Op-Ed

Propaganda is in the eye of the beholder

Don't let anyone tell you that when Chinese come to America all they can do is railroad and launder. A crew of them came to Pikeville from our sister city in China. We put in for Peking, but got a small Chinese city of several million.

I can't remember the name of it but it's out there on a sign as you come in. It is real Chinese sounding.

But on their trip, the Chinese gave invaluable advice to local officials about how to make Pike-ville more China-friendly. A quick study, the Pike County judge-executive quickly announced that the new government television station here would be censored by a central committee to keep off the air anything negative about the coal industry, or about Central Appalachia. The committee in due time will decide whether negative stuff about Western Appalachia will be tolerated and whether to criminalize such statements.

In Pikeville, everybody has a media outlet. A hospital has a free newspaper. Well, its not exactly free. Medicare and your insurance pays for it, too.

That house organ covers itself and its you-know-what very well, and was started because the existing and regular newspaper was too negative and needed to be put out of business. Now city and county government, two school boards and a college all demand their own television station, lest negativity flourish.

They named it Pike-TV, and hired a pro to manage it who is looking for filler to keep people from switching to Oprah between the exciting public meetings, which usually feature a puppet show of elected officials building pyramids while leading cheers for mountaintop removal.

The manager meekly proposed to fill with the award-winning media productions of Appalshop, a Whitesburg non-profit from which residents of Appalachia inquire about, preserve and respect the mountain culture in film, art and music.

The manager, brought in from Nashville, knows quality, but didn't realize that mountain culture is very much a threat to the radicals who want to mine the last lump — a phrase next to the "Friends of Coal" sticker on the large SUV of the president of the University of Pikeville.

That is the new name of the college, which beat out Pikeville University Kentucky East because of how the ball shirts would look.

Its president, Paul Patton, chimed in and said that because of academic freedom, he could not keep his students from making videos that are negative about coal, which he labeled "propaganda," but that he would keep them from being run.

The judge-executive went Trump when using Appalshop material was suggested because at the East Kentucky Leadership Conference a guy named Dee Davis, whose brilliance and passion for the mountain folk is one of the main reasons Appalshop turned out so good, had the gall to say negative things about coal and asked politicians to quit pretending that things were going to be all right if we keep on doing what we are doing.

Dee is now head of something about Rural Strategies. I used to be rural, and some of my strategies were how to pick the manure clump out of the milk bucket, how not to get caught taking out the pee can and not to use up your seed corn or ruin your ground.

Dee left working for Appalshop some time ago, but the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, so now Appalshop must send only content-neutral stuff for the government to pre-screen before the public is allowed to see it.

Dee probably got labeled as a radical because his brother, Don, just to sell furniture, gets on television with varmints on his head and dressed up like a clown. You know how those furniture salesmen can get. The Davis family is an old-line Hazard family who, if radical, posed as gentle, thoughtful furniture people, but who thought outside the box before we knew there was a box or what was being thought in it.

So, name the government channel: Puke-TV.

Larry Webster is a Plkeville lawyer.

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