Biased Western media coverage of the “Jasmine Revolution”

A story over at ESWN just caught my eye, and it cries out for comment. Roland, a blogger I admire tremendously, writes:

The website anti-CNN came into being because of the western media reporting about the Lhasa riots. Here is a post from the anti-CNN BBS about some western media coverage of the so-called Jasmine Revolution in China….

http://bbs.anti-cnn.com/viewthread.php?tid=302149

This definitely caught my interest because I’m innately suspicious of claims by anti-CNN, and I was wondering what “Western media” would be so stupid as to publish fake pictures of the non-revolution. Am I being overly suspicious? Am I being prejudiced against anti-CNN? Unfair and ignorant? Let’s take a look.

This is the very first “Western media” ESWN links to. Go there now. Its name is Online USA News. Sounds like a good catch by anti-CNN! What could be more “Western” than a site named Online USA News?

Only, if you take the time and energy to go to the About page, here’s what you find:

Onlineusanews.com is project of WebSols Pakistan. This website contains latest news updates from USA and all over the world.

Please, go there now. Look around. You’ll see that Online USA News is a third-rate bullshit blog, a pure and simple trash site from Pakistan that is in no way indicative of how the “Western media” are really covering the situation in China. It is not a “Western media.” Once again, anti-CNN gets hysterical over nothing, and uses this nothing to point hysterical fingers at “the West” without performing even the most cursory due diligence.

Another example he links to that anti-CNN has labeled an example of “Western bias” against China can be found here. Here is how the site describes itself:

Aredconsult, Inc. is an internet marketing company and outsource provider based in the Philippines.

Got that, everyone? This “Western media” that shows such bias is a BS Philippine marketing site. It’s bullshit. It’s not Western and it’s not real media.

Another example of “Western media bias” Roland sends us to can be found here. Go look it up. It looks to me like yet another aggregator posing as a news site – whatever it is, it’s obscure as hell and hardly offers a representative slice of “Western media.”

Also under the headline “Fake Western Media Coverage Of Jasmine Revolution In China” Roland offers links (from anti-CNN) to pieces from Liberty Times (in Taiwan), Next Media Animation (in HK/Taiwan), La Nueva Cuba (since when is Cuba considered “Western”?) and more. There’s one piece he links to from the Independent in Ireland which appears legitimate. but you get the picture: Out of a long string of links, practically none of the stories are in any way, shape or form “Western media.” Another link he offers actually has no photo at all (maybe they took it down?). It’s some Norwegian taboid (I think). Whatever it is, it’s not representative of “Western media.” No major Western media published fake photos of the JR, and if they did it was a mistake and they took them down. This is a fantasy, a canard.

I am not blaming Roland for this. He is translating something from anti-CNN. Maybe he should have checked the veracity of the links, but then again I know how busy he is doing translations and running the gold standard of English-language China sites. It’s anti-CNN that raises my blood pressure.

Every time you hear the battle cry “Western media bias” in regard to China you need to take a hard look at the accusation and at the source. Yes, there sure as hell IS Western media bias against China (though when you compare it to China’s media bias against the West it may seem relatively mild, to say the least). But in this case, there’s very, very little to see. anti-CNN, stupid and inflammatory as always, has chosen sites from the Philippines and Pakistan and Taiwan and pointed to them breathlessly as proof – proof, I tell you – of our awful Western bias against China.

Except it’s not true. It’s bullshit. anti-CNN is bullshit, a deceitful but highly effective propaganda machine that deceives its readers and, I suspect, itself. Take nothing they say at face value, and do your own homework. They’ve been debunked time and again, and I am always dismayed when my Chinese colleagues insist they’re a serious, professional organization. I tell them they should stop being so anti-CNN, and they just don’t get it. This has become their Truth. They’re painfully easy to expose as frauds and charlatans, if you bother to take the time. And sometimes I wonder why I even bother. I’m not going to convince their die-hard fans. But at least I can put their bullshit on the record.

(Update: A friend just complained that I use the term “bullshit” too many times in this post. All I can say is, if the shoe fits, wear it. Even if it has bullshit on it.)

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 74 Comments

Well caught deep in the slips

March 2, 2011 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

Good job, Richard! As you mention, these guys continue to milk credibility from one set of mislabeled Tibetan riot pics in 2008, but like all ideologically based organizations their attempts to make reality fit their rigid worldview get more and more clumsy as time passes. The whole “western media” thing is a pet peeve of mine as well, but people just love playing the “I see bias” game because it is easier to point the finger at imagined bogeymen than actually confront the issues.

There are no problems in China, everybody is happy, the CCP continues to brilliantly run the country…there I feel better now!

March 2, 2011 @ 12:48 pm | Comment

Yes Andy, the media bias claim always sets me off. What they don’t get is that the media is based against everybody. Democrats and Republicans are always crying foul over media bias, and no one, ever, sees the media as fair. They are human, fallible, and, like all humans, prone to bias. China, for some unfathomable reason, believes it’s conspiratorial, and fails to see that all countries believe the US media is biased against them (this is SO true in the Middle East, for example). And as I say, the media ARE biased, but in an equal opportunity way. They screw up stories and insert bias all the time, about everything, about China and everybody else. It simply comes with the territory.

March 2, 2011 @ 12:56 pm | Comment

The pink background on the site: onlineusanews.com is enough to keep most people from reading it, right?

March 2, 2011 @ 1:03 pm | Comment

I would hope so, Kesmit. How could anyone take that site seriously?

March 2, 2011 @ 1:05 pm | Comment

This post is quite kind to Roland. It’s hardly an accident that he chose to translate anti-CNN. While his translating skills and free time make him a valuable resource, nonetheless it’s best to read the articles he chooses to show his readers with a skeptical eye.

Being able to translate so much material gives him great influence in defining the debate-space for discussing current Chinese society and it shouldn’t be surprising that he uses this position to manipulate his readers, all while maintaining the fiction that “all” he’s doing is disinterestedly translating articles he happens to find.

March 2, 2011 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

Richard…. I have a bit of a theory on the difference between a simply biased media and one that is conspiratorially so. China is not familiar with the machinations of a truly free media, because it’s never had one… all it knows is that media coverage is directed according to a certain viewpoint and set of criteria by the Chinese government. There is no experience with media offering truly diverse points of view, each point of view with their own bias (such as in the US).

