FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Burning Truth

Vietnam rarely makes the news these days, but there was a recent item about a journalist who died after being doused in his sleep with a chemical, then set on fire. The BBC implied that he may have been retaliated against for reporting on official misconduct.

Investigating corruption and abuse of power, Hoang Hung made plenty of enemies in high places. His best know article is about how officials in Long An, after receiving bribes from developers, kicked hundreds of farmers off their lands to make way for golf courses. After his death, a colleague quoted Hoang Hung, “We’re soldiers on the media battlefield. We must dare to speak the truth, dare to fight for social justice in spite of harassment from many quarters.” Fifty years old at his death, Hoang Hung was too young to participate in the Vietnam War. His father, however, was a Vietcong who died in battle.

The Vietnamese Communists won the war so they could eventually open the country to Capitalist sweat shops and golf courses. No wonder Hoang Hung was pissed. To make room for a rich man’s game, hundreds of Vietnamese became landless. Though Vietnam is smaller than California, it has more than twice the population. The deltas and coastline are packed with people. There, even a lawn is an alien concept, and as popular as soccer is, there are few grass fields. Vietnamese grow rice and vegetables, not grass. The last thing Vietnam needs is golf courses, but of course they aren’t built for the locals.

According to George Carlin, America doesn’t need these vast, high maintenance fields either. From a 1992 skit, “It is time to reclaim the golf courses from the wealthy and turn them over to the homeless […] Think of how big a golf course is. The ball is that fucking big! What do these pinheaded pricks need with all that land? There are over 17,000 golf courses in America. They average over 150 acres apiece. That’s 3 million plus acres, 4,820 square miles. You could build two Rhode Islands and a Delaware for the homeless on the land currently being wasted on this meaningless, mindless, arrogant, elitist, racist […] and a boring game.”

In any case, whoever killed Hoang Hung was a pro. The assassin knew that he tended to work late and often slept in his second floor home office. Waiting until the lights were out, the killer managed to climb onto the balcony without being detected just after midnight. He then entered the darkened room where his target was sound asleep inside the mosquito netting. After the attack, there were photos published in the Vietnamese press of the scorched bed and the near-naked victim lying in the hospital, where he suffered for ten days before dying. Make no mistake about this: Hoang Hung was killed as a warning to other journalists. Make too much noise and you will be roasted alive like this man.

In the 60s, South Vietnamese monks immolated themselves to protest against the government. Their action was effective because it was a horrendous spectacle. It was visual. At the same time, South Vietnam’s best novelist, Nhat Linh, also committed suicide in protest, but he did it by ingesting poison in private. Whereas the image of a burning monk has become iconic, Nhat Linh’s death caused no international ripple whatsoever. It wasn’t visual. There is nothing to show.

Everywhere now, not least America, writers are becoming more invisible by the day, in any case. With so much mass media all the time, it would not matter if an American writer became a living torch in Times Square. They’d just hose his ashes into the gutter and point the camera at the naked cowboy. The Vietnamese Communists have also figured out that serious writers are mostly irrelevant in this cultural climate. They used to lock up poets—one, Nguyen Chi Thien, was imprisoned for a total of twenty-seven years—but now they pretty much leave poets alone. Though many are still blocked from publishing, poets are no longer jailed. To imprison a poet is to shine a spotlight on him. No one pays attention to poets anyway, no matter what they write. From the perspective of tyranny, it would be foolish to flesh out  this nothingness.

Journalists, however, are a different story. They can still reach the masses. America has solved this problem by consolidating her media outlets. There are countless newspapers and TV stations here, there seems to be many voices speaking, but nearly all are manipulated by the same puppet master. As everyone sits in the dark, the spotlight is fixed on a tiny ring where there’s much flailing over next to nothing. Should anyone still manages to get out of line, however, America can always snuff him out, just like the Vietnamese did. Invading Iraq, we bombed the office of Al Jazeera and shelled the Palestine Hotel, killing three journalists. We also arrested Al Jazeerra’s al Sami al-Hajj and kept him in Guantanamo for six years without charge. In 2005, an American tank shot at a car carrying Italian journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, injuring her and killing intel agent, Nicola Calipari.

On the American fringe, independent voices are free to write as they please, but even the best among them can only appear in little read webzines. Many write almost exclusively on their own blogs. Needless to say, they have almost no impact on the general public. In too late late capitalism, those who seek to tell the truth don’t need to be burnt. They are already being drown out by nonsense.

LINH DINH is the author of two books of stories and five of poems, and the recently published novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

 

More articles by:

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail