We all expect governments to be a little evil. It comes with the territory -- often literally. But there's dubious policy, and then there's "Is this building up to the announcement of a giant death laser?" policy. These are terrifying examples of the latter.
China is responsible for countless human rights violations that are conveniently overlooked because they produce giant piles of consumer goods and movie tickets instead of the inept threats of neighboring North Korea, the country closest to a real-life Latveria. And perhaps chief among their many evils is their treatment of the Uyghurs.
The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group with predominately Islamic religious beliefs, and China is home to around 11 million of them. Their loyalties are all considered suspect, because China's not big on "freedom of expression" or "showing interest in anything other than fawning servility to the state," and so approximately a million Uyghurs are currently interned in concentration camps. There they get to learn fun lessons like "Communism rules, Islam drools, and we'll torture you until you agree."
But what's China doing to bring some innovation to crimes against humanity? Well, one detainee is Abdurehim Heyit, who was a nationally acclaimed musician right up until he performed an Uyghur song with the phrase "martyrs of war" in it. The piece encourages people to respect their ancestors who suffered through the conflicts of the past, but to China it was proof that Heyit was a terrorist threat, which would be like the FBI throwing Taylor Swift in jail on the assumption that "Look What You Made Me Do" was foreshadowing a shooting spree.
When rumors spread that Heyit had died in one of the camps, China found itself under serious diplomatic pressure. So they released a video in which Heyit explained that he was totally fine! He's alive, being treated well, is completely cool with being investigated for crimes against the state, and definitely isn't reading from a script. No, of course you can't see or talk to him, don't be absurd. He's very busy!
"You think he's blinking 'HELP' in Morse code? Don't be ridiculous. We would have edited that out."
BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) is a left-wing advocacy group that's as into civil rights protest as its awkward name implies. They have a history of clashing with neo-Nazis, to the point where one of their members was one of seven peopled stabbed by white supremacists during a 2016 rally. The FBI decided to investigate BAMN after that. That's not unusual on its own -- the government likes to keep tabs on groups that show up in large numbers to wave signs around, and somewhere in their vaults there's probably a file on Cracked too. But the devil is in the stupid, stupid details.
The report was concerned that BAMN was potentially involved in a conspiracy to deny the KKK and other white supremacists their right to peacefully assemble and give speeches about how nonwhite people are subhuman mongrels who should be exterminated or enslaved. Oh, but don't worry, because according to the report, the KKK simply consists of "members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda." What was the proof that BAMN was considering domestic terrorism against these fine people? Why, their activism against rape and sexual assault, of course.
We're not law enforcement experts, but maybe it would be a good idea to focus government resources on the stabbers, not the stabbees. Especially if the stabbers sympathize with an organization sporting a 150-year history of racial violence. Those 2016 stabbings never led to any criminal charges, but at least the FBI is hot on the case of people who might inconvenience the right of Americans to wave knives around by getting their whiny flesh in the way.
Brazil, in a classic "Anything you can fuck up, we can fuck up better" move, recently elected Jair "I'd rather my son be dead than gay" Bolsonaro to the presidency. Bolsonaro has praised the actions of South American dictatorships to the point where he argued that they should have tortured and murdered more people, and he called an opposing politician too ugly to rape, yet his homophobia somehow manages to be his most shocking quality. He's endorsed beating gay children, linked homosexuality to pedophilia, and generally encouraged a fear and hatred of LGBT people in a country that saw at least 445 homophobia-motivated murders in 2017. None of that is a great look for a nation that tries to project an image of hot people lounging around on beaches.
During Bolsonaro's campaign, he tried to downplay his old comments and moderate his stance on homosexuality to "It's OK to be a gross weird adult, I guess, but kids better never learn about it." Which doesn't exactly make him Harvey Milk, but is better than endorsing that gay people be beaten in public. But if you have a decades-long history of hate speech and only clean your act up just the tiniest bit once you've ascended to the highest office in the land, all the people who agree with the terrible things you said in the past will think, "He's just pretending to be moderate to gain mainstream credibility. Secretly he still endorses the extreme politics that we love and will continue to act out on his behalf." We know that sounds crazy, Americans, but it's possible!