Against this backdrop, many in China view the west with suspicion, because it assumes the west works under the same model (US directs coverage of Fox/CNN to advance America’s soft power or its worldview, for instance), but is just better at hiding it than the Chinese government is. Thus, they go looking for “proof” of their suspicions.

Chinese journalists aren’t allowed to have their own personal biases, because the only bias they are allowed is the bias of the government they are serving. So when discussing what many Chinese call “bias” in the western media, it’s important to make a distinction between western media who are apparently spouting official views on behalf of their governments, or reporters who accidentally or purposely inject their own belief into their articles. They aren’t the same thing, and Chinese have little experience with the latter.

March 2, 2011 @ 1:22 pm | Comment

I think that the view is conspiratorial 1. because the dominant political discourse in China promotes the idea of “China against the (1st) world” and 2. because people here are already hyper aware of the biased domestic media environment i.e. it is widely known and accepted that the production of most media here is tightly coordinated with the interests of the government. I would guess that even the majority of people at Anti-CNN share this view. With this being the “common sense”* view on media, it is easy to understand why they conflate the “special characteristics” of the Chinese media with that of foreign media environments.

(Not that foreign media is any less biased than China’s, but as point out the endless variety of different and competing biases of the foreign media as opposed to the ostensible singularity of the Chinese media SHOULD make it much more difficult to attach the “conspiracy” label to Western coverage of China…but an imaginative and determined mind can do wondrous things.)

*A new pet peev that threatens to usurp the “bias game”. If one more person invokes “common sense” as a panacea to complex problems, I think I’ll explode.

March 2, 2011 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

And Cam beat me too it…haha

March 2, 2011 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

Richard, nice work. I don’t frequent ESWN, and have no opinion of Roland one way or another, though I recognize, as others have pointed out, that he has a significant following. That said, you have nicely illustrated the need to read the source article and decide for yourself, rather than relying on someone else’s summary, opinion, or translation of said article. I can’t speak about Roland’s tendencies, but I think we’re all familiar with the Pugsters of the world who complain about one line in an article (or sometimes just about the title) when a quick read of that article reveals that the author was in fact saying nothing of which the Pugsters etc accuse him/her of.

It should be noted, furthermore, that unless Roland can translate literally every article under the Chinese sun, what he chooses to tackle in and of itself already represents a selection bias on his part. And I am not intending to be pejorative of his underlying motivations, which for all I know are in the right place.

The anti CNN blowhards are not unlike the blowhards who used to frequent FM, and who may very well frequent sister sites as we speak. “western media bias” was the phrase of the day, every day. What always amused me was that, while decrying “western media bias” on the one hand, they were only too happy to trot out western media articles that supported their position (and I’m talking actual western media, not Pakistani versions thereof). My conclusion from such displays of brilliance was that they saw bias not because it was there, but only because some opinions were contrary to their own. As long as “western media” did/said/wrote something that deviated from their preferred party line, they saw bias. So it made the phrase and underlying concept meaningless, at least in their hands.

The other thing they could never grasp was the difference between journalists and columnists. Most of the time, they complained about the opinions of op-ed writers. The irony of such an accusation, and their inability to comprehend it, never ceases to amaze and amuse me. Now, the doctoring of pictures from March 2008 was stupid. And quite deserving of rebuke. But it’s hardly a ubiquitous phenomenon as those blowhards would hope for people to believe.

March 2, 2011 @ 1:49 pm | Comment

@SKC – The March 2008 pictures were “doctored” (as in, intentionally faked)? So far no-one has offered proof of even that.

And yeah, go to Hidden Harmonies right now (or don’t) and check them lapping this up, as, probably, are a hundred other such sites.

March 2, 2011 @ 2:05 pm | Comment

Hi FOARP,
you’re right. “doctor” was too strong a word. I wasn’t suggesting the photos were staged, or photo-shopped, or along those lines. More like mis-labelling of some photos and misrepresentation of who was actually portrayed in some of the shots.

I don’t go to HH, as you know, in part due to the purveyors’…ummm…proclivities, and in part due to the crowd they attract. It’s like FM, only worse. I’m not surprised that they’d be rolling around in this stuff, although you’d think that, with one of them being a lawyer, he’d at least be somewhat familiar with the concept of due diligence. But this subject matter seems to dumb them down.

March 2, 2011 @ 2:59 pm | Comment

BS is an appropriate call on this one.

ESWN has been a great source for China stories over the years, but Roland’s site has never elevated itself to the status of ‘must read’ because of the unmistakeable whiff of an anti-western agenda (let alone Taiwan). He may have only been translating the usual anti-CNN diatribe, but I do blame him for what I suspect is purposely – and by implication supportively – lending their agenda a microphone. He just didn’t want to get tagged for doing so.

March 2, 2011 @ 5:07 pm | Comment

The anti-CNN site reminds me of those right-wing websites in the US that are obsessed with ‘liberal bias’ in the media. They pick out one photo or quote from an obscure source and use it to portray the whole media as pro-Obama, anti-American (whatever that means) and hopelessly biased. I actually think Roland does a useful job in translating these ‘patriotic’ Chinese sites and showing how similarly blinkered and reactionary they are. Bullshit. There’s a big market for it on both sides of the Pacific.

March 2, 2011 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

Reminds me of the rage surrounding that SCMP story about Sanlitun cops engaging in ethnic profiling (or some such, SCMP is pay-walled) as “yet another” example of “western” media bias. One problem: the South China Morning Post is a by-and-large pro-Beijing Hong Kong news outlet.

And even if the Irish Independent is using a stock photo, just why is this illegitimate? Just why is this “fake”? Does the Irish Independent actually say that it is a real photo? Or are they denying that there was a heavy police presence in the areas selected for demonstrations?

Roland did add this comment:

“[ESWN comment: A Beijing-based foreign correspondent read this and said: "But I haven't heard of any of these outlets except Next Media Animation." That is not the point. The point is that these examples are being circulated inside China as what "WESTERN MEDIA" do. That is, the malfeasance of a few is taken to be standard behavior among all. So will the rest of the western media stand up and denounce the few? If they won't, then it is case closed. By contrast, whenever there is a case of media fakery in China, the media blogosphere/micro-blogosphere will expose and condemn with no mercy. In these present examples, the typical western media response is: "Well, I didn't and I wouldn't do anything like this." Well, good for you! But what is your role in clearing out such misinformation among the western world? Oh, "It's not my job"?]

