Mike Daisey’s New China Labor Camp Monologue: A Preview

December 31, 2012

If you are convinced that China is some sort of neo-Orwellian, yellow peril shithole run by the Red Guard and their princeling overlords whose economy is driven by slave labor and black market kidneys, then you’re probably susceptible to all kinds of weak-ass propaganda about the Middle Kingdom.

So no surprise when an obvious hoax like this goes unchallenged by an otherwise well-educated and informed liberal blogger in the U.S.:

We tend not to see the connection between our consumption of cheap Chinese crap and human rights abuses, but after reading this story, I guarantee you: It’s going to be a lot harder to maintain that state of denial.

Julie Keith was unpacking some of last year’s Halloween decorations when she stumbled upon an upsetting letter wedged into the packaging. Tucked in between two novelty headstones that she had purchased at Kmart, she found what appeared to be a letter from the Chinese laborer, who had made the decoration, pleading for help.

I bet I’ve got your attention now. But before we turn to the content of the letter, I just wanted to throw out the following question: who the hell buys “novelty headstones”? Apparently the same schmuck who believes that this dreck is authentic:

Sir, if you occassionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Govermint will thank and remember you forever.

You can read the rest of it here. The agitprop language is fun to read. Someone went to the trouble to write it in poor English, but of course it doesn’t sound like standard Chinglish. The author bothered to misspell every other word, but apparently thought that not only do inmates of Chinese labor camps know how to write in English, but they also use words like “occasionally” and “persecution” and know how to use commas properly. Even with the included mistakes, it’s still better written than what you’d get out of most Americans with a high school education.

A swing and a miss. I do appreciate the effort, though. Made this a lot of fun to read.

A certain persecuted “religious” organization, whose practices include some sort of mystical heavy breathing meditation techniques (or something like that) was mentioned prominently, which suggests to me where this might have come from. The amusing part, though, is the reaction from the consumer, whose repeated attempts to contact Amnesty International went unanswered for some reason:

“I was so frustrated that this letter had been sitting in storage for over a year, that this person had written this plea for help and nothing had come of it.” Julie Keith told Yahoo! Shine. “Then I was shocked. This person had probably risked their life to get this letter in this package.”

Not sure what “Yahoo! Shine” is, assuming it’s a real thing, but this woman’s reaction is classic. “Oh please help me, white person who loves freedom and lives in the exceptional USofA. You’re my only hope! You and Obi Wan, and the white crippled guy who helped out all those tall blue people. Oh yeah, and Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai and Kevin Costner in that wolf movie. Other than them, though, I could really use your assistance.”

I think Mike Daisey could take this and run with it. Maybe he could go on an odyssey back to China to search for this letter writer and invent a bunch of labor camps that he could lie about visiting. I wonder if NPR would be interested? I’m gonna say probably not, and not just because Rob Schmitz reads this blog.

I’ll leave you with my favorite graph:

This is not the first time a letter like this has turned up. Just this week, another plea was found written in Chinese on a toilet seat and posted on Reddit. Commenters on the website have questioned the letters’ authenticity.

Ha ha ha. Well, maybe I’m being a bit unfair. I have sat on numerous Chinese toilet seats and have often felt the need to call for help. So maybe that one was real.