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The Tank Man
April 14, 2006 2:44 PM   Subscribe

The Tank Man (via Frontline). An iconic image of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
posted by bardic (45 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It was a pretty good episode of Frontline.
posted by teece at 2:59 PM on April 14, 2006


Fantastic program. The story of how the picture made it out of Beijing is pretty amazing.

Chinese security services kicked down the door of the photographer's hotel room. He had the good sense to expect their arrival and put the film in the toilet tank 5 minutes before they hit the door. When he went back for the film days later, no had flushed the toilet, the film got out of China and the rest is history.

Before watching the Frontline episode, I didn't know that the Chinese army shot at the parents of the protestors who came to the square the next day to figure out what the hell happened. Frontline has some amazing footage of the soldiers shooting parents in the back as they ran from the square.
posted by theknacker at 3:05 PM on April 14, 2006


'We regret that we are unable to stream this video for visitors from the U.K. and Ireland due to a contractual rights agreement with Channel 4.' Ah well.
posted by piscatorius at 3:05 PM on April 14, 2006


Anyone have a high-res version of the Tank Man image?
posted by phrontist at 3:15 PM on April 14, 2006


If I were the Tank Man, I'd never shut up about it. Man, I'd be drinking for free in Chinese bars for the rest of my life.
posted by horsewithnoname at 3:19 PM on April 14, 2006


No, you'd be shot.
posted by bardic at 3:20 PM on April 14, 2006


Okay. The rest of my short life.
posted by horsewithnoname at 3:23 PM on April 14, 2006 [2 favorites]


Tank Man is much better than Tank Girl.
posted by Falconetti at 3:29 PM on April 14, 2006


Tiananmen Square, 15 Years After (with hi[gher]-res photos)
posted by blue_beetle at 3:46 PM on April 14, 2006


Also: really big photo of Tank Man (1124 x 794)
posted by blue_beetle at 3:48 PM on April 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


I am surprised the students surveyed did not know tank man. But they wouldn't unless they tried. I have asked a chinese exchange student if she knew where tibet had gone. She had no idea. Well I guess it was before her time, but...
posted by uni verse at 3:54 PM on April 14, 2006


The Tank Man movie is going to suck. It will also probably feature Ice T.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:55 PM on April 14, 2006


uni verse, I thought it was sort of unclear whether the students genuinely didn't know Tank Man or if they knew they would be in trouble for discussing him with the Americans. I guess it doesn't make much of a difference, either way it's not a subject people are open and familiar with.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:05 PM on April 14, 2006


If I were the Tank Man, I'd never shut up about it. Man, I'd be drinking for free in rotting behind Chinese bars for the rest of my life.
posted by dersins at 4:10 PM on April 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Seventeen years later, Tiananmen Square is a big, tourist filled craphole with no reminders of any of this. The Chinese government is just as bad today as it was back then.
posted by borkingchikapa at 4:22 PM on April 14, 2006


No shit?
posted by keswick at 4:27 PM on April 14, 2006


the show was a let down, they had no clue where the tank man was.
posted by afu at 4:59 PM on April 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thank you bardic ... and thank you Tank Man.
posted by netbros at 5:08 PM on April 14, 2006


Yes well we all know how evil, oppressive and vindictive the Chinese government really are compared to our freedom-loving West.

Now then younguns, next question, what does this picture mean to you?
posted by zaebiz at 5:08 PM on April 14, 2006


I thought it was sort of unclear whether the students genuinely didn't know Tank Man or if they knew they would be in trouble for discussing him with the Americans.

Didn't the guy whisper "1989" to one of the girls? I think he had some idea.
posted by homunculus at 5:13 PM on April 14, 2006


I never said that the US government was perfect and wonderful, or even all that much better than China nowadays. I was just pointing out that the Chinese government is a horrible, corrupt steaming pile.
posted by borkingchikapa at 5:13 PM on April 14, 2006


do you remember the man?
standing in front of the tanks that
rolled on tianamin square
he just stood there

I heard the Red Guard went door to door and
they found him hiding under the floorboards
they yanked him out
and shot him twice in the head

no he was never caught,
they smuggled him out to America
he doesn’t want to talk about it
he’s got a new name
he lives in maclean, virginia

posted by iamck at 5:33 PM on April 14, 2006


Zaebiz! I give up! I am indeed, possibly regrettably, but also possibly not, younger than you.