Quite apart from the fact that more than half the outlets selected are not “western” according to any definition of this much-abused term, his target here is the use of stock photos showing generic Chinese police and demonstrators. I don’t think this is good practice, but unless it actually leads to a mis-impression (i.e, a stock photo showing actual rioting or shooting when there was none) I find it unremarkable.

His also somewhat off in saying that fakery in the Chinese media is pounced upon. Actually, most of it goes unremarked on except in extreme cases such as the releasing of press-releases describing events before they have actually happened. The classic example was the press release that was made before a manned space flight describing things the astronaut said during the trip – and this was not an example of “media” fakery, but government propaganda.

My favourite was the “Around the Country” (or whatever its name was) section of short “news” pieces from around China that they used to put (or do they still?) in the China Daily when I used to read its strong and absorbent pages back in 2003. Every one of these stories read like it had been cooked – family interest pieces and petty crime stories all resulting in a heart-warming outcome. None of them were reported by other media, and you could even find ones which appeared to have been recycled from previous issues with name and place changed.

And whilst we’re at it, as far as I am aware there have been some quite high-profile outtings of journo’s who indulge in faking stories in the US and Europe – real faking, that is, not just using stock photos with wonky captions. Jason Blair and Stephen Glass are the most prominent examples, but the News of the World’s cover story on Iraq detainee mistreatment which turned out to have been entirely faked (not that Iraqi detainees weren’t mistreated by the British Army) was also a very high-profile case.

March 2, 2011 @ 7:32 pm | Comment

I think that most people posted on this forum missing the big picture.

Western media (including US media) likes to promote itself as “free press” and believe or not, a lot of people in China (especially before 2008) actually believe that western media is free from bias and free from government influence. On the other hand, nobody, including Chinese doesn’t believe Chinese media is “free”.

Anti-Cnn and similar websites tried to change that debate. It tried to show Chinese that Western media is bias as well. That’s all.

However, I don’t agree with anti-cnn on their methods by showing the pictures. I guess that it is easier to show pictures than analyze the articles. In my opinion, Western media’s bias does exist. It is more subtle in the way how to phrase the words (a technical called “stereotyping” in creating writing 101) or selected missing certain facts in reporting.

March 2, 2011 @ 7:53 pm | Comment

anti-cnn deserves global admiration, as Hermit pointed out in 2009.
On a more serious note – what can you expect from a website that is, above all, anti?

March 2, 2011 @ 9:08 pm | Comment

I know so little about the origins of international media. Thanks, Richard.

March 2, 2011 @ 9:35 pm | Comment

SKC is right that Roland chooses what he translates. Therefore one can see a bias in what he chooses to publish. He also leaves feedback when he chooses to – FOARP has pointed out that he has in this case.

Given that Roland took the time to say something, why on earth didn’t he say something about how stupid these complaints are? You don’t have to be well informed that virtually all of these websites having nothing to do with “THE WESTERN MEDIA”.

So either Roland is so lazy he doesn’t spare a thought for what he’s recycling, or he knew full well that the claims are bogus but deliberately decided not to mention that.

March 2, 2011 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

@Jim1980 –

“and believe or not, a lot of people in China (especially before 2008) actually believe that western media is free from bias”

Which is pretty odd, because I remember plenty of people carrying on about the “lies” of the Western media when I lived in China back in ’03-’07. Usually when you inquired as to what these “lies” were, they would touch on western reportage on their country which, according to everything I had seen, was quite accurate.

To be honest, I think anti-CNN is a propaganda outlet. Whether prompted by the PRC government or not, it has spun what would otherwise be minor quibbles related to the use of stock photos and captioning into “proof” of a conspiracy against China. This is not a bona fide investigation of the media, because no-one acting in good faith could reasonably arrive at that conclusion based on the evidence at hand. This is not least because such a conspiracy could not conceivably exist as it would require such pervasive control of the media as to be impossible to hide.

I do take your point that there are some foreign journalists who are inclined to put an excessively negative spin on Chinese issues which they would not do this if it were a similar issue in their home country. However, this does not translate into a systemic bias, rather, it is merely a function of what may be a lack of familiarity with the country, or of personal inclination. I myself have criticised such editorialising where I found it excessive, or where I think there may be ulterior motives.

On the reverse side, of course, are people who cast everything to do with China with an unwarrantedly positive light. Some of these people do so out of personal inclination, some also due to lack of familiarity with the country. I also criticise this where it is excessive, or where there may be ulterior motives.

March 2, 2011 @ 10:36 pm | Comment

The whole anti-CNN problem can be summed up in a few words: they simply mistake incompetency for conspiracy. They see mistakes or poor judgment as bias. They ignore the bulk of the media coverage and cherry-pick minor mistakes or even an occasional example of bias and blow it up into an indictment of all Western media. It plays on the victim mentality of the reader and feeds the meme that everyone is unfair to China. This riles up indignation and outrage. That’s not to say there aren’t people who are unfair to China. But it’s no across-the-board Western conspiracy to make China look bad.

March 3, 2011 @ 12:27 am | Comment

they simply mistake incompetency for conspiracy. They see mistakes or poor judgment as bias. They ignore the bulk of the media coverage and cherry-pick minor mistakes or even an occasional example of bias and blow it up into an indictment of all Western media.

You are talking about Roland, right?

March 3, 2011 @ 1:00 am | Comment

Sorry for popping up form nowhere,but I’d like to share my 2 cents.
In my opinino,the majority of the population never trusted or care thet much about the “western media”(which in China is quite an ambiguous word that can refer to just about any news agency that doesn’t has its headquarters in China mainland.So the anti-cnn’s claiming of them being “western” is somewhat not that far fetched…at least to many Chinese people).They are just re-confirming their belife to please themselves,and find some sort of sense of belonging in the process.

