If it doesn’t fit the agenda …

. The BBC’s Burma coverage since the cyclone always speaks of ‘generals’ or ‘the military’ when discussing the regime. After more than a week with no clue to the ideology of the regime in any of the reports I caught, I had to go to reference works and Wikipedia to discover that (quoting the latter):

Democratic rule ended in 1962 when General Ne Win led a military coup d’état. He ruled for nearly 26 years and pursued policies under the rubric of the Burmese Way to Socialism. Between 1962 and 1974, Burma was ruled by a Revolutionary Council headed by the general, and almost all aspects of society (business, media, production) were nationalized or brought under government control (including the Boy Scouts) …. Between 1974 and 1988, Burma was effectively ruled by General Ne Win through the Burma Socialist Programme Party

(For the whole wikipedia entry on the involved history of military rule in the country, go here.)

This socialist origin and orientation of military rule in Burma seems to have been airbrushed out of routine BBC coverage. The mention of ‘generals’ and ‘military’ with no hint of their ideology has an obvious tendency to suggest a right-wing regime rather than the left-wing regime it more appears to be. Is this actual deceptive intent, unconscious prejudice, mere carelessness, mere brevity of reporting, mere ignorance, …? Take your pick.

[Added a few hours later] To be fair, I can believe the Burmese junta does not shout about ‘socialism’ as loudly now as in the days before the collapse of the Soviet Union (when it was more fashionable), and with frequent coups of one general against another it may be hard to say just what their current ideology is – beyond holding onto power, of course. I conjecture a situation similar to China: an unrepudiated socialist past but with little ideological rigour today. My reason for posting is that I found myself wondering whether, if the regime had a similarly-explicit right-wing origin, I would have found it equally easy not to hear of it during a week of coverage.

[highlighting of text in wikipedia quote added by me]

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88 Responses to If it doesn’t fit the agenda …

  1. Alex says:

    You know, when I read your wikipedia extract, I wondered why your brief history of Burma only went up to 1988. Last time something interesting happened perhaps? So I looked for myself and found a change of government:
    Security forces killed hundreds of demonstrators, and General Saw Maung staged a coup d’état and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). In 1989, SLORC declared martial law after widespread protests.

    And then, shockingly enough, if you look up the State Law and Order Restoration Council, you get:
    The SLORC also stated that the services of the Deputy Ministers in the previous Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) government which it replaced were also terminated.

    But as you say, “If it doesn’t fit the agenda, say nothing”.


  2. Ed says:

    Looking through the Wikidata it seems likely that it’s still a socialist state- the coup was only because the old regime had gone a bit soft, apparently.


  3. Alex says:

    Possibly, though Wikipedia doesn’t seem to have much on current policies. It is funny how NiallKilmartin missed out such an important event though.


  4. mister scruff says:

    if the regime was right-wing (in the mould of say Pinochet) , you can be darn sure that the BBC would call them a “RIGHT WING junta”, or a “right wing regime”.


  5. Anon says:

    Since then SLORC has abolished itself and been replaced by another body. Burma/Myanmar has a coup every four or five years. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The leaders come from the same pool of generals every time.


  6. korova says:

    Perhaps, as you all seem so concerned with the situation in Burma, you might be willing to join those on the left who have been calling on businesses that operate in the US/UK to cease trading with the military junta. Perhaps Biased BBC is going to start leading attacks on Total?? How many articles are on the BBC in relation to the amount of business the UK does with Burma, particularly the teak industry??? It’s about time the BBC exposed the corporations that are propping up the Burmese regime, the corporations that are giving the Burmese military junta the means to suppress the people.

    The BBC – Protecting the Capitalists.


  7. korova says:

    And Wikipedia as a reference tool???? Hilarious. Did you actually read any further in the piece or did you just extract the bit you liked?? You might be interested in this:

    In November 1977 a ‘purge’ of the BSPP including those on the Central Committee took place. Among the thousands that were purged from the party were ‘leftists’ or ‘communist sympathizers’.


    This is the Ronseal of websites. Don’t look beyond what it says on the tin, eh chaps??


  8. Anon says:

    There is nothing new about leftists purging other leftists. That was what Stalin did in the 1920s.


  9. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps, as you all seem so concerned with the situation in Burma, you might be willing to join those on the left who have been calling on businesses that operate in the US/UK to cease trading with the military junta.