What is that picture?
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 5:58 PM on April 14, 2006


What is that picture?

The man who fought the red smear.
posted by zaebiz at 6:06 PM on April 14, 2006


A profile in courage.
posted by caddis at 6:34 PM on April 14, 2006


That's one of my favorite images of all time.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:10 PM on April 14, 2006



Tiananmen Square, U.S. Version
posted by iconjack at 7:24 PM on April 14, 2006


I had no idea there was any question about Tank Man's whereabouts. For some reason I had always assumed that the reason that photo was so famous was because the tank had, y'know, run him over about five seconds after the picture was taken.

I guess not...
posted by kindall at 7:39 PM on April 14, 2006


I had no idea there was any question about Tank Man's whereabouts. For some reason I had always assumed that the reason that photo was so famous was because the tank had, y'know, run him over about five seconds after the picture was taken.

I guess not...


Yeah, the second most courageous guy that day was the one who didn't run him over.
posted by caddis at 8:49 PM on April 14, 2006


the NY/DT had a nice documentary series, "china rises," this week as well, sorta underscoring the de facto pact between the party and populace -- if the gov't can deliver growth (and reduce poverty) then the ppl can wait on freedom and democracy -- which isn't to say there still won't be plenty of injustice and exploitation along the way (that another show also helped doc..)
posted by kliuless at 9:43 PM on April 14, 2006


btw, speaking of courageous guys, Stanislav Petrov, History's Greatest Hero! :D

oh and sorta related, a meditation on "truth and the documentary," about another of antony thomas' docudramas, Death of a Princess
posted by kliuless at 10:00 PM on April 14, 2006


The Chinese government is just as bad today as it was back then.

I would say marginally better, but then they're trying desperately to allay this kind of unrest with a massive economic boom. I worry what's gonna happen when they can't sustain it any longer (a question somewhat interdependent with the US).

It remains staunchly undemocratic, with periodic propaganda campaigns like The Three Represents to underline the importance of keeping the party in power.

Yes well we all know how evil, oppressive and vindictive the Chinese government really are compared to our freedom-loving West.

zaebiz, go to hell with your straw man derail. The 1989 massacre was tragic and criminal by any humane measure. Nobody here has used it to excuse any behavior of a Western government. Besides, McCarthyism compared to a bloody massacre is really a serious order-of-magnitude error. Kent State, perhaps (or Waco if you like, but I'll go to my grave convinced that Koresh set the fires himself).

I'm not sure at all what Petrov has to do with this thread, other than that he was in a Communist country at the time. I'm not arguing, you know -- good guy -- but I'm continually mystified at why people think he was some unique individual. In the history of the Cold War nuclear standoff, there were literally thousands of hair-trigger incidents that were resolved without launching missiles.

As for Tank Man's identity, I think we won't find it out until somebody like Vasily Mitrokhin has the political freedom to paw through the Chinese secret archives.

I was astonished that the street battles took place literally under the balconies of senior Chinese leaders. I hope they have trouble sleeping even today.
posted by dhartung at 11:38 PM on April 14, 2006


I was astonished that the street battles took place literally under the balconies of senior Chinese leaders. I hope they have trouble sleeping even today.

I was talking to a China political expert a few years back about what kind of discussion the Party leaders might have been having during the protest. Differences in attitude between the Cultural Revolution generation and the Great Leap Forward generation probably affected the discussion on whether or not the party should respond with force.

