Propaganda loudspeakers return to Vietnam capital’s streets
By Eric San Juan
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Aug 17 (EFE).- Although Vietnamese authorities have turned to new technologies to influence the population, they are reluctant to abandon propaganda forms from last century, such as posters or loudspeakers, returning to the streets of Hanoi after five years.
The decision of the new mayor of the Vietnamese capital to progressively reactivate from now to 2025 the loudspeakers that had been falling silent since 2017 has surprised the residents. They mostly see this system, so popular during the war, as an ineffective, outdated and noisy form of communication.
“Loudspeakers in big cities, such as Hanoi, are archaic and redundant. Hanoi’s plans to have loudspeakers in every neighborhood by 2025 will not be effective because they will be drowned out by noise from the streets,” said Carl Thayer, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Installed more than half a century ago to warn of wartime bombing raids and later used to spread communist propaganda, loudspeakers have been a part of Vietnam’s soundscape for decades, and while they continue to play an important role in rural areas, their usefulness in the city seems limited.
Thayer said councilors of the Vietnamese capital intend to create “neighborhood networks,” adding that citizens would continue using their phones to access information they need while the loudspeakers “will be one more object that creates noise pollution in the already noisy Hanoi.”
Thayer’s thoughts are similar to those of hundreds of Vietnamese people in social media, such as Le Dung, who wrote in an opinion piece on the VnExpress page that they are “an hour-long torture twice a day.”
Others, on the other hand, are carried away by nostalgia and do not reject the return of these objects that spread a mixture of neighborhood information, revolutionary proclamations and songs, and Communist Party news.
“My opinion is neutral. When I was little, public speakers were common, often used to announce important news such as children’s vaccination schedules or pensions for the elderly. I don’t see them being that inconvenient, maybe because I didn’t live nearby any,” Minh Thu, a 29-year-old interpreter living in Hanoi, told EFE.
However, the young woman said it is not practical because “personnel is needed to maintain it” and added that “it is more effective to send mass text messages to announce the time of vaccination against Covid-19, for example.”
Le Dung said that in the city “every neighborhood has chat groups and information about power outages, vaccinations or fire safety propaganda can be spread with an instant message.”