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December 3, 2007

Be Patriotic. It's the Law.

Last week, the Thai parliament started discussions on a proposed new law that would require drivers to stop and observe the national anthem when it is played twice a day. While it's a rather eccentric and impractical way to try to boost national pride, the bill is certainly not the only unconventional example of forced patriotism in recent years. Please remove your hat and put your hand over your heart, as Gelf reviews some of the odder cases.

March 2001: Russia launched a $6 million campaign aimed at promoting patriotism. Among other things, President Putin restored the old Soviet national anthem with new words. Four years later, Putin devoted another $17 million to patriotism efforts that included developing pro-Russia computer games.

November 2001: The Nebraska Board of Education approved a law requiring that schools teach students lyrics to patriotic songs like "The Star-Spangled Banner." The law also requires that teachers discuss "the dangers of communism."

December 2006: The Japanese government passed an education-reform law to increase the number of schools that are using special revisionist textbooks. These texts have been criticized for omitting references to many victims of Japanese aggression, including the "comfort women" who were coerced into sexual bondage by the Japanese military in the 1930s and 1940s.

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