Anti-CNN Spokesman Shaun Rein

First-off, go see this excellent post over at the excellent blog China Geeks about CNN’s controversial cooperation with actor Christian Bale as he sought to interview blind activist Chen Guangcheng. I happen to agree with Charlie that whether CNN crossed an ethical line or not (and I’m not convinced they did), the ends in this case justified the means: the video was released and the world has learned about this inexcusable crime against humanity. If you want to talk about ethics, talk about the way the CCP has treated this man whose crime was exposing forced abortions in the countryside. And keeping his six-year-old daughter under house arrest, too. How noble.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, and if CNN violated journalistic ethics they deserve to be called on it. But as Charlie says, at the end of the day who cares? The story is Chen Guangcheng and the fact that thugs are holding him, his wife and his daughter under house arrest for his being a whistle-blower. Aside from some indignant Chinese bloggers and microbloggers, CNN hasn’t taken a lot of flak for breaching journalistic ethics, nor should they. (See the China Geeks thread for journalist Adam Minter’s complaints about the story.)

Watch the video and see the “unethical” journalism for yourself. What Bale has to say is pretty spot-on.

Of course, there’s one pundit who is aghast at CNN’s sins, and is getting all Anti-CNN about it. From the Harvard graduate who married into a rich Chinese family and goes fishing with high-ranking CCP officials and runs a marketing company and has written a new book on China, we get the following:

CNN’s China team, in a complete failure of journalistic integrity, decided last week to become the news rather than just report it. The actor Christian Bale called CNN to follow him as he drove for eight hours to confront police to try to see Chen Guangcheng, a blind legal activist being held in his home in the eastern Chinese village of Linyi. Bale was in China to promote his movie about the Rape of Nanking by Japanese troops in 1937.

CNN did Bale one better. It became complicit in Bale’s activism by actually planning the trip and driving him to Linyi. CNN reporter Steven Jiang then translated for Bale as he argued with Chinese police officers and refused to comply with their directives to leave. CNN posted video of the trip on its website, calling it exclusive, showing police forcing Bale to leave while Bale chastised the government, saying its treatment of Chen ”represents the power structure and their attitude towards their own citizens, which is disgusting.”

So they drove him to his destination and translated for him. I understand that this is perhaps (big perhaps) questionable journalism, but only borderline, and like Charlie said, “Who cares?” They didn’t lie or trick anyone, but they followed what sounded like a great story, a celebrity confronting thugs holding a blind man and his family under house arrest. Would it have been okay if they followed him in a taxi and he brought his own translator? Those are very small things. And Bale’s calling the treatment of Chen “disgusting” was, to say the least, justified. An understatement, really.

But Shaun Rein can see only treachery. In Shaun’s eyes, by working with Bale, CNN is facilitating the (false) notion held by many Chinese that the US media works in cahoots with the CIA and the NED and intentionally manipulates the facts they report on.

Shaun gives his cards away pretty early on:

My issue here is not with Bale. In general, I believe one should follow the laws of nations that one visits, and that Bale should do so, but I also generally believe in free speech, no matter how misguided.

Ah. He believes in free speech, no matter how misguided. You see, what Bale was trying to do is misguided. Exposing the inhumane detention of a blind activist is misguided, a publicity stunt. Note the “I generally believe in free speech” as well. That puts him in the clear to decide when to be for it and when not to. A smart thing to do if you’re going to cozy up to the powers that be in China.

In order to get why I bother to write about Shaun Rein’s columns at all, you must think very seriously about his next remark:

I have no idea about Chen’s detention, and if he is being wronged or not, but if there are issues with his case, I am not convinced that calling the entire political class “disgusting,” as Bale does, can help.

He has no idea. Wait. Stop. Fail. Unless you are willfully ignorant there is no way on earth you don’t know about the plight of Chen Guangcheng. Especially if you live in China and write for at least two media organizations. Yes, this speaks volumes. He can banter on about all the good the CCP does and cite example after example of things that prove his point. But here, he knows nothing. Nothing. No idea. And he’s writing a column in Forbes about it.