    Perhaps you’ll try and get your Red friends in China to join the US and impose sanctions on the Burmese regime?


  10. LogicalUS says:

    korova you unknowing twit…one of the first things every socialistscommunist utopia has scheduled is the purge of trouble-makers, ie the leftists.

    Being a committed leftist, one would think you would know this? But I supposed like most dupes, you think that will be for the “others” since you will be one of the favored.

    I am sure the millions Stalin sent to Siberian, or the teachers Mao turned the students against, or the hundreds Che shot believed the same. Most of the bones in the “killing fields” of SE Asia were university professors and other “intellectuals”.

    Yet still today, millions of moronic youths parade around fantazing about the glorious “revolution” to come.


  11. Peter says:

    Perhaps Korova would like to put her money where her mouth is and form an International Brigade to go to Burma.They are all so limp the young leftists nowadays


  12. MisterMinit says:

    Let me get this straight: the BBC are, because they don’t want to sully the reputation of socialism because of their love for it, purposely not referring to the Burmese regime as “socialist”, “left wing” etc.

    And further more, the fact that the BBC are doing this is further proof that they have a socialist/left wing agenda.

    Well, could you show me ANY UK news outlet that is describing the Burmese regime as “socialist” or “left wing” – I have not been able to find a single reference. Below is a “representative” sample, none of which containg references to either of these terms:


    If we carry your argument to its logical conclusion, then the ENTIRE UK MEDIA loves socialism and is purposely keeping Burma’s socialist past under the covers.

    Is this what you are seriously suggesting?

    Or is it B-BBC and half a story again.


  13. Anon says:

    That’s the MSM for you. Although to be fair Saturday’s Independent mentioned the socialist history of the Burmese regime.
    “Absence of Burma’s notorious strongman provokes speculation of a power struggle”


  14. Alex says:

    Alright, give the guy a break, he admits he had no clue about the ideology of the regime when he started out, so let’s let the guy off. Honest mistake.


  15. korova says:

    MisterMinit – half a story?? This bunch of plebs are lucky if they even manage that.


  16. An Observer says:

    You gotta love this – not.

    There’s a blog.


    It allows freedom to post for and against arguments.

    Fair enough.

    But it goes way way too far.

    It allows trolls to takeover its thread and post against the site as a whole and its posters rather than on issue.

    Lunatics have taken over the assylum.

    Count me out, I have the wire cutters, rope and security pass, I’m out of here…


  17. Ed says:

    Observer – it’s not so difficult as that to leave. Just you know, whatever. If you believe in the cause you don’t bail when it turns ugly- ugly as Korova for instance is.

    BBC bias is a contentious issue, tied up with its special funding and domination of the marketplace.

    Personally I laugh at most of the anti-BiasedBBC posters. Sorry but I do. I do however think that personal abuse is totally unhelpful and therefore Korova is close to a ban I would say.

    I am convinced that in a court of law of reasonable standard the BBC would be convicted of bias- it’s harder to prove the point in the raucous blogosphere.


  18. Jack Bauer says:

    Western leftists never met a commie dictactor they didn’t love.

    After all “you can’t make an omlet without murdering 50 million or so” Mao (attributed)


  19. korova says:

    From the Encyclopaedia Brittanica:

    “A series of economic reforms were proposed in 1987•88 that would reverse the socialist policies enacted in the early 1960s. Chief among these were the further encouragement of foreign investment and a considerable liberalization of foreign trade.”

    It would appear the military junta turned it’s back on socialism in favour of capitalism.


  20. Jack Bauer says:

    It would appear you are an ignorant leftist troll.

    You’ll be trying to tell us China is “capitalist” next.


  21. korova says:

    Er…..it is certainly heading that way. You do know what Tianamen Square was about don’t you Jack Bauer???


  22. Ed says:

    Yeah Korova- noticed that. Before the coup I would say; as in, the coup took place against such liberalisation, not pro it.


  23. Jack Bauer says:

    korova — yeah Tinamen Square. That was when the Communist Party of China crushed a nascent democratic movement. So effing what?

    Let me guess — communism hasn’t really failed. It’s just never been done properly.

    You may fool braindeads with your foolish reactionary socialist claptrap, but try another violin here pal.