March 3, 2011 @ 1:10 am | Comment

@Richard
Sir you just took the word out of my mouth.”Victim mentality”,that’s the word.
CCP had long been imprint it on the people along with the “my country is soooooo awesome” propaganda.This has produced a complex that maks people too proud to look outside while too passive to avoid paranoia.
If not handled properly this could lead to widespread xenophobia or worse,dangerous extreme nationalism.

March 3, 2011 @ 1:37 am | Comment

Jim, that quote is absolutely not in regard to Roland. It’s in regard to anti-CNN. Roland simply translated their post.

March 3, 2011 @ 2:08 am | Comment

@Jim
“Anti-Cnn and similar websites tried to change that debate. It tried to show Chinese that Western media is bias as well. That’s all.”
Really? By such crude methods? Gosh, almost worthy of the News of the World (UK paper).
Western media is realatively free – just read all the papers available online for free (when does that end for the NYT? Soon, I fear…). Of course, I am talking of the real western media, not the Not CCP Controlled Media (labelled western as a catch all). They do show a bias, yes – a bias that reflects their political leanings. The bias the western media shows is not due t government diktat on the whole but by the editorial line which is generally controlled by whoever owns the paper. If the western media showed a bias akin to what the Chinese have been taught by their CCP controlled curriculum, the views would change with every new government elected in by the people. They don’t, though.
What one generally does (among the educated, at least) is read a broad spectrum of papers that cover an array of the political spectrum to try and discern the truth as it is reported – not something freely available in China and hence the confusion. Here is a good sum up for the “bias” western media http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/25152/
“We are what we read”.
We, in the west, have a free press which does not mean it has to be gushing in praise of everyone, especially China. It is free to publish news within the scope of it’s political and personal opinions (not like in China). If you can’t read all the media to get the full picture, that’s not our fault – blame your government. They’re the ones banning it in China.
Anti-CNN distorts everything by such crude methods. It does not educate the people how to read the media properly (not that they can – the CCP made sure of that by draconian censorship) by targetting the news sites that are “quality”. We don’t judge Chinese food merely by trying take-aways (“Finest European and Chinese food sold here! Fish and Chips and Chinese meals to go!” type of food), so don’t judge our media by Asian wingnuts. That shows your ill-educated bias.

Wingnut media is wingnut media. It only represents the wingnut views in the west and does not count. Wingnuts are so labelled for a reason…

March 3, 2011 @ 3:19 am | Comment

@Richard,

I was being (slightly) facetious. In general, I don’t see much a difference between what Roland does and what anti-CNN does. Why do I say that? Well, lets read Roland’s response to your post:

[ESWN comment: A Beijing-based foreign correspondent read this and said: "But I haven't heard of any of these outlets except Next Media Animation." That is not the point. The point is that these examples are being circulated inside China as what "WESTERN MEDIA" do. That is, the malfeasance of a few is taken to be standard behavior among all. So will the rest of the western media stand up and denounce the few? If they won't, then it is case closed. By contrast, whenever there is a case of media fakery in China, the media blogosphere/micro-blogosphere will expose and condemn with no mercy. In these present examples, the typical western media response is: "Well, I didn't and I wouldn't do anything like this." Well, good for you! But what is your role in clearing out such misinformation among the western world? Oh, "It's not my job"?]

Now that makes sense. It is the “western media’s” fault that blogs in Pakistan and Cuba are using misleading photos. Roland is the Chinese-equivalent of Red State. And, no, I don’t really care that he “offers” translations. It is not 2003 any more.

March 3, 2011 @ 3:33 am | Comment

Jim, I somehow missed ESWN’s note at the end of the post – maybe he added it after my own post or maybe I didn’t scroll down far enough. I really disagree with his point:

The point is that these examples are being circulated inside China as what “WESTERN MEDIA” do. That is, the malfeasance of a few is taken to be standard behavior among all. So will the rest of the western media stand up and denounce the few? If they won’t, then it is case closed.

Will the rest of the Western media rise up to protest some nonsense on a Philippine marketing site and a Pakistani news aggregator? Somehow I don’t think that’s called for. If there really was “malfeasance” taking place across several Western media that was misinforming the public, maybe they’d speak out, but even then, I doubt it. Most media take care of their own news, and don’t routinely criticize other media, especially not for what was a single dumb error of an Irish newspaper running a misleading photograph. I think that no newspaper would find this “malfeasance” a high priority unless it were of a far grander and more egregious scale.

March 3, 2011 @ 4:39 am | Comment

“That is, the malfeasance of a few is taken to be standard behavior among all. So will the rest of the western media stand up and denounce the few? If they won’t, then it is case closed.”
Will the western media be ALLOWED to “denounce” the few? By denouncing, I mean be allowed to put forward their views, in an open and unrestricted manner, of the stories they are accused of showing a bias for or against.
You can accuse a whole media with political views ranging from left to right on the basis on only a tiny sample of unrepresentative media.
The western media would probably denounce the few – if they cared. As it is, they know their main target audience are used to and can see through wingnut news (generally…). And if they do denounce, they have to be allowed to be heard (or read).

March 3, 2011 @ 5:05 am | Comment

Sometimes media wil critique other media. Howie Kurtz at the WaPo makes a living doing this, very badly. MSNBC and Fox are always “correcting” each others’ stories.

What ESWN seems to be calling for remains very murky to me. Is it the NY Times’ role to point out a mistaken photo in an Irish newspaper none of the NYT readers care about? If it were a broad trend that had the ability to plunge millions around the world into confusion I can see pointing it out, the way the US media frequently mention news blackouts in China, the Internet blackouts in Egypt, the clampdown of the media in Libya, the GFW, etc. But we’re talking about a very minor mistake at some relatively obscure newspapers, and on some overseas junk sites. At what point is it the “Western media’s” role to speak out about this? Again, I think the criteria would be if the problem were serious enough to affect large numbers of people with significant consequences (like having your blog erased or not being able to access the BBC). In the case of these photos, a non-incident if there ever was one, could anyone think the US media would rise in defiance and insist on integrity – from a small newspaper in Ireland we would never know of had it not been for the super-sleuths at anti-CNN?

March 3, 2011 @ 5:31 am | Comment

@Richard – No-one in the US would care if an Irish newspaper re-used a photo from a tea-party demo in a story about the protests in Wisconsin, let alone when the reuse of photos is unconnected to the US. In fact, no Irishman would care if a photo of one one group of Irish demonstrators was re-used in a story about another. It really is beyond me why Roland thinks this is a relevant story – it simply isn’t.

