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Morally degenerate equivocators

This post is basically a followup on the few posts recently addressing the perceptions of the GLF in the west. I will not add to the debate per se or even defend the other posters but rather talk about how people in the west are treating like discourse, namely those that does not fall in line with the dominate narrative in the west, i.e., that Mao was a mass murderer that had killed more people than Hitler and Stalin. I will take as my main target a recent post on another blog because I think its contents and its comments are so exemplary of the type of ignorance, bigotry and bias facing anyone that dares to question the west’s perspective on anything. They are met with derision, marginalization, and every fallacy in the book instead of direct refutation and they are made by morally degenerate and intellectually dishonest individuals.

One such individual is Sam Crane who has a blog about China. In a recent post (which was inspired by “noodling around the internet”) in which he casually dismisses views that critically examines the thesis that the GLF wasn’t as bad as commonly portrayed in the western media and that Mao wasn’t the same kind of monster as Hitler, Stalin or the Japanese imperialists. He makes a long-winded post without actually refuting any specific individual or position (I wonder which positions and individuals he is referring to?). In fact he explicitly says he doesn’t want to address them specifically and the reason he gives for this is that this will give those perspectives more attention than they deserve. That’s convenient. Sounds like a classic cop-out of an intellectual coward to me. It’s easy to dismiss phantoms but much harder to refute actual arguments.

The first comment in his post says that those who dare question the dominant view in the west should be “tried for crimes against humanity” showing once again, the tolerance for free expression and intellectual debate by proponents of western values.

Crane’s post is replete with strawpersons and equivocations (common theme for those familiar with his posts) that I will argue only a morally defective person can make.

He blanket terms all critical discourse on the west’s dominant narrative that 20-60 million people died in the GLF and that Mao was a mass murder as “denialist’s” propaganda and suggests their motives as questionable. I quote his post:

In noodling around the internet in search of the any new bits of information, I have found several examples of what I will call GLF denialism, arguments that attempt to deflect attention away from the horrible fact that millions and millions of people starved to death as a direct result of state policy. I will not link to these sites, because I do not want to advance their project; moreover, they are an insult to the countless victims of the CCP’s horrific assault on rural society. But I do want to engage with a point or two that the denialists raise. The basic denialist approach is to raise doubts about the estimated death toll of the Great Leap Famine, which ranges from about 16 – 45 million.

But GLF denialists are pursuing a political agenda: to protect Mao Zedong from bearing responsibility for the massive loss of Chinese lives. They are not simply engaged in an honest search for the truth. They are trying to obfuscate and divert. We cannot let them.

See anyone questioning the veracity of these figures must be a Mao apologist and upstanding people like Crane are simply engaged in honest intellectual debate,…only the fact that Crane doesn’t even attempt to refute any of their points address their reasons and evidence but merely launch into a tirade questioning their motives.

Points made by people like the noted demographer Wim F. Wertheim that almost all the commonly accepted figures are likely over counts because they are based on the 1953 “census” which almost certainly exaggerated the birth rate and under estimated the death rate and thus counted in the final death toll those who had never been born and those who had died under other circumstances are marginalized as part of this propaganda. Even though Wertheim is someone actually qualified to make these statements about the death toll while Crane is not makes no difference to Crane. It is all “denialist” propaganda to him if it goes against his worldview. Anyone relying on data such as Wertheim’s is guilty of “denialism” as well.

The actual death toll is a legitimate area of scholarly debate. It is debated by real scholars who are qualified to do so and intellectually honest, two qualities Crane and the rest of the confederacy of goons on his site which seek to marginalize any criticisms of dominant western narrative on the GLF clearly do not possess. Those who engage in these debates often have only motives aiming at the truth (again, clearly unlike “noodlers” like Crane whose seems aims seem wholly ideological).