I made a promise to myself not to go after Shaun Rein any more because I don’t want to hurt his feelings, and I’ve been pretty quiet even though he keeps doling out lots of ammunition. But this is inexcusable. It’s like looking at an MRI of the Anti-CNN mentality. Oh, and note how he plugs his book throughout the column.

More vintage Shaun drivel:

Far too many in the West indict China’s whole governing class and system when a single local official does something stupid or brutish. Yet they criticized only a lone thuggish police officer in New York for pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protesters. They didn’t called President Obama evil for what that one officer did, or call for an overthrow of all of America. Yet Bale did that in China’s case, and, worse, CNN helped him.

False. The national outrage over the Oakland pepper-spraying was NOT directed only at one officer. It was directed at the abuse of authority in America. Scroll down a few posts to see my own story about it, where I direct my shame at “my country.” And this wasn’t an isolated incident, we saw just as bad in NYC a few weeks earlier, and the rage has never been solely at the individual sprayer but at the system that allows them to brutalize innocents. Really, this paragraph is among the dumbest yet. As if one lone local official is behind this detention, and the poor little CCP off in Beijing is powerless to take charge, all they can do is watch, knowing it’s atrocious, but, you know, what the hell, it’s just a local official doing it and he’s a few hours away so, like, what can we do? “A single local official.” Think about that. The CCP can be off the hook for anything that doesn’t happen within walking distance of the Great Hall of the People.

And then he puts up another of his signature straw men: “They didn’t called President Obama evil for what that one officer did, or call for an overthrow of all of America. Yet Bale did that in China’s case….” Did Bale call Hu JIntao evil? Did he call anyone evil? Did he call for the overthrow of an evil Chinese government? Did we watch the same video? Shaun, as usual, is simply making things up so he can get on his moral high horse. This is straight out of the Anti-CNN playbook.

He closes sanctimoniously:

The last thing the world needs is increased tension between the world’s two superpowers. CNN should be ashamed for becoming more like a tabloid and inserting itself into the story rather than maintaining journalistic integrity and providing an objective view of its subjects.

So there we have it; calling China to the carpet for its shit threatens fragile global relationships so we should shut the fuck up and keep things status quo so marketing companies can keep making money. Sorry, but I’ll take CNN’s journalism over this any time.

Again, go to China Geeks and see how Charlie replies to the criticisms of CNN one by one. No need for me to repeat them here.

Shaun, do you really have “no idea” they are holding a six-year-old girl under house arrest? Look into your heart and tell us the truth, do you really not know? Really? Whether the answer is yes or no, you are the one who should feel ashamed. Hear no evil, see no evil….

A six-year-old girl.

(Correction. The six-year-old girl is now being allowed to go to school, under police escort, of course. How good of them.)

UPDATE: Please be sure to check out China Geek’s post on the same article. And note the comment below. The commenter dared to ask Shaun if he really had “no idea” about this story — Shaun immediately blocked him on Twitter. The maturity of a five-year-old.

Note: If you are new to this site, you will want to see my other posts about Shaun Rein, most notable this one and this one. Don’t miss those comments. Nothing seems to light up the discussion like this subject.

______________

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: 130 Comments

Saw the same piece and totally agree except for one small niggle: Chen Guangcheng’s six-year-old daughter was, after months of house arrest, allowed to go to school under escort. It’s the totally innocent Chen Guangcheng and his wife that have been kept under ceaseless unofficial arrest in their own home.

The disingenuous nature of this piece was simply palpable. According to Rein, Bale and CNN worked together to get the “police” to “force them to leave”, for reasons which he, someone who otherwise does not admit to ever lack knowledge about recent Chinese affairs, is not familiar with. The fact that all they were trying to do was see an innocent blind man, that the men who physically attacked them as they tried to do so never claimed to be police nor wore police uniform, and that they had good reason for trying to do so, does not seem to register.

Instead Rein knows only those parts which are profitable for him to know, to the extent that knowledge is profitable. Is there a better definition of a shill?