  24. korova says:

    Tiananman Square was actually a protest against the adoption of Friedmanite policies by the Chinese government. Don’t take my word for it, one of the organisers of the demonstration, Wang Hui, has written about the rising discontent with Deng’s revolutionary Friedmanite economic changes (China’s New Order). Friedman advised Jiang Zemin to privatise and liberalise the market and the Chinese government duly obliged. That is what prompted protestors to take to the streets. At least according to one of the organisers of the demonstration.


  25. korova says:

    That China is now a capitalist country is widely accepted:


    Even the standard bearer for capitalism, The Wall Street Journal, has chronicled what they call ‘China’s rush to capitalism’:



  26. korova says:

    And here:


    Perhaps, Jack Bauer, you are the foolish one.


  27. Peter says:

    “This bunch of plebs are lucky if they even manage that.”

    There we have it,the authentic voice of the left.


  28. aviv says:

    “Friedmanite”? I always thought it was just called “liberalism”, but I guess Friedmanite sounds much more highbrow and conspirtatorial, even if wholly inaccurate when describing an economic system dominated by State Owned Enterprises where the free-float is in single digit percentages. Not sure Milton (PBUH) would consider that “Friedmanite”…

    As for the protesters, I seem to recall at the time that they were pretty explicitly demanding more democracy and freedom….that’s probably far too simplistic and “unnuanced” a view to appeal to the towering intellects of the left though.


  29. korova says:

    “Not sure Milton (PBUH) would consider that “Friedmanite”…”

    Well, it was Milton who advised the Chinese to do open up their economy, so I guess it was Friedmanite.


  30. Simon says:

    Fucking hell! We need Atlas Shrugged to comment on this one; he’s the only commenter who makes sense on this board!

    NiallKilmartin – you make an interesting point but you have made the classic mistake of quoting Wikipedia. I have noticed that anybody who disagrees with the general consensus of opinion on this board is universally flamed for quoting wikipedia without alternative sources. Could I ask you to quote an alternative source?


  31. Simon says:

    … oh and Korova – I don’t always agree with the general consensus of opinion on this site but you seem to be insinuating that the Tianamen Square protest was a result of China’s drift to capitalism (as you see it) and therefore we should assume that CAPITALISM is responisible for this massacre?!!?!!? Are you REALLY saying that?


  32. korova says:

    Simon – No that is not what I am saying. I never said it was responsible. The leaders were responsible. However, the move towards free markets was one of the catalysts for the demonstrations.


  33. Jack Bauer says:

    kafka the k…

    You get more detached from reality with every post. And I thought that was impossible.

    Unlike you I don’t read crap-hole Marxist shites like “commondreams”

    And I certainly ain’t wasting my time chasing your Talking Point links to stalinist scumbags like Cockburn and Tariq Ali. What are you, like 17 years old?

    Go stick your lefty links where the sun don’t shine.


  34. Anonymous says:

    Korovaian world view: Burma not proper lefties despite being socialists as they once clamped down on communists; PR China not proper lefties despite being fully made up Communists like it sez on the tin with a politburo and a general secretary calling each other comrade and all that crap.

    Presumably Hu Jintao is not dishing out enough Five Year Plans, Cultural Revolutions or Great Leap Forwards for the likes of Korova?

    It must be a vicious body blow to see that countries chasing prosperity need to leave behind all that commie-crap behind?


  35. korova says:

    Go stick your lefty links where the sun don’t shine.

    Wow, that’s the first time I have seen someone of the right claim that the Wall Street Journal is a ‘lefty’ publication. This site truly is populated by some odd people.

    Anon – not really a body blow no. I’m pleased they have abandoned communism, just a shame they took a wrong turn. I have no idea why you would think that I would sympathise with communists. My ideological forebears were as opposed to communism as you appear to be.


  36. Mugwump says:

    On a slightly different point, listening to the BBC’s reporting of the cyclone disaster recently, I was struck by the way in which criticism of the junta’s response (or lack thereof) was deflected away from Burma’s military rulers and toward…..guess who? The main question posed during the hour I tuned in was: Will the generals be forced by their understandable anger toward the US into rejecting American assistance, and will other donors wind up being tarred with the same brush by a regime fearing the Americans are taking advantage of the crisis to launch an Iraq-style invasion? The hosts were careful to label such fears as exaggerated, but not before establishing that Western (and especially American) motives are still somehow suspect.