It would be like if I simply labeled everyone that doubted the 1.5 million death toll of the Iraq war giving a smaller figure as Bush/Cheney apologists. Despite the fact that modern epidemiology is based on far better data, figures on the death toll in Iraq is still a matter of academic debate and though I believe that the 1.5 million figure is the best supported today, it would take an actual argument with evidence and reasons to refute those other figures (especially when they are supported with at least some evidence and not outrageously low), not dishonest and cowardly blanket generalizations with insinuations about the motives of those who give a figure not to one’s liking.

I may be wrong but almost everyone here thinks Mao is one of the worst people in modern Chinese history partly due to his actions (and lack of actions) during the GLF but that doesn’t mean we should accept whatever the west feeds us about Mao and the GLF. It is insincere and cowardly to suspect anyone that doubts as motivated by nefarious intent without any evidence, just because they hold an opinion you may not like.

The most despicable aspect of those who wish to bury any debate about Mao and the GLF is their insistent comparison of Mao with the likes of Stalin, Hitler and in Crane’s case, the imperial Japanese.

And denialists can also not stand the fact that the more we know of the GLF – the forced starvation, the beatings, the cannibalism – by way of Yang and Zhou and other archival researchers, the more evident it is that the Maoist system was responsible for many, many more deaths of Chinese people than was Japanese imperialism. That is is a horrible thing to contemplate, but it is likely true.

These ridiculous comparisons are the target of much of the criticisms. Numbers aside, ignorance leading to death is one thing, murder is another. Even children as young as 4 (with the exception psychopathic children and children with autism spectrum disorder) can make the distinction that an intentionally malicious action and an unintentional action with negative consequences are morally not equivalent. Genocidal murderous regimes cannot be morally equivalent to incompetent ones, even ones as fiercely incompetent as Mao’s.

Take a look at India. Many of India’s leaders know that their economic system is inferior to the Chinese and has been so for many decades and yet refuses any serious reform. This has led to untold suffering and premature deaths in India as the Nobel winning economist Amartya Sen has shown. Indian leaders are relatively incompetent due to their ignorance (much of it willful as in the case of Chinese leaders during the GLF) and that incompetence has led to the deaths of untold millions of children as the child mortality is much higher in India than in China and has been so for a very long time. The difference here is that in the case of India, the disastrous consequences has gone on to this day and the data supporting it is far more solid than those available during the 50s and 60s in China. India’s leaders are worthy of much moral opprobrium much as China’s incompetent and ignorant leaders for that economic disaster but only a morally defective individual would compare them to the murderous Hitler and Stalin regimes and to the imperial Japanese. Evoking Hitler, Stalin or the Imperial Japanese is just rhetoric to support one’s ideology.

Again, Sen is clearly qualified to make these statements but anyone who calls or insinuates him as a denialist because he supports aspects of Chinese policy (even pre reform policy, see here) is stupid and morally degenerate. I’m not saying that Crane calls Sen specifically a denialist but his blanket argument would cover those like Sen who defended the positive aspects of the Chinese economic system versus India’s.

Notice Crane chooses to make the comparison with the imperial Japanese. Why choose that example? Because of his ideology I suspect in that insinuating that the CCP is worse than the imperial Japanese and undermining much deserved sympathy and concern focusing on Japanese atrocities. He is suggesting that the Chinese ought to have as much or more anger and resentment towards their government as they do towards imperial Japan. His political motives thus must come  into question but here, we actually have evidence from his own posts instead of cowardly addressing a bloodless stand-in phantom. Again, who would do such a thing but a seriously morally bankrupt individual?

One can make a rather strong argument that those who make that link devalue the 20 million Chinese murder victims of the imperialist Japanese and are really just denialists for the Japanese regime. To them by making that link they are essentially saying, the Japanese didn’t murder anyone, merely allowed people do starve and die due to their incompetence as opposed to the genocidal malice that was the actual cause.

