WTF: 30 May 2008 – Stone, McClellan and the Greens

Gordon Campbell on Sharon Stone, Scott McClellan and the Greens annual conference

1. In the wake of Sharon Stone’s comments at the Cannes Film Festival about Tibet and the Dalai Lama, China’s official state news agency has branded her “the public enemy of all mankind” – an even harsher review than those she got for Basic Instinct 2. The ire of the Chinese has been stirred by Stone saying she wasn’t happy about the way the Chinese have been treating the Tibetan people, and especially by them “ not being nice” to her personal friend, the Dalai Lama.

Good on her. All might have been ended there if Stone hadn’t added : “And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma? When you’re not nice, that the bad things happen to you?” Leaving aside the inference that children who had been buried alive in the rubble of their schools were somehow the divine payback for the foreign policy sins of their government, the vehemence of the Chinese reaction to Stone – denunciations, banning her films etc – has been extraordinary.

As was the reaction of Dior Shanghai for whom Stone is the corporate face of their skincare range. Dior smartly removed all images of Stone fropm their outlets across China, while giving this succinct summary of a corporate morality for the ages : “We don’t support any type of commentary that will hurt the feelings of our customers,” Exactly. Lets’ keep politics out of skincare ! Even if Han Chinese colonization of the Tibetan people and of the Uighurs in Xinjiang – is at the heart of the issue. Not to mention the Chinese interest in Tibet’s vast mineral and oil

Still, the untold story about China’s impact on Tibet may revolve around the trade in yartsa gunbu – a caterpillar medicinal fungus as central to Tibetan identity as the yak and which at times in Tibetan history, has been as valuable as silver. The boom prices for yartsa gunbu may be proving more effective in undermining tradition than Chinese rifles. As this observer says

“Yartsa gunbu has developed into the single most important source of cash for rural households in contemporary Tibet….In short, rural Tibet is currently largely dependent on income from this fungus. It is remarkable, that the cash infusion via the yartsa gunbu trade in the last ten years seems to have accomplished what 50 years of top-down Beijing-prescribed development schemes hardly achieved, the integration of rural Tibetans into Mainland China’s economy. The cash income from the yartsa gunbu trade has acted as a catalyst for rural economic development, and this has been expressed in a general commodification of rural Tibet. The economic integration is well symbolised by herders exchanging their horses for motorcycles….”

2. Scott McClellan’s revelations about the (gasp) rampant lies and deceptions of the Bush administration that he served so assiduously in his role as White House press secretary, have shot his book to the top of the US best seller charts. It has also inspired this terrific parody by Michael Kinsley, based on what would happen if the old, lying Scott McClellan met the new, virtuous one. Sample :

It’s sad. It’s just sad. In all my years of public service, I am one of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to know and work with. I cannot imagine why I have chosen this moment to turn against everything I have always stood for—lies, deception, secrets, double talk—unless it was for a six-figure book advance. But the me I knew believed that some things, such as duty, are more important than money. That me saw misleading the public as the highest of missions. That me would never betray me the way this me has done. Frankly, it’s a puzzle. But I will be talking with me later this afternoon, on Oprah, and maybe then I will get some answers. Until then, all I can say is that it’s just very, very sad.

Besides exposing the lies and deceptions used to justify the Iraq invasion – no news there – the McClellan book claims the so called liberal media were total patsies for the White House spinmeisters:

“If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. “The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”


3. The Greens annual conference runs through this weekend in Auckland – not many surprises are likely. Obviously, some definitive statement on the party’s support / non support for the Emissions Trading Scheme would be welcome, but that will probably have to await the final details being tabled on what the House will be being asked to endorse.

It would be more useful if the Greens could signal what role – if any – social justice issues will be playing in their election campaign. The previous twin pronged approach – environmental and food safety issues – increasingly looks like a party going forward forlornly with its eye on the rear view mirror. Food safety was last year. Food prices are this year’s concern among voters – and food and fuel prices are largely beyond the government’s control.

Which is why social justice is a more promising plank. So long as the gap between National and Labour remains very wide, soft Labour voters are ripe for conversion to the Greens. A focus on benefit levels, housing, child poverty and other justice issues would do more to swing those people over than a wonkish fixation on the ETS – which, when translated to voters, means only one thing : higher energy prices

The sideshow at the conference could still be Mike Ward, and his ongoing blocking of co-leader Russel Norman’s bid to enter Parliament on the party list. It is hard to believe that Ward – who loves a crowd – could pass up a chance for a U-turn, and another spin in the spotlight. Having made his point – which is uh, that’s he’s a very, very important guy – Ward could well decide that the love, and the unity and the hugs are worth a re-think. I’m not saying it will happen, but Ward could – for better or worse – still be the big story to emerge from the entire conference.