Information Warfare: Silencing Dead Children

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July 25, 2008: China is throwing a lot of cash at the ugly media aftermath of the recent earthquakes, and they are getting away with it. Initially, the Chinese government made the best of a bad situation when they allowed the media to freely cover those earthquakes in Central China. Over 80,000 people died during the disaster, many because of shoddy new buildings, constructed with the connivance of corrupt local officials. The government, and especially the military, was quick to respond to the quakes. All this was played up in the media, giving the military a media boost they have not received in a long time. But this was also part of a media campaign to take the heat off local officials who were responsible for the shoddy construction of schools (whose frequent collapse killed over 10,000 kids). The government makes a big deal out of fighting corruption, but the extent, and cost, of the earthquake related corruption in Central China is a bit much and, according to the government, best played down.

The corruption stories lingered, largely because of the continued public, and online, complaints of the parents of the 10,000 school children killed when poorly constructed schools collapsed. Many other nearby, also newly built, structures, did not collapse. That was because these were not built by the government, and safety standards were observed. Government buildings are much more shoddy, because corrupt officials steal much of the money.

To deal with this problem, the government offered the parents of the dead children compensation, about $14,000 per child. But there was a catch. The parents who accepted the money had to sign a contract promising to, in effect, stop complaining about the corrupt practices that led to the building collapses. Communist Party officials were ordered to get parents to accept the money, and sign the contracts, using their usual strong-arm methods. It worked. And now parents who talk about "corruption" being a factor in the deaths will be subject to prosecution (for breach of contract). All of a sudden, it's become very difficult to find any parents who will talk, either to a camera or on the Internet. Problem solved, all at a cost of about $150 million. For a government under siege by a population increasingly enraged over official corruption, it was money well spent. And another example of how Information War can be fought, and won.

 


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