The Global Times on Charlie Sheen

[Update: See the Shanghaiist piece on the same article. Maybe the entire thing is a joke, along the lines of Ask Alessandro? If so, it's amazing this got through the editors.]

I’ve been watching Charlie Sheen’s implosion with a mixture of bewilderment, amusement and horror, wondering how anyone could consider him a viable parent, and also wondering why anyone would choose to self-immolate in front of the entire world.

I felt the same three emotions when I looked at this Global Times op-ed on how Sheen is “not filial.” Here’s what jumped out:

Ignoring public pleas from his father, Sheen has continued a weeklong media blitz, exhibiting obvious signs of mania. With no firm hand to guide them, Western media has deliberately goaded him into making increasingly delusional statements, more concerned about “winning” higher ratings than Sheen’s own sense of pride, or the negative example his brash public admissions about his private sex life and unverifiable international conspiracies could be setting for society.

Oh dear. You see, the US media needs a “firm hand to guide them.” What does this mean? What “firm hand” is he referring to? I can only assume he’s saying the West needs some good old-fashioned Chinese-style censorship. They apply a firm hand, alright.

After cataloging Sheen’s sins and vicissitudes, the editorial concludes:

In Chinese society, these problems are dealt with delicately and privately. Sheen is like a typical Westerner throwing fuel on the fire with each interview and tweet. It is almost as if he feels no shame and is loving the attention.

Oy vey. As if this is typical of how “Westerners” behave. The news programs this week are all Charlie all the time precisely because his behavior is an aberration. In China there is obsession with celebrities as well, though the media there, guided by a firm hand, would never dream of giving them a platform as the US media has done for bad-boy Sheen. In response, I would say this writer is behaving “in a typical Chinese-newspaper way,” wagging his finger at the US and pointing to one idiot as proof that Westerners typically “throw fuel on the fire” with no shame or contrition.

It’s hilarious, and absurd.

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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: 45 Comments

Media advice from China? What’s next: counsel on traffic etiquette and safety?

Perhaps recent events have so narrowed the range of subjects safe to write about in official Chinese media that they must resort to this.

March 10, 2011 @ 12:37 am | Comment

It was good for a laugh, at least. Anything bad an American does is “typical” of Americans.

March 10, 2011 @ 12:44 am | Comment

Having read Hao Leifeng’s other piece, and considering his name itself, I’m convinced this is great satire that got through. That there is any confusion here speaks volumes about the Chinese media, or at least the GT.

In full honesty, I first seriously (but wrongly) thought Hidden Harmonies was a parody site run by wise-guy laowai to pillory online nationalism. It saddens me that they are serious, because they are so close to self-parody yet so unaware of how far off base they are..

I have occasionally thought that Math was similarly engaging in satire.

March 10, 2011 @ 1:42 am | Comment

The point of this article is that the media is glorifying rich celebrities with drug problems and with the new technologies in hand like twitter, seem to exacerbate the issue.

Lindsay Lohan
Paris Hilton
etc.

March 10, 2011 @ 2:01 am | Comment

Richard, the thing was obvious parody. I had my doubts at first, but if you read through it is definitely a not-for-real story. The name of the purported editorialist (Hao Leifeng) is obviously made up. I only hope that the WSJ doesn’t catch hold of it, otherwise it’ll get scrubbed after they publish a story saying how it reflects badly on China’s international image.

Best of all, guys like Jason are agreeing with it! Yes, an article which advises Sheen’s employers to send him to the KTV everyday and put up his mistresses in flats of their own:

“His employers are unhappy that he was distracted with prostitutes and drugs, and didn’t show up to work on time. Why not take a tip from the Chinese business community, and make visits to a KTV parlor part of Sheen’s workday?

And instead of epic parties at his home with porn stars, why not keep Sheen occupied with business banquets?

Sheen goes on television and boasts that he has two girlfriends, who both sleep in the same bedroom. Is he too poor to set up his wives and mistresses in different houses?”

March 10, 2011 @ 2:18 am | Comment

I admit I fell for it at first even though the name of the writer should have given it away. And I’m not surprised Jason agrees with it.

Several non-China bloggers read it and they all fell for it, too, including Foreign Policy!. See here, here, here, here and here.

I have some familiarity with this newspaper, and it is not inconceivable that they would run something like this in all seriousness. :)

March 10, 2011 @ 2:43 am | Comment

If it is satire, it’s great satire, partly because it’s subtle enough to almost be taken seriously. But I think the passage FOARP highlights gives it away. Nice back-handed slap at the Chinese business/political elite.

