Thursday July 7, 2011
Yellow: What’s behind the shade?
Along The Watchtower
By M. Veera Pandiyan
The organisers of Bersih 2.0 should explain their links and funding by the NED.
IT’S been a rather eventful week shaded by the overwhelming colour of yellow.
In psychology, the colour is associated with optimism and cheerfulness.
Yellow, the colour of the sun, is linked with laughter, happiness and good times.
People surrounded by yellow feel optimistic because the brain actually releases more serotonin, the happy hormone that influences mood and sense of well-being.
But yellow can also be quickly overpowering if over-used. When intense, it can inflame and also evoke fear.
Studies show that babies cry more in bright yellow rooms and adults are more likely to lose their tempers in such places.
Apparently, energy levels can be taken up by the intensity of the colour to the point of it becoming an irritant.
Primarily, yellow is used to attract attention.
That is why most danger signs come in yellow and black.
Spiritually, the hue is said to provide clarity of thought and enlightenment of mood.
Yellow has a very colourful use in language. The terms “yellow belly” or “yellow streak” connote it with cowardice, deceit or betrayal.
During the Middle Ages, paintings by Christian artists depicted Judas by dressing him in yellow.
In China, a pornographic film is called “yellow movie”, unlike the “blue movie” used in the west and elsewhere.
In Arab culture, people can recognise a “yellow smile” – a fake expression.
Such smiles are put on when people want to hide their lack of interest, or any other emotion.
It is similar to the French expression of rire jaune (yellow laughter), which means to laugh from the wrong side of the mouth or feigned mirth.
Politically, yellow characterises freedom and moderation in many countries.
In the US, where yellow traditionally has a negative nuance, the Gadsden Flag, a symbol of American independence, has become popular again, especially with “Tea Party” activists.
The yellow flag, with a fierce-looking rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike, bears the motto: “Don’t Tread on Me”.
The US is also the origin of “yellow journalism” – the phrase to describe irresponsible, exaggerated, lurid and slanderous reporting that can be traced to the late 1800s when two newspaper owners tried to outdo each other with their front-page stories to get the highest circulation.
Joseph Pulitzer (yes, of the Pulitzer Prize fame) who owned the New York World was the first to make use of sensational journalism to impress readers.
For example, his headline for a story on a heat wave that killed many people was: “How Babies are Baked”.
His rival, William Randolph Hearst, who owned the San Francisco Examiner, bought the New York Journal and also bought over Pulitzer’s top writers to outdo the World.
The rivalry was most intense before the Spanish-American War, when both papers churned out outrageous headlines to whip up support for the US, much to the dismay of other publishers and editors.
Both papers were denounced as “yellow journals”, inferring that Pulitzer and Hearst were cowards who chose the easy way to gain readers through sensationalisation and false news rather than responsible reporting.
Back home in Malaysia, critics of the mainstream media have been accused of being “yellow-bellied”, especially with regard to positions taken on the Bersih 2.0 rally.
The organisers of our yellow rally have since agreed to call it off and hold their gathering in a stadium instead after an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
If Bersih 2.0 is indeed all about the noble cause of demanding free and fair elections, it must be rightly given the utmost support by all Malaysians.
The organisers of Bersih 2.0, however, must also explain their association and funding by the US’ National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
Even in the US, many questions are being asked about the NED set up in the early 1980s in the wake of negative revelations about the CIA.
According to William Blum the writer of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, the NED was set up to overtly do what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades.
He described it as a “masterpiece of politics, public relations and cynicism”.
Ron Paul, a Republican Congressman from Texas, described the NED as “nothing more than a costly programme that takes US taxpayer funds to promote favoured politicians and political parties abroad”.
“What the NED does in foreign countries, through its recipient organisations the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, would be rightly illegal in the US.
“The NED injects soft money into the domestic elections of foreign countries in favour of one party or the other.
“It is particularly Orwellian to call US manipulation of foreign elections ‘promoting democracy.’
“How would Americans feel if the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support certain candidates deemed friendly to China? Would this be viewed as a democratic development?” he asked.
With such questions, don’t Malaysians deserve to know more about links between Bersih 2.0 and other Malaysian NGOs funded by the NED?
> Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes Coldplay’s song “Yellow”.