Anyways, the China-hand ended the conversation with this (what I think is a joke): – The decision to shoot might have been the result of miscommunication. Imagine, all the party elders locked in one room proabably for hours in the midst of summer. Deng decides to as one of the underlings to open the window. Unfortunately, “Open the window” in Chinese is pronounced exactly like "open fire".
posted by phyrewerx at 12:20 AM on April 15, 2006


*Ask.
posted by phyrewerx at 12:21 AM on April 15, 2006


zaebiz, go to hell with your straw man derail. The 1989 massacre was tragic and criminal by any humane measure. Nobody here has used it to excuse any behavior of a Western government. Besides, McCarthyism compared to a bloody massacre is really a serious order-of-magnitude error. Kent State

= "How dare you try to derail this thread with your silly accusations of violence and oppression by my own government when there are far more shocking accusations to derail it with!"

Indeed.
posted by zaebiz at 12:42 AM on April 15, 2006


I was talking to a China political expert a few years back about what kind of discussion the Party leaders might have been having during the protest. Differences in attitude between the Cultural Revolution generation and the Great Leap Forward generation probably affected the discussion on whether or not the party should respond with force.

I read the Tianmenmen Papers a couple of years ago. The nine elders in the Politburo who made the decision to fire on the workers (most of the students had already gone back to their universities by 6/4) were so old, you'd probably be better to characterize them as the Long March generation rather than the Cultural Revolution generation.

Anyhow, didn't you all see Zhang Yimou's "Hero"? Those victims in Tiananmen made a great sacrifice to keep the motherland united.
posted by alidarbac at 1:58 AM on April 15, 2006


A beautiful and vivid reminder of defiance against the forces of oppression.

The evanescent je ne sais quoi of the human soul is found more in this photograph and in the events that surround it, than in all the pretentiousness and posturing of philosophy and art.

And if any person would claim that the actions taken by the people that day were misguided, I say: Fuck you, sir.

"I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." (Martin Luther King)
posted by malusmoriendumest at 4:03 AM on April 15, 2006


The evanescent je ne sais quoi of the human soul is found more in this photograph and in the events that surround it, than in all the pretentiousness and posturing of philosophy and art.

And if any person would claim that the actions taken by the people that day were misguided, I say: Fuck you, sir.


You will find them in any rachel corrie post.
posted by srboisvert at 5:03 AM on April 15, 2006


Yes. The Chinese government is just like the McCarthy Era U.S. government.

...


Please. Go back to school, old timer. Abraham Lincoln's administration had more in common with Communist China in the 1980's than Eisenhower's.

Don't cheapen the massacre of hundreds in Beijing and the bravery of one man with a poorly executed political comment.
posted by Atreides at 6:15 AM on April 15, 2006


According to the (rescinded) Red Cross figures cited in the Frontline piece, it was actually a massacre of thousands.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:20 AM on April 15, 2006


another excellent episode of frontline.
thanks, it'd slipped below my (and my Tivo's) radar.
posted by Busithoth at 10:35 AM on April 15, 2006


Very interesting thread...

First, we are reminded about the red smear, a shameful period in this country.

Then I learn for the first time about one Vasili Mitrokhin, who revealed Soviet spying, including "Extensive penetration of the U.S. State Department starting in the 1950's to an extent far greater than the accusations of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy."

So confusing. In this country I hear so many voices telling me who to hate, and if I listened to them all I'd be forced to hate everybody. Sometimes I wish I lived in China, where one voice tells you what to think, who to hate. Must be comforting.
posted by MarkO at 11:05 AM on April 15, 2006


So confusing. In this country I hear so many voices telling me who to hate, and if I listened to them all I'd be forced to hate everybody. Sometimes I wish I lived in China, where one voice tells you what to think, who to hate. Must be comforting

An insightful observation about human nature.
posted by zaebiz at 1:19 PM on April 15, 2006


malusmoriendumest: Indeed. What a wonderful quote.
posted by uni verse at 9:29 AM on April 16, 2006


The Bush administration's containment strategy for China may herald the next cold war.
posted by homunculus at 1:12 PM on April 19, 2006


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