If they were serious, then they are taking stereotyping and generalization of Americans to a new low.

But that bit about the “firm hand” is equally hilarious whether it was satire or for real.

I don’t thnk Sheen is being glorified. He is in the midst of an “epic” trainwreck, and like most trainwrecks, people can’t help but watch. But i doubt that would make people think that they would want to be in a trainwreck themselves.

March 10, 2011 @ 4:02 am | Comment

slim, you’ve obviously never heard of Poe’s Law

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poe's_Law

It just goes to show how way off base those guys really are.

March 10, 2011 @ 6:18 am | Comment

I’d heard of Poe’s Law but forgot to bring it up here. Thanks for the reminder.

March 10, 2011 @ 7:00 am | Comment

FOARP is not getting enough credit on this one.

Check out Hao’s other article:
beijing.globaltimes.cn/two-cents/opinion/2011-02/625687.html

The above from his site and it is freaking hilarious.

Cut and paste a copy for future reference before it disappears.

Chinabounder just got consigned to the dust bin of forgotten memory.

March 10, 2011 @ 7:25 am | Comment

OMG This Alexssandro (before my times) is beyond perverted. GT providing an outcall service for hot Brazilian transgenderists. Whatever, I’m installing that Green Dam thingy, even if it sounds like a sex aid.

March 10, 2011 @ 7:49 am | Comment

Melissa Chan’s take. She got it, it seems :-)
http://blogs.aljazeera.net/asia/2011/03/09/what-charlie-sheen-tells-us-about-china#
“It is fascinating that one of the hallmarks of authoritarian states is that they don’t get the joke. Editors with no sense of humour just let it print. Having been born into the propaganda and having drunk the Kool-Aid all their lives, they’re unable to see satire — a frequent weapon used for social criticism throughout history, against clueless governments.”

March 10, 2011 @ 9:17 am | Comment

Western media: ratings first, if reporting some story will destroy a person’s career, family, life, cause social instability, who cares, no rating=no revenue.

Chinese media: social responsibility first, always consider the impact of a story on a person, on society. Revenue comes second.

March 10, 2011 @ 9:36 am | Comment

@HX
Western media: ratings first, if reporting some story will destroy a person’s career, family, life, cause social instability, who cares, no rating=no revenue.

Chinese media: Follow government directives – doesn’t matter if it is true or not. Make westerners look bad – doesn’t matter if it is true or not. Social responsibility first, always consider the impact of a story on the CCP – doesn’t matter if it is true or not.

There, that’s better.

March 10, 2011 @ 9:59 am | Comment

“story will destroy a person’s career, family, life,”
—oh, I get it. Charlie Sheen doing drugs etc is not the thing responsible for screwing with his career, family, and life; it’s “western media” reporting on it that is causing those consequences. Alrighty then. Forget personal responsibility, or taking responsibility for your actions. Just place the blame on “western media”. I must say, though, that red star is at least consistent…since he plays the victim card whenever he can, just as any CCP apologist must. And just like how the CCP is the victim of “western media”, so too is Charlie Sheen apparently.

“cause social instability,”
—Charlie Sheen “winning” and being “an F18″ is going to cause social instability? LOL.

And I do like Mike’s version of Chinese media better.

March 10, 2011 @ 10:55 am | Comment

Stop joking me.

NYTimes, CNN, all these mainstream news networks in America, they ALL are very tame when covering big, overriding issues. All of them know the invisible lines they will not cross. Anyone with any sense realize this. That’s why they are called “establishment” media. They may appear to be very “maverick” on small issues. But on fundamental, “institutional” issues, they will not rock the boat. They, ultimately, help to maintain the power structure and status quo of the current American system. You are telling me NYTimes or CNN will one day challenge and help inflame and topple the American regime if there’s enough popular anger? Are you stupid?

There’s nothing more reliable and dependable as NYTimes and CNN to the established US ruling system. (note, I don’t mean specific administrations, those are superficial entities).

March 10, 2011 @ 11:13 am | Comment

Having read both of Hao Leifeng’s Global Times articles, I can opnly conclude the bloke’s a bloody genius. This is incredibly subtle satire, so subtle it’s taken at face value by the apparatchiks who run the vile rag.

Well done, old sport!

March 10, 2011 @ 11:17 am | Comment

Hao Leifeng is my new favourite comrade. Thanks to KT for showing us his other article. It’s even funnier than the Sheen thing. I guess the censors/editors of global times aren’t fluent enough to pick up on the double entendres, and don’t catch the sarcastic tone. Can’t wait for the next one.

