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The Plight of Clean Propaganda


Totally Awesome Picture of the Week 42


The latest wave of “dirty” products – this being the season of Tainted Milk – has prompted the Central government to ask local governments all over the country to issue a plea to their people: “Help us clean up our image.”

With hopes of feeding off the unbelievable wave of national pride and generosity which has followed this year’s Earthquake and Olympics, many local governments have been creative in their methods of spreading news of the campaign. Along with local newspapers, radios and television, less traditional methods have also been employed, including graffiti-like spray paint messages on nearly every cement wall (the most common type of wall in China), millions of human sandwich-board advertisers, and messages in bottles (so as to alert the garbage ninjas).

While it is evident that many people have understood and taken the clean-up to heart, spitting only in trashcans, waiting patiently for the stoplight, forming lines, etc., it seems that some places are still a little unsure of the point. A professional garbage ninja of Hubei province, who spoke with us on condition of anonymity, said:

“I just want to help China. China is great. I really hope this is helping. The propaganda was a little confusing with so many words like ‘milk,’ ‘clean,’ ‘image,’ you know. My husband and I put our heads together and thought for days. This big sign has been hanging above our shack for years and has never been cleaned. When it rains, brown water drips into our rice tub. Then it hit us like a bolt of lightening. Of course! We both knew that this would be the best way help the country. It was a huge task, the sign weighs over 400 lbs, and is about 30 feet long. It took us two and a half weeks to get it off the wall and down to the river. Now we must mop it and let it dry and then we must put it back. ”

Unfortunately, the giant billboard this couple so graciously washed is an advertisement for Sanlu, the milk brand that has been slated to fail as a result of the current scandal. Sanlu received complaints as early as last December about their milk but waited until August to notify authorities. When informed of this irony the garbage ninja answered optimistically:

“At least the sign will be clean and my rice will be white again. Isn’t that what the government wants?”

This impressively truistic comment caught me off guard. So simple, so real – perhaps that is what the government wants.

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