Why are there so many people so quick to attack anyone with with an opinion contrary to the accepted dogma? People tend to be biased naturally but I suspect there is a deeper bias here at work. I suspect that many whites are deeply ashamed that western civilization has done so much harm in the world. Mao represents to them an object for psychological projection (a topic of which I will post on later). Mao is a boogeyman whose image is but a convenient screen to project all of their collective shame for the crimes of their ancestors and their own governments to this day on to someone else, even if the results are but an effigy devoid of all facts. Mao offers a great opportunity, an outlet to show the world and themselves that white men aren’t the only ones or the worst who commit the crimes of Hitler and Stalin.

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  1. February 19th, 2013 at 10:02 | #1

    This is a rather long (& necessarily so) critique of that intellectual coward Same Crane. But let me sum up Crane’s arguments in a few sentences for those who do not like to read lengthy posts:

    “How dare you question established western narratives?!”
    “Bannister’s work isn’t the only ones around, here are a few Amazon links to a few other works that echo the same narrative, & therefore they MUST all be right, and anything that challenges them must all be wrong!”

    Also, here are a few minor details that were missing – which would’ve been actually helpful to Sam Crane’s argument that we’re a bunch of advocates for evil:

    – Actual scientific/statistical evidence that challenge our assumptions, and demonstrate why the traditional view is only correct narrative of the GLF.

    That said, after browsing through his other blog entries, I can see why he has a religious need to demonize the CPC.

  2. pug_ster
    February 19th, 2013 at 12:57 | #2

    That moron wrote another post why so many “denialists” respond angrily to his posting about this one. If he is some kind of ‘intellectualist,’ why does he have to stoop so low and call people names, like Fenqings, apologists and of course denialists. To top it all off, he put a picture of 3 people burying their heads in the sand. And to ask him why he is not surprised that he attracting ‘trolls’ in his site? That’s a good one.

  3. February 19th, 2013 at 22:34 | #3

    Predictably, Crane has reacted with further foot-stomping, name calling and strawpersons at this post. Just one major example, he claims I said he called Amartya Sen a denialist when I explicitly said that he did not.

    I’m not saying that Crane calls Sen specifically a denialist but his blanket argument would cover those like Sen who defended the positive aspects of the Chinese economic system versus India’s.

    This dude is just a clown.

  4. February 19th, 2013 at 23:33 | #4

    “We never free a mind once it’s reached a certain age. It’s dangerous, the mind has trouble letting go.” — Morpheus.

    Crane actually writes interesting stuffs, unlike many others. He just doesn’t realize this topic is way over his head judged by what he wrote and quoted. For instance, the inaccuracy of Chinese demographic data wasn’t because of its form of government, but rather because of the lack of education in ground-level statisticians and data collectors — the same problem existed in India also. For instance, he quoted the points Yang Jisheng made, 1. the climatic data in China show it was normal in the GLF; 2. the breakup with Soviet Union was in 1960. These have been widely debunked:

    1. The average precipitation was normal, but it merely was because droughts and floods happened in different regions in the same year.
    2. The official Sino-Soviet breakup actually occurred in 1964. The major event in the relationship in 1960 was the withdrawal of Soviet experts from China. The food export from Soviet, stopped long before.

  5. February 19th, 2013 at 23:52 | #5

    You basically have 2 methods in this type of death estimates. One is adding up all reasonable known deaths, and the other is demographic projection. In the case of the Iraqi war deaths, the former method gives you estimates ranging from low 100k to high 100k; and the latter method gives you 1 to 2 million. Often time, there is an order of magnitude difference in 2 methods.

    The prevailing Chinese deaths (10 to 20 million) caused by the imperial Japanese were estimated based on the 1st method, and virtually all GLF “starvation” (actually “abnormal”) deaths were estimated based on the 2nd method. If you use demographic projection, you probably would conclude the WW2 Chinese war deaths in 100s of millions — but you could hardly use that in the post-WW2 war crime trials.