@Jim – I was inclined to disagree with you, but now I’m agreeing – by translating, reprinting,and re-iterating this garbage, Roland is no better than the original authors. This is a fake story designed to perpetuate the myth of systemic “western media bias” that is so useful to the CCP, and it beggars belief that Roland can’t see that.

March 3, 2011 @ 6:05 am | Comment

But FOARP, Hidden Harmonies thinks it’s an important and legitimate story.

I do think it’s also possible Roland published the story in haste and assumed the links were legitimate. He has done that before, and I don’t think it was done with bad intentions. Not everyone would be as obnoxious as me and check out all the links and their “About” pages.

March 3, 2011 @ 6:10 am | Comment

@Richard – I guess it should also be pointed out: the examples you cite are examples where US and European media have criticised censorship, not media bias. The fact is that there is very little criticism of actual bias in the Chinese media – I have never seen an article in, say, The Guardian, The Economist, or The Times criticising the People’s Daily for slanted reporting. I’ve never seen a BBC 24, Sky News, or ITN report which actually criticised CCTV’s reporting. I’ve never heard a report on BBC Radio 4 or Virgin Radio criticising CRI for its bias. This doesn’t happen because the focus is almost always on what everyone knows is the cause – Chinese state censorship, and because no-one expects better of the Chinese media because of this censorship.

March 3, 2011 @ 6:20 am | Comment

@Richard – Do you think that the guys at Hidden Harmonies would care if the NYT reused a photo from a Tea Party demo in a story on the Wisconsin protests? My suspicion is that they wouldn’t give a damn, and that they would be right in holding that attitude.

Like I said, I was willing to give Roland some leeway, but then he updated the post with that note, which demonstrated that at least one person had told him that they were not significant sites, and likely not “western”, but he doubled-down anyway.

March 3, 2011 @ 6:27 am | Comment

All points taken. It’s a rather absurd premise, that “Western media” should stand up against media bias against China, especially when you consider the context of this premise (incorrect photos is some obscure online media, several based in Asia!). Had I seen the update before I wrote my post it would have been quite a different post.

March 3, 2011 @ 6:44 am | Comment

Like Western media’s portray of China, anti-CNN.com makes mistakes here and there. But I think the existence of anti-CNN.com is good for free media and free speech in the world in general. Some commentators in the West seem hostile to anti-CNN, just like some Chinese are angry at perceived bias in Western media.

March 3, 2011 @ 10:55 am | Comment

Not hostile, just amazed at how blatantly false most of its assertions are. And I proved my point, step by step. Do you think it’s right to point to sites from the Philippines and Pakistan as proof of “Western media bias”? If they made the mistake once I might be a bit more tolerant. But they are completely consistent and completely predictable. This is all they ever do, it is who they are. They don’t “make mistakes” – they are a mistake. They have contributed nothing to the conversation, only made sensationalistic and false claims, misconstruing occasional incompetence by journalists and editors as a vast anti-China conspiracy. I hope you haven’t fallen for it.

My background is in journalism. I know how newsrooms work. Anyone with minimal gray matter and a knowledge of how news works knows anti-CNN is a joke, that somehow has captured the imagination of many young Chinese and helped nurture their tragic victim mentality. A shame.

March 3, 2011 @ 11:05 am | Comment

@Do you think it’s right to point to sites from the Philippines and Pakistan as proof of “Western media bias”?

What about the largest print newspaper in Norway, VG Norway? The Irish Independent? DPP’s Liberty Times (Taiwan)? And Washington-based, La Nueva Cuba? Germany? Luxembourg? Anti-CNN never claims that only Phillipines and Pakistan are the culprits of doctored photos.

Since anti-CNN correctly pointed out the hilarious doctored photos and even photos that think Chinese skin color is brown in Tibetan Riots, I think they have done a good job of exposing the Western media’s impatience to make money.

March 3, 2011 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

To Richard and FOARP:
up till yesterday, I would’ve given Roland a mulligan since my presumption was that he was merely offering the service of translating en mass, and not actually standing behind or vouching for the content of any given story. From that prism, the fault is with antiCNN for basically fabricating a story that doesn’t exist (and it’s no surprise that people like HH would be all over it, since that is just the type of discerning media consumer that those boys are).

However, as you’ve pointed out, Roland no longer gets a pass with his latest comment. If you’re going to stand behind the content, then it behooves you to check up on the content. Just like anti-CNN should’ve checked up on it before they even posted it, but then i don’t think anti-CNN is particularly concerned about the legitimacy of a story, especially one that gets them salivating a la Pavlov. What Richard did to verify the source should be the starting point; the fact that some of these folks fail to do that, choose not to do that, or ignore what they find when they do that, merely reaffirms that these are guys who have a predetermined conclusion and are simply looking for things that fit that conclusion, however poorly. If these guys were scientists, they’d be practising anti-science. Since they’re trying to come off as ‘journalists’ of some form, I guess they’re anti-journalists.

It’s another simple case of caveat emptor. If a Pakistani website publishes in English, does that make them “western”, “media”, both, or neither? That’s for the reader to decide. Roland offers a ridiculous and impossible standard where “western media” (as yet undefined) must scour the globe and denounce everything that might be construed as “western media” by the consumer. This standard assumes that consumers are far too stupid to make that determination for themselves. I am quite confident that such an assumption is false, though I am equally confident that a few of the sites we’ve discussed do fall into that category.

March 3, 2011 @ 12:40 pm | Comment

Why are some so concerned about “standing up” against so-called “Western media bias” while showing no concern at all about the restrictions and even persecution exercised against journalists (international and Chinese) operating in China?
This is not just a non-story; it’s an attempt to distract people from the reality of media work in China.

March 3, 2011 @ 2:43 pm | Comment

Although it might be obvious, I would like to say for the record that the quality of discourse on the anti-cnn English-language forums is remarkably low. I have a high tolerance for abuse from CCP-friendly netizens, as demonstrated by my frequent comments on Fool’s Mountain and Hidden Harmonies, but even I won’t waste my time with anti-cnn.com.

