”
Assuming Russia in fact deserved to be downgraded from Partly Free to Unfree, why didn’t Taiwan deserve to be downgraded from Free to Partly Free? Especially when officials of Chen Shui-bian’s own party are openly demanding revocation of Chen’s party membership, and once his membership has been revoked, his impeachment. Especially when Chen Shui-bian’s own vice-presidential running mate, Annette Lu, has all but admitted that the Chen regime’s anti-democratic tendencies were if anything more pronounced in 2005, and has adopted policies that will make it more difficult for the preservation of a genuine civil society, and will impede the development of a democratic political opposition.
Why didn’t Freedom House lower Taiwan from Free to Partly Free? It wouldn’t be because Chen is only too willing to play the part of US pawn in the Western Pacific in opposition to mainland China’s peaceful renaissance, would it?
Why did Freedom House lower Russia from Partly Free to Not Free? It wouldn’t be because Putin has formed a strategic alliance with mainland China, France, and Germany, in open opposition to US Benevolent Global Hegemony, would it?
The Far Eastern Economic Review can hardly be dismissed as an apologist for Beijing. Yet even the Far Eastern Economic Review, in a post-mortem of the December 3, 2005 Three in One Elections entitled “A Referendum On President Chen,” correctly observed that:
The pangreen bloc had long portrayed itself as the main force behind democratization and claimed the KMT sought to return the country to authoritarian rule. In the past this tactic worked; Taiwan needed a viable opposition party to have competitive elections and thus a working democracy. After Mr. Chen’s victory in 2000, he claimed that Taiwan’s democracy had been consolidated and most found his words credible.
But gradually there was as much or more heard about “green terror” (meaning Mr. Chen’s authoritarian tendencies) as about “white terror” (past KMT oppression). Going into this election, the Chen administration’s searching of newspaper offices, confiscation of magazines, shutting down of unfriendly television stations, and banning of news representatives from [mainland] China were all on voters’ minds. Reflecting that this was more than just panblue rhetoric, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders declared there has been a marked decline in press freedom in Taiwan under Mr. Chen.
On … corruption, President Chen and the DPP were clearly no longer seen by the electorate as the “guys in white hats.” The DPP had long scored points with voters on KMT corruption and vote-buying. During the 2000 elections and since, it has spoken loudly and often of Taiwan being ruined by “black gold” (the connection between politicians and criminals creating “money politics”), and linked corruption, especially vote buying, to the KMT’s vast property and money holdings. Many voters were persuaded this was a blight on the country and voted pangreen.
Since 2000, however, the Chen administration has been linked frequently to money scandals and use of government money to its partisan advantage. This includes using publicly funded television to run programs that advance pangreen causes and laud President Chen. And the DPP has not been short of cash as it was in earlier elections.
The ugly reality of a 18-year long reign of Taiwan independence Green Terror is hardly classified information. Twenty-three million Republic of China citizens on Taiwan are aware of it. The anti-censorship watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders is aware of it. The Far Eastern Economic Review is aware of it.
Is Freedom House truly unware of it?
If Freedom House is genuinely unaware of Taiwan’s Green Terror, then Freedom House is so pathetically clueless it is unqualified to pass judgment on whether Taiwan is or is not free.
If, on the other hand, Freedom House is aware of Taiwan’s Green Terror, yet has chosen to withold this information from an uninformed public, then Freedom House is so morally bankrupt it has disqualified itself from passing judgment on whether any political entity is or is not free.
Freedom House’s homepage includes a long-winded, self-congratulatory mission statement:
Freedom House is an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, belief and respect for the rights of minorities and women are guaranteed. Freedom ultimately depends on the actions of committed and courageous men and women. We support nonviolent civic initatives in societies where freedom is denied or under threat and we stand in opposition to ideas and forces that challenge the right of all people to be free. Freedom House functions as a catalyst for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law through its analysis, advocacy, and action. Freedom House is a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world … Freedom House has been a vigorous proponent of democratic values and a steadfast opponent of dictatorships of the far left and the far right. Since its founding, Freedom House has vigorously opposed tyranny including dictatorships in Latin America, apartheid in South Africa, and Soviet Communism and domination of Eastern and Central Europe, and religiously-based totalitarian regimes including Sudan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Freedom House is a leading advocate of the world’s young democracies that are coping with the debilitating legacies of tyranny, dictatorship, and political repression. We conduct an array of advocacy, education, and training initiatives that promote human rights, democracy, free market economics, the rule of law, independent media, and US engagement in international affairs. Freedom House’s annual standard-setting publications draw attention to global trends in democracy and cast a public light upon dictatorships and abuse. Freedom in the World, Freedom of the Press, Nations in Transit, and Countries at the Crossroads are regularly used as references by international journalists, press freedom advocates, policy-makers, non-governmental organizations, the US government, and the global business community.
Freedom House’s mission statement is a hodge-podge of lies, half-truths, and unintentionally ironic truisms. Ultimately however, Freedom House’s mission statement is nothing more than hypocritical posturing.
Freedom House betrays its actual mission in a final, revealing remark:
Our diverse Board of Trustees is united in the view that American leadership in international affairs is essential to the cause of human rights and freedom.
Translation: Imperium Americanus uber alles. Or should I say, Amerikanisches Reich uber alles? The American Empire above all. Long live the World Policeman. Long live the Unipolar Moment. Anyone who obediently falls in line behind this Benevolent Global Hegemonist/Humanitarian Interventionist strategic premise will be duly anointed as “Free.” Anyone who insists on marching to a different drummer will be summarily branded as “Unfree.”
As Michael Parenti noted:
Media bias usually does not occur in random fashion; rather it moves in more or less consistent directions, favoring … U.S. dominance of the Third World … Some critics complain that the press is sensationalistic and invasive. In fact, it is more often muted and evasive … Sometimes the suppression includes not just vital details but the entire story itself, even ones of major import.
To wit: Chen Shui-bian’s patently phony March 19, 2004 Wag the Dog “assassination attempt” and brazenly undisguised March 20, 2004 election fraud.
Reports that might reflect poorly upon the national security state are least likely to see the light of day. Thus we hear about political repression perpetrated by officially designated “rogue” governments, but information about … U.S.-sponsored surrogate forces in the Third World and other crimes committed by the U.S. national security state are denied public airing, being suppressed with a consistency that would be called “totalitarian” were it to occur in some other countries.
To wit: the Bush II regime’s rubberstamping of Chen Shui-bian’s illegal and illegitimate second term that has inflicted an additional four years of pain and suffering upon the Chinese people on Taiwan.
Freedom House has not conducted itself as an independent NGO that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom House has not supported nonviolent civic initatives on Taiwan in the wake of the fraudulent 2004 Presidential Election, when freedom was denied and under threat. Freedom House has not stood in opposition to rightwing Taiwan independence fascism. Freedom House has not functioned as a catalyst for freedom and the rule of law on Taiwan, through either its analysis, advocacy, or actions. Freedom House has not been a voice for freedom on Taiwan. Freedom House has not been an opponent of Taiwan’s Pan Green dictatorship. Freedom House has not been an advocate of a beleaguered Republic of China, struggling to cope with the debilitating legacies of Japanese colonialism and US neocolonialism.
In short, Freedom House is not a watchdog of democracy, but a lapdog of the national security state. Freedom House helps reverse the roles of victims and victimizers, warmongers and peacekeepers, reactionaries and reformers. Freedom House’s first atrocity, its first crime, is against the truth.