December 22, 2011 @ 9:01 am | Comment

I dunno, Richard, Shaun Rein does at least inspire you to write awesome posts. Thanks for this one.

December 22, 2011 @ 9:04 am | Comment

[...] is a terrible shame, for the network has often shed light on areas that needed more light.See also a critical response to Rein’s post at The Peking Duck.The controversy does not appear to have seriously dented Chinese audiences’ interest in [...]

December 22, 2011 @ 9:14 am | Pingback

I actually confronted Shaun about this piece on Twitter yesterday, he insisted that he had no knowledge of Chen Guangcheng (then deleted the conversation and blocked me).
Even Global Times was willing to admit that maybe something was happening in Linyi, but Shaun Rein remains willfully ignorant…talk about a shameful lack of journalistic integrity.

December 22, 2011 @ 9:25 am | Comment

[...] Guest Post: Shame on Shaun Rein December 22, 2011By C. Custer .nrelate .nr_sponsored{ left:0px !important; } // The following is a guest post by Tom of Seeing Red in China. Of note also is a similar piece on The Peking Duck. [...]

December 22, 2011 @ 9:41 am | Pingback

I think the fact that a regular tweeter (3408 tweets) only follows 3 other people on twitter speaks volumes. Whether or not he is “wilfully ignorant” about Cheng Guangcheng, he clearly lacks even a basic desire to be informed on any level.

December 22, 2011 @ 10:06 am | Comment

It’s like looking at an MRI of the Anti-CNN mentality

Awesome

December 22, 2011 @ 10:10 am | Comment

I wonder what the odds are that Mr. Rein will go and learn about this mysterious CGC case, now that he realizes his ignorance on the issue. It might serve as a barometer of how much support for free speech his attitude of “(general) support for free speech” actually entails.

December 22, 2011 @ 10:21 am | Comment

Mr. Rein, have you no sense of decency? Have you no sense of decency?

December 22, 2011 @ 10:32 am | Comment

I’m glad you wrote this, Richard. I was compelled to post on the Forbes site about Shaun Rein’s rant, but it required registration which I didn’t feel like doing. “Shill” is correct, and a shameless one at that. Basically, Shaun Rein is angry at Christian Bale for this political-publicity stunt (which, for better or for worse, it was), yet 80% of Shaun Rein’s column is dedicated to promoting his upcoming book “The End of Cheap China: Economic and Cultural Trends That Will Disrupt the World.” He inserts the phrase “my book…” into nearly every other paragraph, which leaves little to the imagination about the underlying purpose of Shaun Rein’s post. Aside from the fact that what we DON’T need is yet another book by a pseudo-Sino expert (which will be dated and irrelevant within a year, just like all the other so-called scholarly books about modern China), I just don’t understand how someone like Shaun Rein, who might be educated and book-smart yet obviously doesn’t have his thumb on the pulse of REAL China, gets book deals and writing assignments?

December 22, 2011 @ 10:33 am | Comment

When it Reins, it pours… bullshit!

December 22, 2011 @ 10:38 am | Comment

Rein’s real or feigned ignorance of Chen Guangcheng’s political persecution and house arrest disqualifies Rein’s value judgments of any credibility whatsoever. This is also a negative advertisement for Rein’s book, which he has been trying to promote by jumping into the limelight.

December 22, 2011 @ 11:09 am | Comment

Fantastic post Richard. I agree with Lisa, if taking people to task results in stuff like this, to hell with their feelings.

December 22, 2011 @ 11:16 am | Comment

Rachel, thanks a lot for your thoughtful comment. Yes, Shaun’s columns are now all about pimping his new book, and I am in awe that Forbes allows this.

Greg, excellent point. He wants to be an oracle, spouting out his opinions to his 3,000+ twitter followers, but by refusing to follow any of them back he is actually showing his contempt.

SKC, we all know he does not WANT to know. Hell, if he did it’s just a Google search away. By being willfully ignorant he can absolve himself of any moral responsibility as he defends the thugs.

