A funny thing happened on the way to political re-education

Imagethief was morbidly fascinated to find a Reuters article over the weekend that explains how the Chinese Propaganda Ministry has launched a point-based “demerit” system to try to encourage proper behavior from the print media:

CHINA’S Communist Party propaganda department has launched a points-based penalty system to try to rein in the increasingly muck-raking print media, a Hong Kong newspaper reported today.

Media outlets will be allocated a dozen points that the propaganda department and the government media regulator can deduct one, three, six or all 12 at a time, the newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying.

It was not clear how the severity of a perceived infringement would be judged, but penalties would range from warnings and dismissals to closure of the publication, it said.


“The new system is a clear message that the top leadership wants a peaceful social environment ahead of the 17th Party Congress and next year’s Olympic games,” the newspaper quoted a senior state media executive as saying.

The media point system was similar to China’s driver license point system whereby deducted for moving violations.

And, in fact, similar to systems used for penalizing motorists all over the world. This begs the question, for the first offence can a media organization send its staff to the Propaganda Ministry’s comedy media school and have the points restored, like going to comedy traffic school for a first offense in the US? After all, the government here has a tradition of political re-education. Why not work a few laughs in along the way?

Sure, right now you’re thinking to yourself, I don’t think the propaganda ministry is a humorous organization. But with a little work it could be. For instance, a favorite disciplinary tool here is the “self-criticism”. Anyone who pays attention to comedy knows that self-criticism is at the heart of much comedy. It’s Woody Allen’s entire oeuvre, after all. Could it be that hard to work comedy into other aspects of media discipline? I don’t think so.

Join me now as we look in on the Ministry’s comedy re-education school. An unnamed media organization has been slapped with three demerit points for unauthorized portrayal of a pig during the Chinese New Year Festivities, in contravention of recently announced regulations:

Cadre: Good evening, comrades. I am Mr. Wei and I will be conducting your political re-education today.

Editors and journalists: Good evening comrade Wei.

Cadre: You know, it’s great to see you all here today. I hear you got sent up for showing an advertisement with a pig in it during New Year. Honestly, muslims, who can figger ‘em out? You know they don’t eat pork? They don’t eat pork! How crazy is that? Say, that reminds me of a joke. A man was walking by a village when he saw a pig with a wooden leg. Not quite sure of what he was seeing, he went up to the house and knocked on the door. A peasant answered the door and the man said, “I was walking by and saw a pig with a wooden leg and I just had to find out why!”

“Well” the farmer answered,”that is a really special pig. Our house was on fire and that pig dragged my whole family out and saved our lives.”

“But why the wooden leg?” asked the man.

“Well,” the farmer replied,”a pig that special you wouldn’t eat all at once!”

Uproarious laughter.

Cadre: Yeah, the great thing about Hanification of the west is that you’ll finally be able to get a decent pork bun in Kashgar.


Cadre: So how do you think the ministry found out about your pig advertisement?

Editor: They read our newspaper?

Cadre: Nah, somebody squealed! (Rimshot)


Cadre: Honestly, it’s not really your fault. The party believes that religion is the opiate of the masses. It just makes people crazy. (Twiddles index finger at temple.) Say, that reminds me of another joke. A Hindu, a rabbi and a capitalist are driving through thenongcun when their car breaks down. Fortunately they find a farmhouse nearby. The peasant tells them that he has only space for two more people to sleep inside the house. They are welcome to it, but one of them will have to sleep in the shed outside.

Well, after much discussion, the Hindu volunteers to go to the shed. A few moments later there’s a knock on the house door. It’s the Hindu. He explains that there is a cow in the shed, and cows are sacred to Hindus and he can’t possibly sleep in the barn with a sacred cow.

Annoyed, the rabbi volunteers to go sleep in the shed. A few moments later, a knock on the door. The rabbi explains that there’s a pig in the shed and that he, being orthodox, can’t spend the night in the shed with a pig.

So the capitalist says that he will go to the shed. A few minutes later there’s a knock on the door. It’s the cow and the pig!

Hearty laughter.

Cadre: But, crazy or not, the big Hu says we have to promote a harmonious society, right? So what do you think will happen if you publish another pig advertisement?

Journalist: We’ll lose another three demerit points?

Cadre: No, you’ll all be dragged out to the quarry and shot in the back of the head.

Stunned silence.

Cadre: Hey, just kidding.

Nervous laughter.

Cadre: You guys should have seen the looks on your faces. But seriously, folks, you’re a wonderful audience. Give yourselves a big hand.

Yes, it would be a laff riot.

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