Coronavirus, Democrats, Milwaukee: Your Thursday Briefing

Coronavirus, Democrats, Milwaukee: Your Thursday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the as people grow increasingly frustrated with the government’s response to the coronavirus. Melina Delkic, on the Briefings team, asked her about her column.

Walk us through the origins of this backlash.

When Li Wenliang, the doctor who tried to warn China about the virus, died, I stayed up the whole night, and so did many, many Chinese people.

From that night on, it seems to me there has been a tug of war between the online population — the public — and the propaganda machine. The online revolt was something I had never seen before. I had never seen something so unanimous — people sad and angry at the same time. People saw themselves in Dr. Li.

What changed?

There are more people willing to speak out. Especially young people, they’re really organizing themselves. I was stunned to find that so many people were just so outspoken, laughing at how ridiculous the party was in trying to spin the huge national disaster into something positive. One blog post was headlined: “News Coverage Should Stop Turning a Funeral Into a Wedding.”

I took so many screenshots — because posts can disappear in a minute. Everybody takes a lot of screenshots, and people figured out how to build an online archive of media articles, social media posts and videos outside the Chinese internet, because it’s censored. They want to keep records of this collective memory. That feels quite unprecedented.

Is there still a fear of censorship or punishment?

Everybody is fearful. I would say it’s very hard not to live in fear in China.

Why isn’t the messaging working this time?

I don’t think there has ever been any event that has affected 1.4 billion people. Everybody has to at least stay at home, not go out, try to find masks. Many people have this question: “Why didn’t we know this before, why didn’t the government tell us earlier?”

People are frustrated. They also read so many heartbreaking stories and watched so many videos and they are just really sad. The party came out like, “Oh, these medical workers are so brave — let’s celebrate our unity.” Many people are like, “I don’t want to do that right now.”

What will the Communist Party do now?

Since Dr. Li’s death, they really enhanced the censorship. They’re sending out a very clear message: We don’t want you to talk about the negative effects of this outbreak.

Eventually, the government will probably win, because it’s just too powerful. At the same time, I don’t think we should underestimate the anger, frustration and resilience of the Chinese people, especially the young people.


That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris


Thank you
Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Chris Harcum provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the coronavirus outbreak.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Something eaten by Pac-Man (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Members of The Times’s 2020 fellowship class come from 16 states, as well as Egypt, Syria and Taiwan. Meet them here.


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