Lisa, Shaun makes it easy for me to write posts like these. He is just asking for it. I would love to know what goes on in his Harvard-educated mind as he churns out crap like this. He has to know he’s going to get lambasted.

FOARP, thanks for the update on Chen’s daughter, and thanks for sending me the link that led to this post.

Tom, welcome to the club. On Twitter Shaun blocks anyone who dares to challenge him. He is a Little Emperor, and he isn’t wearing any clothes (sorry for that unsavory image).

December 22, 2011 @ 11:17 am | Comment

I don’t even see how CNN violated journalistic ethics.
Do people think that news appears out of the clear blue sky?

Celebrities — but also businesses, government officials, NGOs, etc — call or email journalists all the time when they are up to something. And, if it sounds like an interesting story, a good aggressive journalist will follow it.

Journalists, particularly foreign correspondents, are always driving around, looking for news, translating stuff and poking their noses into trouble. They embed themselves into militaries to get the real scoop on the horrors of war. They ride on planes with heads of states to get interviews. They work with aid groups and charities to get into impoverished or disaster areas — and, yes, they share rides. If they just sat around with their hands in their laps, the news would be pretty boring.

CNN was upfront and open about its involvement. So what’s the breech of ethics? Because it gave Christian Bale a lift? Nobody forced the Chinese police to come out and make fools of themselves.

CNN is not responsible for the fact that many Chinese misunderstand its role. It’s unfortunate that so many Chinese think that anyone who does hard-hitting, critical China coverage must be a US agent, since it’s simply not true.

This is a very Chinese way of thinking. If China Daily writes something criticizing the US, you can bet there’s an ulterior government motive behind it. But most of the world’s media are not state run, thank God.

December 22, 2011 @ 11:19 am | Comment

Slight correction is needed here Richard, it’s actually a guest post on China Geeks that I wrote (same person who confronted Shaun on Twitter)

December 22, 2011 @ 11:20 am | Comment

Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

December 22, 2011 @ 11:27 am | Trackback

Great points, Joyce. You’d think Shaun Rein, who writes for Bloomberg and Forbes would understand what true journalism is.

December 22, 2011 @ 11:33 am | Comment

Richard -

I don’t think including information about Rein’s marriage and education background helps your argument at all. It just sounds personal and petty as if he has somehow harmed you. This should just be an argument about his column not his family and personal background.

Carl Schmitt

December 22, 2011 @ 11:38 am | Comment

As I commented over at ChinaGeeks:

You certainly wouldn’t want Rein working for your organisation and having access to any sensitive information that might be of interest to Chinese authorities. On the basis of his writing it’s reasonable to question both his ethics and his loyalty, let alone his journalistic integrity.

December 22, 2011 @ 11:54 am | Comment

Wait Carl, wait! This is important! Shaun himself TOLD US he married into a rich family and went to Harvard — multiple times. He has boasted about it! I am not saying anything about Shaun that he hasn’t told us himself in his columns. Are you new to to the wonderful world of Shaun Rein? If not, you must have read his column last year all about marrying into a wealthy family that is connected to the government. I am not making any judgement about this at all — it is how Shaun brands himself. It is how he has presented himself, without a word of editorial judgement from me.

December 22, 2011 @ 11:58 am | Comment

Many thanks for this excellent post, Richard.

December 22, 2011 @ 12:00 pm | Comment

Regardless of your take on Mr. Rein, the matter of journalistic integrity is not trivial. Journalism plays a critical role in free societies (and in those struggling to be free) only to the extent that journalists and the outlets they represent are more credible than other sources of information, i.e., propagandists, parties, and plutocrats (pardon the alliteration.)

That credibility depends on playing a role apart from what is being reported. Does that line get crossed? Of course: Joe Galloway, Hunter Thompson, and the entire New Journalism school delighted in doing so. But they recognized the line and flagged it to their audiences when they danced across it (Thompson, of course, lived so far on the other side his craft became as much performance art as journalism.)