March 10, 2011 @ 12:55 pm | Comment

@HX – Yet more proof that you don’t even read the thread or the article before commenting.

Guys, just in case you missed it, here’s the takeaway from this: it’s easier to get a humour piece disguised as an anti-western rant past the censor than it is to get a straight piece which is even vaguely critical of CCP policy.

March 10, 2011 @ 1:07 pm | Comment

My favorite part is “He ignored his own father’s advice to keep quiet, who was once the president of the US.”

March 10, 2011 @ 3:58 pm | Comment

HHAHAHAH! I just spewed my Syrah! That is hilarious! Come on, even the title of the piece is a giveaway. And citing Li Gang’s father?

Hao Leifeng, long may you continue your cultural commentary!

March 10, 2011 @ 5:18 pm | Comment

I am reading the other piece…

The kind of emphasis on large breasts implicit in the fake iPhone contest spreads a certain model of hegemony that benefits the West, and does little to flatter the special, delicate Chinese characteristics of our women.

And…

This can only lead to shanzhai (copycat) versions of the American Girls Gone Wild series, such as Spring Festival Gala Gone Wild or Gaokao Gone Wild.

I tip my Mao cap to you, Hao Leifeng!

March 10, 2011 @ 5:21 pm | Comment

So in the end this is a big “gotcha”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotcha

March 10, 2011 @ 11:39 pm | Comment

It reminds me a similar affair with one of the Spanish dictators: Primo de Rivera

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miguel_Primo_de_Rivera,_2nd_Marquis_of_Estella

The poem is in Spanish but the jest it is easy to understand. The poem is the typical bombastic, flattering and adulatory one, much of the like of authoritarian personalities/regimes, but take the first letter of each sentence and you will get something completely different.

It was published in the mayor Newspaper of the dictator’s political party.

Here it is. Answer, and translation, at the end.

Paladín de la patria redimida,
recio soldado que pelea y canta,
ira de Dios que, cuando azota, es santa,
místico rayo que al matar es vida.

Otra es España a tu virtud rendida;
ella es feliz bajo tu noble planta.
Sólo el hampón, que en odio se amamanta,
blasfema ante tu frente esclarecida.

Otro es el mundo ante la España nueva,
rencores viejos de la edad medieva
rompió tu lanza, que a los viles trunca

Ahora está en paz tu grey bajo el amado
chorro de luz de tu inmortal cayado.
¡Oh, pastor santo! ¡No nos dejes nunca!

If you have done as I indicated you will get:

“Primo es borracho!” (Primo is a drunkard!)

The day it was published everybody in the country was laughing…. at him.

I wonder if something similar could be done in Chinese…..

March 10, 2011 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

Translation with babelfish help.

Paladin of the redeemed mother country,
strong soldier who fights and sings,
wrath of God that, when it whips, is Holy,
mystic ray that when killing is life.

Another one is Spain to your tired virtue;
she is happy under your noble plant.
Only the rowdy, who in hatred nurses itself,
blasphemous before your clarified forehead.

Another one is the world before new Spain,
old resentments of the medieval age are broken before your lance,
that the vile ones truncates

Now is peacefully your congregation under the loved
spurt of light of your immortal cayado.
Oh, shepherd santo!
You never leave us!

March 11, 2011 @ 12:37 am | Comment

When heaven has to resort to satire to indicate that you have no longer deservers (if ever) its mandate, that means that change is long overdue….

March 11, 2011 @ 12:47 am | Comment

To refresh to concept.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satire

March 11, 2011 @ 1:01 am | Comment

This has taken a weird turn, with the Shanghaiist saying multiple foreign editors at the Global Times have written in saying that the editors were in on the joke.

This does not square at all with my understanding of the Global Times.

March 11, 2011 @ 2:00 am | Comment

@Slim – I find it hard to believe that the censors were in on the joke, given what happened to “Ask Alessandro”.

@Richard – You still know some people at GT from your time there? Maybe you could confirm this?

March 11, 2011 @ 3:47 am | Comment

Also, Shanghaiist were most definitely on-point with this comment:

“Yes, it didn’t quite cross our minds that your bosses were in on the joke. But seriously, can you blame us for that? Have you read some of the jackshit that’s published on the other pages of your paper?”

Quite.

