Agam's Gecko
Sunday, December 21, 2008

ot much in the way of free expression gets by censors in the military dictatorship of Burma. Occasionally a slip-up occurs, as when the New Light of Myanmar published a photo of protesters in London in October 2007 (shortly after the violent crushing of the monks' peaceful protests). The picture was labelled "an anti-Iraq demonstration" (presumably they meant "anti-imperialist-war-for-oil-in-Iraq demonstration"), but the censors missed the visible signs expressing "Support the Monks" and "Free Burma."

In early 2008 a love poem was published in a Burmese magazine, ostensibly for Valentine's Day. Only after the magazine had been on sale, did anyone notice that by vertically reading the first character of each line, the message actually said "Power Mad Than Shwe" (Burma's crazy superstitious dictator). The magazine was closed down, and I'm sure there are people still in prison for that one.

So it was with great interest that I read the newest offer from the Washington Post.
WashingtonPost Media is at the epicenter of the inauguration, and the Classifieds team is giving readers the chance to send a personal message of congratulations to President-Elect Obama that can be read by millions.
The ads will cost only $5 per line, with a two-line minumum. The Post expects to rake in around 3000 ads in this endeavour. But wait, that's not all.
All messages must be placed by 6:30pm on Friday, January 16th. All ads must be congratulatory in nature.
That sounds like a challenge. Human nature, rule #1: If you tell people not to do something, many of them will want to do it for that reason. Of course the Post has the right to accept or reject anything it wants, and we'll see if their ad checkers are as sharp-eyed as Burma's publishing standards officers.

I don't know whether Jim Treacher knows the story of the forbidden Burmese love poem, but here's his congratulatory ad for The One:
Gratefully, everyone told Bush, “Enough.” New times! Change! Obama makes me incredibly elated!
I guess the Post's ad checkers have their work cut out for them. Hopefully they'll be reading each one upside-down, in the mirror, and maybe even putting them through anagram generators!

I'll be in Jakarta next week, see you when I get back.

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