In this case, as Joyce correctly points out, CNN was upfront about its role: it recognized the line, crossed it, and told the audience they were doing so. But had they failed to do so, they would have been no better than any of the government or party mouthpieces Richard and the rest of us love to roast.

“Who cares?” you ask? If disinformation in the defense of liberty is no vice, then disinformation becomes the craft, not reportage. In that case, the death of the Fourth Estate is near indeed, the standard will be the editorial whims and biases of the editors and publishers, and the infosphere will be divided among the Murdochs, Hunts, and national governments.

Compromising ethical principles in the name of a just cause is dancing with despotism, whether you are dancing atop journalistic principles or the Geneva Conventions.

December 22, 2011 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

This comment by @RelevantOrgans on Twitter says it all:

“Shameful CNN-Bale ambush reminds us of the real victims in Linyi: Hard working village goons. Give ‘em a hand!”

Rein is like another Shanghai based stooge named Eric X Li. To both of them, truth or fairness are irrelevant, they specialize in speaking comforting words to power.

December 22, 2011 @ 12:07 pm | Comment

David, as I said in my post, “Two wrongs don’t make a right, and if CNN violated journalistic ethics they deserve to be called on it.” If they committed a mild breach of ethics, such as providing Bale with transportation on translation services, I do indeed say “So what?”

Had they manufactured quotes, lied to get access to information, revealed sources, blackmailed or bribed someone, etc., then I would not be saying “So what?” As a former journalist, I am sensitive to journalistic ethics. In this case, I don’t see enough of a lapse in ethics to cry foul. And I do cry foul at the media, both Chinese and American, all the time.

December 22, 2011 @ 12:10 pm | Comment

Oh, and a quick question for Carl up there. How come you’re sock-puppeting with the same BS comment? IP addresses don’t lie. Please cut the crap.

December 22, 2011 @ 12:19 pm | Comment

[...] ignorant and surrounded by incentives to not notice things like this. Unfortunately for him Peking Duck and ChinaGeeks have both picked his statements apart mercilessly: And then he puts up another of [...]

December 22, 2011 @ 12:52 pm | Pingback

I think if Shaun Rein genuinely “doesn’t know” about the Chen Guangcheng, then he should cease calling himself as a China consultant pretty much right this instant. Even well-informed outsiders (i.e.- not China specialists) know the story. It’s a big deal.

He drank the kool-aid, didn’t he. Wow.

December 22, 2011 @ 1:10 pm | Comment

Then again- at least he doesn’t spell his own name wrong. Mea culpa!

December 22, 2011 @ 1:11 pm | Comment

I’m late to this discussion. Are we referring to the great Thought Leader and Sino version of Joseph Goebbels here.

Harvard. Young Shaun is in good company with Jeffrey Skilling, other shills, fraudsters and snake oil salesman. Just about every US enterprise or bank which has hit the skids since the 90s was helmed by a Harvard graduate.

Must be something in the water there. Excluding Bush, it is always about financial creativity and never about strange sexual practices. The latter seems to be the preserve of US elected members.

December 22, 2011 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

Richard this is your best post in a long time. I would love Rein to respond and tell us all he has truly “looked into his heart” and still has no idea about Chen. Either he is lying or he’s totally stupid. There is really no way out for him. He has indicted himself as either one or the other.

December 22, 2011 @ 1:28 pm | Comment

KT, please do NOT compare Shaun Rein to Goebbels. That just gives him ammunition to say I’m a deranged hater who likens him to Nazis. I’m not and I don’t. Shaun is a liar and a brown-noser, but he is not a Nazi, and Nazi comparisons only make those who spout them look bad. Thanks.

December 22, 2011 @ 1:30 pm | Comment

PS. I’m not saying that it’s ordinary practice that your TV crew would be driving a celebrity to an activist’s house.

But, given the rampant corruption, censorship and bribery in the mainland media, it’s not like anyone should be pointing a finger at CNN for an ethical breech here.

December 22, 2011 @ 5:01 pm | Comment

CNN only did the kind of thing that hundreds of television journalists do all the time – they tried to do or say something that others did not want to see done or said and filmed the response.