March 11, 2011 @ 3:54 am | Comment

To Brian,

ah yes, President Jeb Bartlett, 2 term president on the West Wing. Gosh I loved that show. To refer to Martin Sheen’s TV character in a piece about Charlie Sheen…priceless.

To Red Star,
another stupid question. “Will” NYT/CNN challenge the US democratic system of governance “one day” IF there is enough popular sentiment to do so? Who the heck knows. You can certainly dream and long for it. But unless and until that day comes, it’s impossible to say. But on the balance, there’s a better chance of them challenging the US system than, say, oh I dunno, Xinhua challenging the CCP. That one, you can take to the bank.

March 11, 2011 @ 4:04 am | Comment

It really is a classic Poe’s Law situation (again, thanks to some guy).

I don’t see how the GT editors purportedly in on the joke would countenance the obvious, accurate and acute rips at China that are contained in the Sheen article.

And then who would be the target of the joke?

March 11, 2011 @ 5:35 am | Comment

The suggestion that GT editors were complicit in this so-called hoax is a bit thin. Scanning thru a month of pieces in this column is an out-of-body experience. Catch the couple of entries on happiness. Also there is a cop from a John Wayne movie. I suspect the editors were probably engaged in extra-curricular activities, and would have unwittingly signed off on their grandmothers execution warrant.

Probably a tres quick scan for *their* key words and hit the publish button. Back to the stockmarket or the mistress.

March 11, 2011 @ 6:06 am | Comment

That could explain it.

March 11, 2011 @ 6:11 am | Comment

But on the balance, there’s a better chance of them challenging the US system than, say, oh I dunno, Xinhua challenging the CCP. That one, you can take to the bank.

Do not understand, totally do not understand. Why will NYTimes and CNN challenge the system? Are their senior management not part of the Washington circle? Do they not have a corporate board? Are they not integrated into the current American capitalist system? Don’t their companies prosperity depends on prosperity of the US system and its institutions?

NYTimes and CNN are strong allies of the US system, no, they are part of the system.

My point is, fundamentally (keyword here, fundamentally, not superficially), they are no different from Xinhua/CCTV. They’ve evolved more, and are more sophisticated, but at heart, they are the same.

March 11, 2011 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

Thanks for writing this. What an absurd article.

March 11, 2011 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

Richard, it was satire. You know me, bro. I used to work with you at GT. Trust me on this. And it was written for GT Metro’s Two Cents opinion column by a Canadian foreign reporter at GT under a psued. The Chinese editor knew it was satire. It’s all cool.
How you doing otherwise?

March 11, 2011 @ 10:42 pm | Comment

To Red star:
“Why will NYTimes and CNN challenge the system?”
—I didn’t say they “will”. I said there’s a better chance of them doing it than Xinhua. And the fact is they “could”, if they wanted to, which is more than what Xinhua could say.

What does “having a corporate board” have to do with it? What the heck does “integration into the American capitalist system” mean? Besides, you were talking about the political system, not the “capitalist” system. You might also note that China under CCP also now has a capitalist system. So you need to get your terminology straight. And as always, you need to say stuff that is relevant.

“My point is, fundamentally (keyword here, fundamentally, not superficially), they are no different from Xinhua/CCTV.”
—how so? Xinhua/CCTV says what the CCP wants them to say ie there’s no choice in the matter. CNN etc might say the same things that “the US system” wants to say, but only because they want to. There is a “fundamental” difference between choosing to do something, and being told to do it.

March 12, 2011 @ 2:15 am | Comment

HX cannot be debated with on any assumption he is interested in facts or truth. Words have no fixed meaning in his world, and I see no evidence he has ever written an intellectually honest sentence in his life.

Other than that, I have no problem with anything he writes.

March 12, 2011 @ 5:15 am | Comment

Do not understand, totally do not understand. Why will Global Times and Cinhua challenge the system? Are their senior management not part of the CCP? Do they not have a CCP cadre? Are they not integrated into the current Chinese Communist Party? Don’t their wages and prosperity depends on prosperity of the CCP system and its institutions?

Global Times and Xinhua are the CCP, really, they are part of the system.