    How about this? In 1500, it’s estimated that there were 20 million Native Americans in the modern day USA, and in 1900 there were 250k. During the same timeframe, the population in the British Isles had gone up 10 times. If we establish the British population growth as the baseline growth, then there should’ve been 200 million Native Americans in 1900. If we assume the average life span of those disappearing Native Americans in the 4 centuries as 35, then there had been 740 million disappearing Native Americans. OK, be warned I am about to make an intellectual jump that is normal in the Mao/GLF discussion — who had killed those 740 million Native Americans, or billions in the whole continental America?

    All these aside, where the rubber meets the road is this question: if Mao was such a mass murder of Chinese who is comparable if not worse than the imperial Japanese, why were there so many more Chinese, lived so much better, longer and better educated during his reign? You certainly can’t say that about Native Americans after Columbus.

  6. February 20th, 2013 at 03:08 | #6

    You think he’s writing in response to this blog? If so, that’s interesting. I am now a mao apologist – which makes me a Chinese holocaust denier!

    In any case, yes, Sam’s political motivation is definitely questionable. But the theme he expresses is common. Remember the Nanjing massacre hoopla last year … with many in the West saying the Chinese figures are exagerrated, Chinese films too 1-dimensional for not painting Japanese soldiers in more human, sympathetic light, and bringing up that if the Chinese gov’t can deny Mao as a monster, so can the Japanese deny their criminal history?

    Sigh….

    While rejecting the likes of Sam is important, it is also important we articulate a better view, tell our story, without always framing it as a response. Ff course, what we write will be informed by our understanding where the mainstream is, but we need to always cower down to responding.

    When you wrestle with a pig, you smell like a pig. Sometimes, we just need to know a pig when we see one, and move on…

  7. Zack
    February 20th, 2013 at 12:41 | #7

    purposeful ignorance and unwillingness to critically question their own government narratives (based on realpolitik) is something that we’re going to see amongst Westerners as they adjust to a world that isn’t solely western led.
    Yknow, assuming these commentators are American, their own arguments can be turned against them: why, for instance were african americans and other coloured americans only given equal rights and civil liberties as recent as the 1960s? whatever happened to the bonus army incident? what about the current policy of murdeirng US citizens via drone when they practice their first amendment rights?

    People like Sam have a purposeful doublethink and skewed perspective because they NEED to believe that their own country/culture is the ‘shining city on the hill’, the centre of the Earth, the only light of civilisation against the darkness (and apparently, the primary way of suggesting such civility is via the lighter shade of one’s skin).
    Now why do such individuals NEED to believe this? because their nationalism forms such a core part of their own self identity-to the point where they need to accept their own governments BS that other countries and cultures are inferior in every sense of the word. These idiots dont even realise that this is a way, western liberal democratic governments maintain control-via appeal to racism.

    Sometimes i wonder, if or when war between China and the West occurs, whether or not the West is even worthy of mercy. I do believe that when that day comes, the descendants of those who enslaved and colonised the world, who raped and pillaged, will come to learn true repentance.

  8. February 20th, 2013 at 15:39 | #8

    For all the efforts Sam Crane dedicate to in his life bringing Chinese philosophy to Americans, he deserve applause. In some ways, he is trying to bridge like we are, between U.S. and China.

    However, seeing how myopic he is and how dismissive he is on this GLF/Mao topic really speaks volumes about the pervasiveness of Western propaganda on all political issues related to China.

    Crane has probably never ever heard of analysis like Allen’s over the GLF death figures. I am willing to bet most of U.S. academia are content with the demonizing narrative on Mao. This is cognitive dissonance on cosmic scale. This is a contradiction in American society – it’s both ‘free’ and at the same time incestuously narrow in her narratives.

    Now imagine if any one of us authors on this blog in American academia. This is an example of what happens when a different narrative is offered. This is a clear cut example of how America is not free.

    Perhaps he will cool off and eventually come to his senses. Otherwise, as melektaus has lay it bare for us all to see, his hissy fit is only morally degenerate and an embarrassment to himself.

