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….

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: 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.)


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

@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 used “foreign media”, instead of “Western Media”. I took a quick look of 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 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 is valuable. As for your claim that the reporting of 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

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!

March 4, 2011 @ 5:43 am | Comment

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


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:

March 4, 2011 @ 4:24 pm | Comment

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

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:

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:

March 10, 2011 @ 4:05 am | Comment

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