March 3, 2011 @ 3:15 pm | Comment

Good catch Richard. I hope someone posts this onto the Anti-CNN sites so they can discuss it for a bit. Everyone should be able to learn from their own mistakes.

Regarding Western media bias: As some commenters say, it is true that bias exists against many other things than China. It is also true that most of the Chinese media are puppets of the CCP. Neither of these points are valid arguments against the main anti-CNN thesis (ie. that the Western media is biased against China).

Personally I think there is indeed a bias against China, but with the following 2 qualifications:

1- The media only reflects and amplifies the mainstream thought in our Western society. I don’t think we should point our finger at the media all the time, but rather look into the Western outlook and attitude towards the rest of the word.

2- The bias is not particularly against China itself, but against anyone who tries to build up an alternative system that doesn’t abide by our Western standards. This makes China the most obvious target.

Any State that pays lip service to democratic rules (although cheating) gets a free pass to commit terrible crimes until this day. In the case of China, we continue to remind them at every occasion of mistakes made 20+ years ago, and we make a big deal of some persons being held in house arrest (bad enough) while we set up concentration camps for hundreds of “terrorist suspects” (much worse).

Yes, both cases have been criticized in the media, I know. The difference is the angle given – In the case of the USA it is seen as an isolated excess in an otherwise just country, in the case of China it is seen as another definitive proof of the failure of their system – against all evidence.

To imagine a parallel, it is as if every journalist in the World were Noam Chomsky when they write about the USA. And it is exactly that, when Westeners write about China they do it as philosphers, judging from a higher standpoint, knowing better than the Chinese what the Chinese *should* want. I can understand why many here are unconfortable with this attitude.

Democracy is a wonderful thing, noone can say I am not a fan. One of its great advantages is that it allows us to clean our conscience. We can say “hey, it was Bush who did that, we have moved on now!!”, and this way we feel fresh and pure again, reassured in our righteous faith. Ready once more to forget our own crimes and pose as moral standard for the rest of the World.

– PS. Sorry for the long comment, I guess I am a bit late in the discussion. Nice to be back reading you after a long absence.

March 3, 2011 @ 3:42 pm | Comment

I don’t know if the anti-cnn post ever said “western” media, but it says 境外媒體 now. Not that it makes the post that much more meaningful, but at least it’s not straight-up bullshit anymore.

March 3, 2011 @ 3:49 pm | Comment

My old mucker scl
“Like Western media’s portray of China, anti-CNN.com makes mistakes here and there. But I think the existence of anti-CNN.com is good for free media and free speech in the world in general. Some commentators in the West seem hostile to anti-CNN, just like some Chinese are angry at perceived bias in Western media.”
Mistakes, eh? Like getting “west” wrong? That’s a pretty big one, in my book ;-)
Free media and free speech are great. One day even China might enjoy it. At least we angry in the west have access to ALL media, even wingnut ones :-D When will China? I like your “some Chinese” quote. I take it you mean the privileged ones, like you, with access to western media (by this I include the Philipino and Pakistani ones
Richard mentions). Pity the poor souls in the provinces, some of who don’t get any access should there be some disharmony….

March 3, 2011 @ 3:58 pm | Comment

@SKC – I never pegged you for a golfer.

@MAC – Even that is still BS, because many of the sites targetted for criticism aren’t “media”.

PS – B. O’Kane, Jeremiah, and now you too? Why is it that everyone is going all traditional characters on us? I’m simplified 4 life esse, even if I did start out learning Chinese in Taiwan.

March 3, 2011 @ 4:35 pm | Comment

PPS – Can an Englishman like me get away with using the term “esse” without it being considered racist? Maybe our native Arizonan could answer on this one, homes.

March 3, 2011 @ 4:41 pm | Comment

@kevinnolongerinpudong
Because is you show too much concern about that kind of problem,you’ll get ganged up both online and offline by CCP and its cronies.And is highly likely to ruin your whole life…

March 3, 2011 @ 10:12 pm | Comment

er,I mean “if”,sorry

March 3, 2011 @ 10:13 pm | Comment

Julien, thanks for a great oomment and good to see you back. As I said in the post, there certainly IS media bias against China. But this is not an example of that. Someone at Reuters used the wrong stock photo and only a tiny number of media – and most aren’t media at al! – picked it up.

Jason, to understand this better, see this comment over at Global Voices from the very knowledgable, pro-China Micah:

It’s probably not human error, but reliance (stupidly for a news website) on machine-generated stock photos to illustrate the story based on keywords. A lot of content farms are doing this nowadays, and I wouldn’t be surprised if minor news publications are using the same or similar software packages that include the same “feature”.

anti-CNN has created many storms in teacups before, but this really takes the cake. Such a non-story. Again, they have literally no idea how news works. If this is the shining example they come up with for media bias against China then we all know they don’t have a leg to stand on.

March 3, 2011 @ 10:20 pm | Comment

@Julen – Except, in our dealings with the Soviet block, the fascist states of the 20′s and 30′s, and even Libya under Gaddafi, the critical approach has proved to be by-and-large the right one.

The approach whereby we say “the Chinese/Libyans/Spanish know how to run things in their own country and it isn’t my place to criticise” is the one which has most often lead to the kind of deep embarassment currently being experienced in many capitals in Europe and America. Embarrassment, and not to say justified shame, experienced as we watch a dictator with whom leaders like Blair, Sarkozy, and Berlusconi rubbed shoulders, unleash heavy weapons that were sold to him by European and American companies on his own people.

As for there being an alternative to democracy, whilst everyone should certainly be aware of its faults, I am not aware of there being such an alternative. Certainly many of the people who claim to have found such an alternative so far have latter on been deposed by the very people they claim to have empowered. Witness Gaddafi’s claims that he has given Libya freedom and self-rule as his own fighter pilots refuse to obey orders to bomb and strafe people demonstrating in favour of democracy.

The lessons of history are clear – far from not criticising, the best approach is to be hyper-critical, to criticise all governments that fail to respect human rights.

March 4, 2011 @ 12:17 am | Comment

@FOARP 1. True enough, although I am somewhat more willing to give anti-CNNers the benefit of the doubt for being unable to distinguish notable media outlets from garbage. I mean, I once saw Hong Kong’s Apple Daily report a Weekly World News article as truth; and my wife, despite having been here for three years, took a while to notice that something was off about the Onion’s TV “news” show. I don’t think most Chinese people really have the background knowledge to easily pick up on what is and isn’t credible or significant foreign media, and the mainland Chinese media environment doesn’t exactly engender media literacy.