    Of course, had the US not responded in a massive way to the disaster, we would be hearing non-stop criticism from the usual sources over the Bush Administration’s appalling callousness and indifference in the face of human suffering.

    Another instance where the US and its allies are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.


  37. korova says:

    Mugwump – clearly you have been watching the wrong channel. I have seen nothing but condemnation of the military junta on the BBC, and certainly no attempts to justify it’s actions.


  38. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Sigh … yes, but they hide the fact that it’s a SOCIALIST one.


  39. korova says:

    Socialist one??? Even the original poster has claimed that it is hard to say what their ideology is. I wonder what conclusive evidence you have….


  40. Mugwump says:

    Mugwump – clearly you have been watching the wrong channel. I have seen nothing but condemnation of the military junta on the BBC, and certainly no attempts to justify it’s actions.

    I’m not sure your comment requires a response since you didn’t address the criticism I was making. Nevertheless, duly noted.


  41. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Err … I don’t kowtow the party line of ‘original posters’, korova: I leave that kind of behaviour to you.

    When everything and the kitchen sink is nationalised, I call that ‘socialist’. I do understand why you are desperate to deny this, however.


  42. Peter says:

    “My ideological forebears were as opposed to communism as you appear to be.”

    Perhaps ideological Three Bears would be more appropriate.


  43. Nearly Oxfordian says:



  44. korova says:

    Peter – Good one 🙂


  45. korova says:

    Nearly Oxfordian – my dear, they are totalitarians. Their ideology is not clear to observers. I would take the sensible option of declaring that they are neither creatures of the right or the left, they are merely despicable creatures that deserve contempt. If you are as concerned with the Burmese as I have been, I can pass on some addresses of various corporations who do business in Burma and thus provide the funds the junta needs to survive. Campaigners who care about the people in Burma are always welcome. Drop me a line and I’ll send you a few addresses to start you off. Come on, you can make a difference 🙂


  46. Peter says:

    Not enough Korova,roll your sleeves up,go there.There is nothing worse than a proxy revolutionary.
    “To the barricades men.I only wish I could come with you,but I’m washing my sword that day”.


  47. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    korova, you patronising little twit, you can call me ‘my dear’ when I have given you permission to do so.


  48. Bryan says:

    Korova and others can sneer and get as sarcastc as they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that the BBC has a different attitude to dictatorships of the left as opposed to those of the right.

    Take Cuba. A year or two back the World Service had a report by a misty-eyed armchair revolutionary who had positioned himself overlooking the Bay of Pigs and was reminiscing (no doubt with the wind ruffling his hair) about the evil CIA-backed invasion and the brave little nation that fought it off and ever since then has thumbed its nose at mighty America.

    And the BBC recently had an equally misty-eyed celebration of Guevara, which was discussed on this blog. How many BBC hacks have his faded T-shirts in their cupboards? That would be an interesting subject for research.

    So it’s no stretch at all to conclude that the BBC is deliberately tiptoeing around a depiction of the Burmese government as lefty.


  49. Anonymous says:

    Note that the US tried to have Myanmar’s human rights record placed onto the UN Security Council’s agenda, but the motion was later vetoed by China and Russia.

    I’m sure Korova will be bigging up the US and especially Dubya for consistently condemning the atrocious record of Burma’s leadership in contrast to some other places.


  50. aviv says:

    Bryan, Korova etc.

    I think there is a definitional issue here.

    I (and I suspect most posters on this site) would define right wing as being broadly in line with classical liberalism: i.e. a system in which individual rights (property e.g.) , freedoms (speech and belief e.g.)and responsibilities (through civic society e.g.) are prioritised and where the state plays as small a role as possible.

    Left wing, by contrast, pertains to a system in which the state assumes a much greater role in these arenas, ranging from the mild socialsism practiced by countries like Sweden and Canada through to the outright totalitariansim of Nazi Germany, the USSR and yes, Burma.

    There are no “right wing” totalitarian regimes. It is a self-contradictory term invented by the left in order to unload some of the blame for the pain, suffering and inhumanity caused by the well-meaning and not so well-meaning idiots who throughout history have attempted to force human nature to conform to an ideology that is fundamentally at odds wuith human nature.