My point is, fundamentally (keyword here, fundamentally, not superficially), they are no different from the western media. They’ve controlled more, and are less sophisticated, but at heart, they are the same….except the western media is fragmented and not under governmental control. Editorial control supporting the left or right wing political views, maybe, but not under direct (keyword here, direct, not influence) government control. So really, they are, fundamentally, completely different…

March 12, 2011 @ 10:01 am | Comment

To Slim and Mike,

I think we are all familiar with Red Star’s MO. When anything negative is pointed out in the CCP system, the first and only reflex is to say that “the same thing” happens in the “western” system (ie US system, since it’s apparently well known in some circles that the US represents the west in its totality). THis reflex becomes problematic when in fact things are not the same. And more often than not, when the details are examined, they aren’t the same. Sadly, Red Star is not constrained by such trifling niceties as “details”, or “facts”. So away he goes on his merry way. The more for our amusement, I might add.

March 12, 2011 @ 1:32 pm | Comment

Let me split difference.

Mike is right for US media coverage of domestic stories. There is fragmented media and there is various opinions and views and there is difference between left and right.

However, for the foreign policies or national security issues, HongXing is right.
There is definitely coordination between US and big newspapers. First of all, there are only very big newspapers (New York Times or Washington Post) today in the US still covers foreign policies. Secondly, big newspaper get their stories from insider in the government (i.e. trades stories for favorite). That’s why people found wikileaks so interesting because those are stories big newspapers won’t cover due to “invisible line”.

March 13, 2011 @ 6:15 am | Comment

@jim, comment 42
Hong Xing might have touched on something….but neither the NYT or the Washington Post (or CNN, HX’s example) are owned by the US government. In cahoots, maybe, until the editorial board disagree, but not owned. That, I think, is the main difference.
Then, of course (and here HX was clever), most Chinese commentors talk of western media. Hard to get Europe to agree on anything (see the recent no fly zone over Libya argument) so getting the media to toe the government line is…well, harder! Some papers will…the papers that are already in editorial agreement with the party in power. But those in agreement with the opposition? Hmmmm….
No, HX was disingenuous in comparing US news media with the Chinese version. What the US media will do is write things that tally with government policy that those who run the paper will agree to. If it doesn’t…they won’t.
Can I ask if any Chinese media will publish, say, a Chinese Seymour Hersh article? Would Xinhua ever do an Abu Ghraib style story? I know there are many investigative reporters in China of that caliber – but if they stray too far from what the CCP wants the Chinese public to know, are they as free as Mr Hersh to publish?

Had a mate over today and we got a chatting about the world. His girlfriend is over in China at the mo – family had a new baby, trouble birth and consequences. Gist of my story is, his partner knows little of the middle eastern troubles. There’s scant mention in the media perused by the hoi polloi. As for the Chinese Jasmine None-revolution, nothing. Nada, zip, nix. No mention at all.
Could you imagine that in any western media?

March 13, 2011 @ 3:48 pm | Comment

@Mike,

“but neither the NYT or the Washington Post (or CNN, HX’s example) are owned by the US government.”

They are not, but they behave like so in term of foreign policy. I think I don’t need to remind you the drumming up before Iraq War in NYT and media prosecution in Wen-Ho Lee’s case (purportly as a spy). In general, anything related to IMPORTANT FOREIGN policy, mainstream media would echo the government’s position through “analysis” and in particular “leaks”, among other devices.

To be fair, it does not necessarily means they are just parroting the government’s policy, rather, I consider it’s a confluence of group-think and the desire to getting out news quickly (a la leaks), but effectively, they become the propaganda machine of the US government, intentionally or not. Their creditability because of independent reporting on other issues gave them more propaganda power than the People’s Daily as they have a facade of independence.

March 28, 2011 @ 9:48 pm | Comment

The same media also published the Abu Ghraib photos, and the Times ran an exhaustive front-page apology for its pre-Iraq War coverage and detailed why they (mainly Judith Miller) slipped up. The major media do not always rally to bolster support for US foreign policy, and Obama’s Libya decision has been both damned and hailed by various mass media. NY Times columnists Paul Krugman and Nick Kristoff were both anti-Iraq War as were countless others around the country. Atlantic columnist James Fallows pointedly questioned the no-fly zone and US involvement in Libya. In the first years of WWII the US media was almost entirely pro-isolationism in defiance of Roosevelt’s desire to become involved, rallying to his cause only after Pearl Harbor. So I strongly reject your premise. The one example that can be argued is Iraq, and in that case there was a massive disinformation campaign that went on for months. The media should have been more diligent, but they nearly all turned around to be heavily critical of that war, to the chagrin of the US government. Walter Cronnkite famously declared the war in Vietnam to be unwinnable, helping seal the war’s fate to Nixon’s fury. So be careful with thoughtless generalities. They are simply false.

March 29, 2011 @ 12:37 am | Comment

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