2. I refuse to use simplified because as far as I’m concerned, now that writing by hand is increasingly rare even for many Chinese, let alone foreigners, the introduction of simplified, rather than providing any benefit, has really only meant that we have to learn a lot of characters twice.

3. As far as I’m concerned, while it is an odd choice for a Brit, I don’t see anything wrong with you saying “esse” as long as it is not a genuine, condescending attempt to be “down” with Hispanics.

March 4, 2011 @ 2:21 am | Comment

@MAC: Thank you for point out that anti-CNN.com used “foreign media”, instead of “Western Media”. I took a quick look of anti-CNN.com. It seems that they still use “Western media”, if they are sure of the source is from North America, West Europe, or Australia. For reasons I do not understand, some folks in the West media think they are so superior to their counterparts in the Chinese media, that they can catch a mistake in Chinese media such as anti-CNN.com without effort.

@Richard: would you like to change the title of this post to “Biased foreigh media coverage of the ‘Jasmine Revolution’”? I know doing so will make some readers regard the post as “much ado about nothing”. But I do not think so. You see, mistake had been made, but the post stirred up debate – not a bad thing, IMOH. This is preciously the reason I think anti-CNN.com is valuable. As for your claim that the reporting of anti-CNN.com is full of errors, I am not so sure now.

@Mike Goldthorpe: Did you read MAC’s comment right in front of you? A mistake can be easily made as this post demonstrated. Why is it so hard for you to understand that there are many inaccuracies in West media reporting, including news about China? Also, do you know that most ordinary Chinese web users can access blocked websites using the many circumventing tools available to them?

March 4, 2011 @ 2:45 am | Comment

Sic, it doesn’t make a bit of difference.the sites they chose are in no way representative.r
Reread my post and see the ridiculous media they cite. Pure nonsense. Anti-CNN is a complete hoax, grasping at anything that may help prove conclusions they had arrived at in advance. False conclusions at that.

March 4, 2011 @ 3:13 am | Comment

@ Richard: Again, they have literally no idea how news works. If this is the shining example they come up with for media bias against China then we all know they don’t have a leg to stand on.

But isn’t what the media here do with Fox News on videos that doesn’t match what is now happening.

March 4, 2011 @ 3:39 am | Comment

Fox News is a mouthpiece of the Republican Party. They are biased and all but admit it. Same with MSNBC, on the Democrat’s side. They are advocacy journalists. The same with Global Times and China Daily. We accept that they have strong biases, and no one could deny they do.

That has nothing to do with this non-story from anti-CNN, which is about pointing to a non-event, a photo that was sent accidentally and only got picked up by a tiny number of media, some of which aren’t news sites at all and nearly all of which are based in Asia. I can’t see any correlation between Fox News’ built-in bias, and anti-CNN making a big issue over nothing. Sometimes Fox does that too, and I always condemn them for it. Many, many, many posts on this site rip into Fox News for either making stuff up or distorting it. The fact that they do it doesn’t exonerate anti-CNN. And at least Fox is clever about it. anti-CNN left itself wide open to richly deserved ridicule.

March 4, 2011 @ 3:47 am | Comment

@Scl
No, I didn’t read MAC’s comments as they appeared after I had typed my response and pressed submit. The Chinese characters are also not much use to me either – too old to learn properly and lazy – I let my wife to do the translations for me.
My wingnut references stand, however. Wingnut is wingnut, whether western OR foreign.
As for mistakes in the western media – of course I know there are. Hell, I’ve even read the corrections and apologies in the western media. I know of the shenannigans and distortions to get a story and to present a point of view. Check out comment 26 – I put a link there that says pretty much what you are alluding to.
The fact that most Chinee web users HAVE to use circumventing measures to access BLOCKED (I use the capitalisation to stress the words) doesn’t make your argment any better. My parents in law don’t, as far as I know, indulge in this cat and mouse game to access stuff freely available to the most inept webuser in Europe, the US or Oceania. And what is the percentage of webusers to those who use traditional media? I take it not everyone in China relies on online news, accessed illegally. Does it make you proud that one basically has to break the law to get news?

Anyway, I see things are getting tougher. Hope I’ll still be allowed to bring a camera in when I go over for a holiday!
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/world/asia/04china.html?_r=1&hp

March 4, 2011 @ 5:43 am | Comment

Watch yourself, Sci. The translation was from another blog, not by me.

Richard

March 4, 2011 @ 9:20 am | Comment

I wonder how they dug up the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang because it doesn’t support their claims. The headline means “There will be no revolution in China” and the text below is “[a]uthorities in China assert the unrest and revolutions in the Middle East will not spread to Beijing.” The text doesn’t support the idea of a revolution happening in the first place, but the anti-CNN commenters just added comments about the picture.

March 4, 2011 @ 9:57 am | Comment

Thank you, Wukailong. The entire anti-CNN story is misconceived and absurd. Business as usual.

March 4, 2011 @ 10:24 am | Comment

What exactly does anti-CCN do wrong? It exposes various Western media outlets for serious gaffes that would produce firings or disciplinary measures for any competent country.

And the bias in media megacorporations is not just political, they do far worse than that- like foster rabid consumerism, anti-intellectualism, cultural and moral decay, all for $$$$$

March 4, 2011 @ 11:26 am | Comment

Roland’s entire project is strikingly similar to the far Right’s in the US (vis-a-vis the media). He reminds me a lot of Jonah “Liberal Fascism” Goldberg, actually. Every argument is framed as “x called someone a racist, but, see!!, x IS THE RACIST!!! WIN!” About 80% of the arguments on the Right boil down to that.

“The western media are biased and imperfect, so how dare anyone in the West criticize the Chinese media.” That pretty much sums it up. It seems to stem from a childish sense of humiliation — hey, just like everything Jonah Goldberg writes! (one too many people called him a “fascist” so he set out to write a Very Serious Book to prove that they, in fact, are all fascists. So there.)

Roland also seems to confuse “objective” with “free.” Free press does not mean objective press. The failure to make that distinction results in an endless line of straw men.

