Nedka Babliku has launched a new interview and discussion show called The Big East. Below is an interview in which she explains what The Big East is all about.
EF: What is the Big East?
NB: The Big East is a talk show on politics, business, arts and culture centred on pan-Asian integration. It is a platform to explore and highlight all that is important and wonderful about this politically and culturally diverse supercontinent that is emerging as the new global power house. I aim to dispel the misconceptions in the West about Asia that are not just kept alive, but encouraged.
Much of Asian media remains localised and largely for domestic consumption. There is no Asian equivalent to the BBC or CNN. The same applies to independent English speaking Asia-centric media. This is slowly changing, as we see with Chinese media going global, but nevertheless, there remains an imbalance in media coverage, which puts Asia to a disadvantage in the current info war climate.
People are hungry for information, even if they are not always conscious of it. However, in the vast universe of the internet, new insights, and a different culture of presentation is needed to deliver information in a way that is absorbed. And this is where The Big East comes in.
The Big East offers a new approach to global affairs. It is, in essence, an entertainment programme covering serious issues for an audience bored of mainstream lies presented in an earnest and patronising manner. In an age where online entertainment is free and varied, it figures that most people would sooner seek to be entertained, than lectured.
Therefore, to attract the audience’s attention, one must aim to enlighten them through entertainment. This is what a win-win looks like.
EF: Why hasn’t Asia had a wider presence in English language international media before?
NB: We must remember that after the Second World War, and pretty much throughout the 20th century, most of Asia suffered devastating losses, with most countries either still under colonial rule, or defining their new post-colonial identities. The progress however was arrested, not only due to internal conflicts that are inevitable in a culturally and ethno-linguistically rich region, but due to continual interference by more powerful countries. Consequently the continent remained poor and thus, with the exception of USSR, geopolitically compromised.
International media rarely pays much attention to struggling nations, unless it serves a specific interest. It is clear that it was to the interests of foreign powers that Asian remained subdued.
That was then, but now, the international English language media is still relatively quiet on Asian affairs, especially where progress is concerned. Pressing human rights issues such as is the case with Kashmir, go underreported in Western-led International media and other international bodies, while non-issues such as the alleged oppression of the Muslim Uyghur community in China receive significant coverage, albeit of a negative and false nature. Very little is said about the vast progress China and its partners are making with respect to the BRI that is lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. It is as though these achievements do not exist.
All this is done quite deliberately, to maintain the misconceptions about this supercontinent, that will not only be competing with the West in this century, but overtaking it as the leading economic and cultural engine of the world long after the West still talks about the mythical “Chinese bubble about to burst”. So one could say that Western dominated international media is both in denial of reality and deceptive by design.
EF: Is there a political aspect to the Big East?
NB: Not especially. However, “The Big East” will be free from Western biases present in Western media that continue to paint Asia in a neo-colonial light, a sign of both ignorance and arrogance. I will also not tolerate anti-Asian propaganda FROM Asians themselves. If there is a time for Asians to unite against a common enemy, now is the time. No good can come from a people sabotaging their own progress through parroting the enemy narrative. And make no mistake, the West will always be an economic and geopolitical competitor of Asia. One need look no further than to Western strategists throughout the ages who sought to subdue and conquer Asia. The Western stance has always been one of aggression. Economic cooperation is one thing; colonisation and domination of foreign lands is an entirely different story. It is barbarous and tribal and has no place in the 21st century.
EF: Why do you think 2019 is an important time for the world to learn more about positive developments in Asia?
NB: As I mentioned above, Asia will soon take over as the new global powerhouse. In this sense, it is more productive to cooperate with Asia than compete in an antagonistic manner. The political climate we are currently living in, is that of an information war. Superpowers can’t downright declare war on each other without devastating effects, but they can use soft power tools to undermine one another.
The West has been the King of Soft and Hard power for decades. Many still believe what the BBC and CNN tell them. Therefore, for an Asian nation, economic power in this day and age is not enough, soft power is needed to win hearts and minds to counter the negative narrative perpetuated by the West. Soft power can be anything from education to entertainment. One need look no further than Hollywood to understand just how much of an impact entertainment has in influencing the individual and collective psyche all over the world. It is all very black and white: West is mighty and righteous: Asia is barbarous and weak. Mostly lies of course, but that is how it’s been.
Despite the struggles, Asia is, in many ways more comfortable in its own skin than the West. Asia was a civilisation long before the West, and this calm confidence despite hardships, is partly why it hasn’t exercised the same degree of soft power in recent years that the West has.
The collective Asian mindset is not degenerate. It does not seek to interfere where it does not belong. It does not seek to subvert by any means. It merely wants to capitalise on its own resources to better itself and by extension, others. The Asian mindset is that of a win-win.
The opportunities the East has to offer to the wider world with respect to education, employment, entertainment, etc are immense.
EF: Could you imagine Donald Trump enjoying the show?
NB: Actually, I can. The Big East is not Hard Talk, it is entertainment with a serious edge.
Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric is just that: rhetoric. It holds no weight. He has neither hatred nor love for Asia, for him it’s a rhetorical game he wants to win. He does not hate Asia any more than he hates the EU. His general disdain for all that isn’t American is not based on ideology. His feelings are not strong either way, other than for himself and the ‘Land of Freedom’. His competitive nature is not limited to Asia.
He strikes me as the sort of man who could easily change his mind depending on circumstance and how he is treated on a personal level, as we’ve seen with regards to his budding relationship with Kim Jong un, who not too long ago he was threatening with war. If Pol Pot were to invite Donald Trump for tea, and was nice to him, Trump would say what a terrific guy he is and actually mean it.
So, in short, yes, I feel he would enjoy the show. Though it might not be the case if I were a man…
EF: Who is your ideal guest?
NB: Someone who is not afraid to laugh, cry, scream and swear. That would be fun. But then, the only individual who would fit that description is Rodrigo Duterte…perhaps, one day.
EF: Do you plan to eventually film episodes from multiple locations?
NB: Not necessarily. Nothing of the kind has crossed my mind as yet.
EF: Is watching the Big East free?
NB: Yes, it is broadcast on my Youtube channel.
EF: Where is the best place to get further updates on the show?
EF: Why did your first episode talk about The Philippines?
NB: I felt the subject of The Philippines would best set the tone for what the show would be about. The Philippines is a good example of a naturally beautiful country, strategically located that is undergoing a major metamorphosis after years of crime, corruption and foreign interference that stunted the development of the nation. It is redefining its identity.
Now change doesn’t happen over night, but as many analysts and more importantly, Filipinos will attest, the safety of the citizens and overall standard of living have vastly improved since President Duterte’s election.
A combination of independent and patriotic leadership, geographical beauty, and strategic location, Philippines is ripe for foreign investment, rather than foreign interference and exploitation.
Blow is the first episode of The Big East featuring Malcolm Conlan as Nedka’s guest