"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Uses of Propaganda

I haven't talked at all about President Salih's website, which, in English, is clearly aimed at a Western audience.  It is obviously propaganda, geared toward those who might be able to give money to the country.  This is fine, of course, and something that is needed, but due to vague dismissals regarding its nature and the constraints of time, I have pretty much ignored it.

But, really, it is important, even if sometimes silly.  Its unintentional messages are just as important- if not more so- than the predictable point of view it is trying to promote (I will not get into symbolic interpretations of the main picture, in which the President is seemingly giving medicine to a child, but looks as if he is performing a spontaneous, unnecessary and malicious tooth extraction).

The message today, regarding a talk that Salih gave at the Higher Military Academy, has the headline "I want to be a soldier to serve the nation".  This, of course, is psuedo-inspiring speech-making, with its echoes of sacrifice and willingness to lay down your own identity for the good of the country.    It is uncomfortable to hear coming from the head of an increasingly martial government, but I am willing to chalk it up to the audience.   However, I'll quote at some length the meat of the article.

He accused the opposition Joint Meeting Parties of erupting problems in Saada and some districts of the southern provinces, saying that these parties announced their solidarity with the separatists who block the roads, loot stores and kill innocent people in these districts.

Regarding agreement signed with the JMP in February of 2009, president Saleh considered the deal as a big mistake made by the General People Congress Party (GPC).

It was a big mistake by the GPC, he said, the party had to go ahead alone to hold parliamentary elections with participation of these parties or not.

I am not familiar with accusations of JMP meddling in the north, but am not surprised, either.  That isn't the meat of it, though- the heart of this is the language of total opposition, of lines being drawn clearly, brightly, and irrevocably.   The JMP*, the most important and inclusive of opposition groups, is more or less officially an enemy of the state.  None of this is surprising- it has been coming- but it is still distressing.  Reconciliation, or at least an uneasy peace, grows more distant and unimaginable by the day.

It also makes laughable his statement in the speech, where he "said that if any one want power, he could have it via door not window, adding the power is available for all by elections box."   Not that anyone would have believed it, but it is red meat for a blogger to see an outright lie be immediately contradicted in the same article.

*Originally said GPC, which the opposite of reality.  Thus are the wages of blogging.  Thanks to Anon for pointing that out. 


  1. The GPC, the General People's Congress? Important yes, inclusive? Opposition?? I think you wanted to write JMP, but I do not consider JMP the most important or inclusive opposition in Yemen (the sheer existence of the Southern Movement demonstrates this). It seems to me that, in this fragment, he is suggesting the GPC to revoke the February 2009 agreement with the JMP to postpone elections (that was reached due to his call for compromise), trying to distance himself from that agreement and putting the blame on the GPC. Weel, and yes JMP has been accused of forming an alliance with the Huthis's and in fact anybody...even that old guy near the bab al-Mandab that serves....

  2. Goodness, yes I meant the JMP. Ack. Thanks for pointing that out. This is why blogging can be dangerous.

    Interesting point about distancing himself from the GPC. It wouldn't be the first time the President has distanced himself from his government or party, when it suits him. It is a trick he plays very well.