March 4, 2011 @ 12:21 pm | Comment

@FOARP – “The lessons of history are clear – far from not criticising, the best approach is to be hyper-critical, to criticise all governments that fail to respect human rights.”

I agree with most of what you write. To denounce any abuse of human rights wherever it happens is not only the best approach, it is also a right and a duty of every citizen, in my opinion.

However, there is a thin line between denouncing particular cases of abuse, and passing judgement over a system as a whole. And this line becomes very thick when the judgement is made summarily, patronizingly and with the conclusions already known from the start. This is the attitude I have often seen when I go back home, and the media is often just reflecting this general mindset.

It is clear that democracy is a better system than dictatorship in the long run, no need to prove this here. But one can also make a sound argument that under certain circumstances other systems might work better. And we have to give the benefit of the doubt to China, first because of its undeniable achievements under this regime. Second – and more importantly – because there is no evidence that any significant part of the Chinese people want to overthrow their government today.

These 2 points alone make China completely different to Egypt, and the concept of a Jasmine revolution completely foreign here. What most Chinese people want to fight for is not to overthrow the government, but to make it more open. And one of the first points in the agenda is to get rid of this disgrace that is censorship – in itself a case of glaring HHRR abuse.

–All this of course has little to do with the nutjobs at Anti-CNN, and my excuses for wandering so far away from topic.

March 4, 2011 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

Not going to reinvent the wheel, but definitely agree with what MAC said here in #51: “I don’t think most Chinese people really have the background knowledge to easily pick up on what is and isn’t credible or significant foreign media, and the mainland Chinese media environment doesn’t exactly engender media literacy.”. Rather than Roland’s suggestion that ‘western media’ should patrol the airwaves and intertubes and expose all instances of fraudulent ‘western’ reporting that might sully its good name, it’s yet another case of caveat emptor being the key principle. There is a responsibility on the part of the consumer to judge the legitimacy of what they’re hearing/reading, and where they’re hearing it from/reading it. Unfortunately, this principle does require some level of competence on the part of the consumer, and the CCP system just so happens to rob them of easy opportunities to attain said competence. And if Chinese consumers really can’t tell the difference, is it ‘western media”s fault for not telling them, or is it the CCP’s fault for not letting them learn it? My vote obviously is for the latter.

I’m also with MAC wrt traditional characters. Hard enough to learn them the first time. I’m way too old to be dillying around learning a simplified version of the real thing. BUt that’s way O/T.

As for whether anti CNN started from the outset with “western” or “foreign”, the only way to know would be to see a cached screenshot of when their post first appeared. Who can otherwise say if they didn’t simply correct their obvious blunder when it became a widely-discussed topic. Also, Roland expressly speaks of “western media” in his response to Richard and in defense of the antiCNN post. And he’s a pretty good translator…though of course to err is human. And of course if that was only Roland’s interpretation of the piece, rather than what was actually written, then can’t completely blame antiCNN for how others might misconstrue their writings, even if it was fairly foreseeable.

But “western” vs “foreign” aside, there is still the small matter of “media”, and whether many/most of the examples cited by antiCNN on this topic would even qualify as such. Though it may be flogging a dead horse by this point.

March 4, 2011 @ 2:59 pm | Comment

@MAC – Actually, I was just parodying Cyprus Hill‘s B-Real, which I guess dates me a bit.

@Julen – Largely agree, except that the CCP deserves the benefit of the doubt, and whilst they have acheived more than Mubbarak’s regime, this is not by as great a margin as some people seem to think. Egypt has also undergone economic reform since the 90′s, and whilst economic growth there is not as fast as China’s, at 6% GDP growth Y-O-Y it is not insubstantial. There is no test which the CCP has passed which the regimes we see collapsing in the Middle East have failed except the willingness of those at the very top to hand to periodically hand over power to succesors who by-and-large continue their policies. As for Chinese seeking the reform of their government rather than its overthrow, in asking for greater democracy and openess there may not be much difference between the two.

March 4, 2011 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

Ooops, that’s weird, here’s what I was actually trying to link to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAlNrtcPCLw

March 4, 2011 @ 4:24 pm | Comment

Hippies have it even tougher than China in “Western” media:

http://christwire.org/2010/10/why-do-hippies-still-exist-in-america/

March 4, 2011 @ 11:33 pm | Comment

That link is totally beyond parody, even if it has some great Stanley Mouse GD cover art in the comments section. Christian Investigative Journalism at its very best. Definitely link of the year and I recommend that they be introduced to the Harmony crew. Combine the two and drugs would become redundant.

March 5, 2011 @ 4:46 am | Comment

To Slim:
that link is absolutely hilarious. Certainly “western”. No less worthy of the “media” moniker than those esteemed organizations cited by anti-CNN. Maybe HH can start a discertation on “Hippies and China – the ties that bind”.

March 5, 2011 @ 8:58 am | Comment

I am surprised to see westerners who are “used to freedom of speech” get so annoyed by a website created by some 20 year olds. Let me refer you to another website to cheer you all up if you can read Chinese: http://www.rxhj.net

March 9, 2011 @ 11:43 pm | Comment

Doesn’t matter how young or old the proprietors of this site may be. It has huge reach and influence. Virtually every colleague of mine in Beijing during the Olympics followed it closely, and believed what they saw.

March 9, 2011 @ 11:45 pm | Comment

Sounds like my colleagues who believe every word of Rush Limbaugh… relax, most of the people don’t use their brain much…

March 9, 2011 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

I’m personally not suprised that ESWN would highlight this, and of course not suprised that he would not back down after people raised the issue.
I’m pretty sure I stopped reading that site in the middle of the last decade, whenever it was that he disabled all commenting. In my opinion he has a bit too many ideological axes to grind with regards to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Chinese politics, all of the while pretending that he doesn’t- which is the real problem. Who doesn’t have their opinions? No one. But then why masquerade as if you don’t? I feel that’s what ESWN does. As such, I don’t admire him as a blogger.

March 10, 2011 @ 12:18 am | Comment

CNLST, I am very glad you compared anti-CNN with Rush Limbaugh. Thank you.

March 10, 2011 @ 12:42 am | Comment

To Richard #73:
priceless.

March 10, 2011 @ 4:05 am | Comment

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