That leads us to Jean Wyllys, Brazil's first and only openly gay congressman. He won a third term in the same election that saw Bolsonaro take office, but decided to quit politics and leave the country because of all the death threats he was receiving. There were good reasons for him to fear that the threats weren't idle. A lesbian councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro was assassinated in 2018.
Wyllys' departure worried the already-stressed LGBT community. So what was the response from Bolsonaro, a man who is ostensibly trying to tone down his awful rhetoric to build a broad coalition? He posted a thumbs up emoji on his Twitter feed. That's it. Thumbs up for the efficacy of death threats in suppressing political opposition. Say what you will about Trump, but goddammit, at least he takes a few rage-filled moments to personalize his rambling Twitter hate-mongering.
You know how The Hunger Games opens with a big Shirley Jackson-esque lottery to determine which two lucky kids from each district have to compete in whatever the book's big, violent competition is called? That's how the Thai military handles its annual drafting of 100,000 new recruits.
The military holds a yearly conscription lottery where the prize is two years of service, and every healthy man between the ages of 21 and 30 has to enter the draw once. The only legal way out is to volunteer for a mere six-month stint, so you have to decide if you're a gambling man. The odds are in your favor -- a 2015 draw at one location had just 14 red "Congrats, you might get shot!" cards compared to 220 black "You can get on with your life" cards. But it's a stressful affair, as young men are herded into schools and other public buildings across the country, where soldiers mess with them and worried family members show up to offer moral support. Names are dramatically called one by one, so hundreds of people are watching as you march up and learn your fate. It's presumably only a matter of time until it's turned into a reality show.
The "All in good fun" atmosphere is a little undercut by guards having to restrain all the smiling new recruits.
Participants have found themselves unable to sleep in the days leading up to the draft, as service in the Thai military isn't exactly like joining the National Guard's finest paperwork unit. Drug abuse is rampant, hazing rituals are brutal, and recruits are punished for misbehavior with what's essentially torture, like being forced to drink water until they vomit. One conscript was beaten to death in 2017, while in 2018 a conscript was made to maintain an awkward pose in a sauna until he passed out. Two days later he was dead, and his body was returned to his family with tissue paper in place of most of his organs. His crime had been to walk on a footpath reserved for officers. These incidents are not isolated, which is why many Thai men flee or bribe their way out. There have been calls to reform the system, but others consider it an essential part of becoming a man. Have they considered, like, getting really drunk on their 21st birthday? That works for most American men.
Enes Kanter is a center for the Portland Trail Blazers. He's also a Turkish national, and a fierce critic of Turkish President Reycep Tayyip Erdogan. Which is not unreasonable, given that Erdogan has set a world record in arrested journalists, been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals, violated just a big old pile of human rights, and has otherwise led Turkey to the point where it's no longer considered a legitimate democracy.
One of the convenient things about being a dictator is that it's pretty easy to be a total jackass to your critics. So when Kanter expressed support for a rival Turkish political movement and called Erdogan the "Hitler of our century," the Turkish government sentenced Kanter's father to 15 years in jail, despite father and son denouncing each other to avoid this exact situation. They also canceled Kanter's passport and issued an arrest warrant on the suspicion that he belongs to a "terror group." That was not meant as a compliment for his strong rebounding skills.
The warrant is considered toothless, as Kanter wisely isn't in the habit of traveling to countries that will extradite people to dictatorial countries on invented charges. But Kanter has also avoided traveling to London and Toronto for games, both because it would be a bureaucratic headache without a valid passport and because he's received more death threats than a woman who gently critiques pop culture. The whole affair has put Kanter under a lot of stress, but there are signs of progress. After two years of seemingly futile struggle, he was able to escape the unbearable public torture of having to play for the Knicks. And if he can survive that mess, then helping to bring down a dictatorship should be no big deal.
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