The Corner

World

Finding Things Out

Megha Rajagopalan (Oslo Freedom Forum)

Megha Rajagopalan is one of my favorite foreign correspondents. She grew up in Maryland and now works for BuzzFeed News. I’ve done a Q&A podcast with her, here.

She is newly in the Middle East, but she worked in China for years. China is the main topic of our podcast. I ask, “What’s it like to work as a correspondent there?” Interesting answers.

Megha knows a lot about Xinjiang Province, or East Turkestan, where the Uyghurs live, and die. The Chinese government has launched a major, horrifying assault on them. I quoted Megha in a piece I did about the issue last year.

She has spoken on this topic at the Oslo Freedom Forum. Here is one video: “The Police State of the Future Is Already Here.” And here is another: “Inside China’s Digital Authoritarianism.”

In our podcast, she talks of backpacking around Xinjiang in 2009 or 2010 — this was when she was a student. It was no paradise, no democracy, but it was not an Orwellian hellscape. When she returned as a reporter in 2017, everything was different.

I will paraphrase her: “There’s a city called Kashgar in the West. This is the cultural heart of the Uyghur people. Kashgar is an ancient city. It sat on the Silk Road, and generations of traders have gone through it. Because of that, Kashgar is very multicultural, and there are lots of colorful things: night markets, vendors selling pomegranate juice, street life, music …

“When I visited in 2017, all of that was gone. Storefronts had bars on them. When you walk through the historic part of the city, people are literally not speaking. You can feel how tense they are. There’s no music playing, which is very strange for China, because Chinese cities are vibrant, with lots of music all the time.

“All sorts of weird things now happen. You see ‘spontaneous patriotic parades,’ as bands of Uyghur people are led through the streets by Party officials, holding Chinese flags and singing patriotic songs.”

Then there is the surveillance state — pervasive, 1984-like — “visible to the naked eye,” says Megha.

She has seen a lot and learned a lot in a still-young career. Toward the end of our podcast, I ask her what drew her to journalism in the first place. A big part of the answer is: She likes to find things out. Again, our Q&A is here.

Most Popular

Education

An Idea for Student Loans: Get Rid of Them

Here is a three-part plan for something practical the federal government could do to relieve college-loan debt. Step 1: The federal government should stop making college loans itself and cease guaranteeing any such loans. Step 2: It should prohibit educational lending by federally regulated financial institutions ... Read More
White House

The Problem with the Mueller Report

So much for collusion. The media conversation has now officially moved on from the obsession of the last two years to obstruction of justice. That’s because the first volume of the voluminous Mueller report, the half devoted to what was supposed to be the underlying crime of a Trump conspiracy with Russia, ... Read More
White House

MoveOn.GOP?

Some of you will be familiar with a lefty, partisan Democratic organization called MoveOn, formerly MoveOn.Org. It was founded during an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s shenanigans (which were not, Democratic mythology notwithstanding, strictly sexual in nature) and argued that it was time for the ... Read More
Sports

Screw York Yankees

You are dead to me. You are a collection of Fredos. The cock has crowed, you pathetic sniveling jerks. The team I have rooted for since 1965, when I first visited the House that Ruth Built, where I hawked peanuts and ice cream a lifetime ago, watched countless games (Guidry striking out 18!), has gotten so ... Read More