How Burma's burgeoning democracy is based on old episodes of 'The West Wing'
To most of the developed world, democracy is a birth right. To the military junta, which has presided over Burma for the past five decades, it's a strange and complex form of government which can only be understood by watching DVDs of The West Wing.
The United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has revealed that the country's autocratic rulers – who are in the protest of loosening their grip on power – have been using old episodes of Aaron Sorkin's hit series to teach themselves how parliamentary systems work.
Ms Clinton shared that anecdote at a ceremony in Washington to present the Congressional Gold Medal to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, who was recently freed from house arrest.
"The speaker of [Burma's] Lower House, where Suu Kyi now serves, said to me: 'Help us learn how to be a democratic congress, a parliament'," Ms Clinton recalled. "He went on to tell me that they were trying to teach themselves by watching old segments of The West Wing. I said: 'I think we can do better than that, Mr Speaker."
Many plot points in the cult programme, about the inner circle of a US President played by Martin Sheen, are grounded in reality. Episodes often delve into sometimes complex processes by which an inhabitant of the White House can pull the levers of power. Although it came off the air six years ago, The West Wing still has a devoted following, and its paths often intersect with contemporary politics. Before his rise to fame, Barack Obama was a model for the character Matthew Santos, a fictional young Democrat politician from an ethnic minority. More recently Sheen and several colleagues have appeared in a public service advert supporting the campaign of Michigan Supreme Court candidate Bridget Mary McCormack, whose sister Mary is the show's female lead. Ms Suu Kyi's visit to the United States is seen as a landmark in Burma's on-going liberalisation. The State media, which has for years pretended that she doesn't exist, even aired footage of her Congressional Medal Ceremony.
It was the first time she has been on government-run television in decades. Wednesday's event was not reported in Burma's state newspapers yesterday, but Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut told the Associated Press that it occurred after deadline and would therefore be in Friday's editions.
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Boston Marathon runner's search for mystery man she kissed ends with letter from his wife
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...