    Everyone should remember this – it was Crane’s lame rant on Allen’s analysis that triggered this deserving post from melektaus.

  9. pug_ster
    February 20th, 2013 at 15:56 | #9

    @YinYang

    You know it is much like the myth over how the Western propaganda narrative over the Tiananmen Square Massacre about people were killed at Tiananmen Square. Just like how many Westerners believe Mao bears the sole responseability of the deaths, many Westerners believe the same falsehood about the Tiananmen Square Incident. Very much like the views of a typical Western History book is pretty much skewed.

  10. February 20th, 2013 at 21:56 | #10

    Occasionally he makes a somewhat interesting post but these are accidents. I’ve read enough of his blog to see that nearly all of his posts are fluff. They are either trivially true or outright false. They have the illusion of being interesting because they tend to be written in vague and ambiguous language and related to Chinese philosophy but really, there’s not much substance. Typical tactic of post modern types and new agers is to use fuzzy language and drop a few buzzwords and names but not to imbue their posts with substance.

  11. February 23rd, 2013 at 09:42 | #11

    To continue the points I made in comment #5, ROC conducted several population sampling/censuses. The quality of the data was inferior to even the 1953 and the 1964 PRC censuses, and many demographers have tried to produce their revised data. Anyway, based on the original ROC data, in 1936, the Chinese population (not including Taiwan) was at 475 mn, and in 1947 the population (including Taiwan) was at 461 mn — notice the net decrease. In the middle between 1937 and 1945 it was the 2nd Sino-Japanese war.

    To simplify the calculation, assuming:

    * The population growth rate between 1954 and 1963, 1.388% is the natural population growth rate — this excludes the post-war rapid population growth but includes the GLF period during which Mao supposedly had murdered 10s of millions of Chinese.
    * Apply that natural growth rate to 1937, 1946 and 1947.
    * The population data is the year-end data. (in reality no)
    * Each year 2.5% of the Chinese naturally died.
    * The rest “missing Chinese” between 1/1/1938 and 12/31/1945 were “abnormal deaths”, and were solely responsible by the imperial Japanese invaders. (The dates are off. The war took place between 7/7/1937 and 9/2/1945)

    The number of “missing Chinese” in 8 years were 97 mn, which in percentage term is the equivalent of 135 millions in 1957.

    The talk of that Mao “killed” more Chinese than the Japanese in the WW2 is just silly talk. It is against common sense in so many different ways.

  12. N.M.Cheung
    February 23rd, 2013 at 12:39 | #12

    I certainly would not use the word used in this article, but trying to engage a debate with Mr. Crane in ” useless Tree” ( you can see the thread in that blog) I got banned from commenting there. From someone who exposit democracy and free debate in order for history to have judgment I find really ironic. I found out about the banning when I thought my posting reply to someone else was deleted and unable to post there again. Here is the reply as I reconstructed from memory.
    @Roy

    Past is something we can’t change, we may wish otherwise, we may speculate of possible scenarios, the only thing we can change is the future. Yet the past, present, and future are interlinked inextricably. Mao is part of Chinese history, he’s very much linked to the present, and the attack on him is very much part of the attack on China present. Xi said don’t forget the past. What he means is China owes her present success very much to her past, one can’t just like some of her critics want to stand outside time and cherry pick the good and bad. China today does have many problems, pollution and wealth distribution immediately comes to mind. The government is dealing with those problems. Yet as some of her critics claims that democracy as defines by West is instant solution is merely wishful thinking. The reason I used so many examples of the failure of U.S. was not to excuse Mao’s failure, but to show West can’t even solve her own problem while claiming if only China did follow. During the 1950s, many social scientists in China already recognize the population problem. With the coming of the liberation and land reform, population were increasing while arable lands were limited and decreasing. Mao opposed any control measures and consider people as an asset, man’s will triumphs over nature. He thinks the mobilization of masses and commune can overcome any population pressure, just as Marxists rebuked Malthusians. He was wrong and compounded by fickle weathers and sanctions by the West resulting in famines. China did try to ameliorate it by strict rationing and equalize the sufferings and got accused of cold blooded indifference.

    I have another example of good deeds got punished by accusations of violations of human rights. Having learned the lesson, China turned to her scientists and developed the “One Child ” policy for the majority Hans, and economic reforms that resulted in unprecedented growth and lifted 2/3 of her people out of poverty. The enforcement of this policy inevitably resulted in some tragedy, forced abortions and sterilizations. I consider the policy good for China and Chinese people and don’t mind being called inhumane and callous. I have no apology to offer.

  13. pug_ster
    February 23rd, 2013 at 18:47 | #13

    You read comments from Sam and FOARP and they seem to think that one person’s comment or opinion encompasses the mentality of everyone. FOARP keeps referring comment from one person in this blog reflect the opinion of the whole. Sam keeps calling everybody who don’t agree with him in regards to GLF as ‘denialists.’

    @N.M.Cheung

    I know that you are sincere in trying to have a honest debate but you might as talk to a brick wall. FOARP made an idiotic assumption that people here thinks that nobody starved during the famine at 1958-1961. Forget about Sam, he seemed to be so offended about the “morally degenerate” comment but have no problems calling people here fenqings, apologists, and his new fangled word ‘denialists.’

  14. Arun96
    February 23rd, 2013 at 21:44 | #14

    Hello,this post may seem unrelated to the topic but i wanted to doff my hat to the admins of this site for exposing the west’s and india’s double standards re china.I am an Indian living in India and here there is nothing but total hostility towards china.The Indian media and the western media tend to spread propaganda against the chinese in almost every article they write.Westerners are told that democracy is the best system and that all other systems are bad.They always seem to think that their democratic system is the best(hell many dont even know the US has a republican form of government and not a democracy!) and cant seem to fathom how a non democratic country like China has transformed into the world second largest economy(and soon to be first) and an emerging superpower.I have seen a lot of exchanges between the chinese and americans online and whenever a chinese guy brings up an irrefutable point or presents some sort of evidence to prove his point,the indians and americans immediately try to take him down by either accusing him of being paid by the CCP or label it CCP Propaganda without realising that they are also being brainwashed by their own media.They also hurl personal attacks at the chinese.IMO the chinese political system is the best right now and the real enemies of china are the ones who try to bring democracy to it.True the CCP isnt perfect but the good things it has done for the chinese people far outweighs the bad.People in my country think India is better than china because it has a democracy and china dosent without considering the fact that the chinese are actually more free than the indians in the sense that many chinese have atleast a roof over their head and earn a steady income with china being the global leader in bringing millions out of poverty praised by the World Bank whereas many Indians languish below the poverty line.To the homeless beggar on the street freedom of speech means nothing compared to having a roof over his head.It is indeed sad that the western and indian media present only one side of the story in most issued and constantly bash china and its political system.It is my dream to visit and settle in the Land of the Dragon one day.Just wanted to get this off my chest.Keep up the good work!

  15. February 25th, 2013 at 12:04 | #15

    @Arun96
    Kudos to you for thinking above the mainstream. To be fair, I think there is a lot of criticism of India’s democratic system from the Chinese as well, although not nearly as incessant and organized as Indian & western media.

    The bottom line is, both India & China have a lot of similar problems as developing nations (population control, resource shortage, environmental degradation, widespread poverty, just to name a few), but each must find unique systems of governance & policies to remedy them. China would not benefit from adopting an Indian (or western) democratic system, nor would India be better off trying to transition into a Chinese-style non-democratic government. But we should both keep an open, cooperative attitude and learn from each others’ successes & shortcomings. Of course, the west certainly would not like to see that happen.

  16. Zack
    February 26th, 2013 at 04:06 | #16

    oftentimes the ones who bark and bray the loudest are usually the ones who have the same issues in their own country. A classic human psychological case of transference and then some.

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