No-one would say that journalists who call up a fraudulent businessman, ask them questions, and then broadcast their “no comment” answers to the world are breaching journalistic protocol. No-one would say that a journalist who then tried to go and interview such a business man only to be set-on by that businessman’s hired goons was failing as a journalist if they recorded the incident and then broadcast the video.

I really cannot see what is being objected to here – the fact that Bale was involved does not change the substance of the story at all, it only increases the impact. Discussing who translated what and who paid for what is totally pointless – it would have made no difference to the substance of the story.

Essentially, Rein, a non-journalist, is saying that ordinary run-of-the-mill journalism is not OK when the target is CCP officials.

December 22, 2011 @ 6:05 pm | Comment

“I actually confronted Shaun about this piece on Twitter yesterday, he insisted that he had no knowledge of Chen Guangcheng (then deleted the conversation and blocked me).”

Careful Tom, you may have been breaking journalistic rules of integrity by asking Rein questions he doesn’t want to answer.

December 22, 2011 @ 6:10 pm | Comment

CNN sucks for many reasons, not sure this event is one of them. what do you call it when angelie jolie or george clooney or the u2 guy go to africa, bosnia, wherever …

shaun rein, well, that’s too easy, his emotional makeup is clear for all the world to see.

but journalism? the founding myth of “journalism” is just part of the general show business that the craft is part of. “journalistic” entities are for-profit businesses, ratings, page-views, copies sold are the only considerations. it is a product for sale in the market place and i cannot remember any event where “journalistic integrity” was rated as more important than profit.

look at the journalism about china, or america, the built-in filters, the agendas, the con, the sales job, the propaganda, the bullshit diversions from what is important or real or necessary ..

“journalism” is a tool of the status quo, at its best. at its worst it is the torchbearer of armageddon.

December 22, 2011 @ 6:34 pm | Comment

I just want to add my voice to the chorus of people saying what an awesome post this is. I love brutal takedowns:)

December 22, 2011 @ 6:43 pm | Comment

I think Rein just makes it too easy for people like Richard and Tom. But well done to both of them for deconstructing his worthless article.

December 22, 2011 @ 7:33 pm | Comment

Does Rein claim to be a Journalist? I always thought the guy just wrote poorly thought out op-eds that makes him appear to be the bridge of condescension informing the West of its next door neighbor.

His shameless self-promotion is simply base marketing. It’s not even clever; rather it’s in your face as if to say with a wink and a nod – a good salesman always plugs his wares.

Its the PT Barnum school of marketing – so two centuries ago.

Fisking Mr. Rein addresses the symptom not the cause – that this type of fast-casual op-ed (made-to-order with complexity that disguises the lack of substance) is welcome in reputable publications.

T

December 22, 2011 @ 11:25 pm | Comment

excellent post.

December 22, 2011 @ 11:29 pm | Comment

To all, actually all this Mr Bale did was just a stunt to promote his movie. Don´t you guys all know that, when a star have finishing shooting a movie, there will almost always be som scandal or things, that make big news.
In fact Mr Bale and company, don´t give a sh-t about Mr Chen Guangcheng.

All of this was a public stunt to get attention to his new movie, and he suceeded! Everybody are talking about it, and everybody will probably see his movie, and the actor, the men behind the movie, the investors will all be happy, proud and will have a happy christmas, now the movie will yield money.

Welcome to the truth, welcome, we are all capitalism!

Best Regards: Mr Creative Sense

December 23, 2011 @ 1:14 am | Comment

Whether it was a publicity stunt or not is of little to no consequence. Shaun’s lack of curiosity and feigned ignorance remain. His nonsense about Chen’s imprisonment being solely the doing of “one local official” remains absurd and an appalling suck-up to the “good government” in Beijing. This story is not about Christian Bale, but about Shaun Rein’s inexplicable insensitivity to the plight of an innocent man and his consistent and predictable distortion of facts.

December 23, 2011 @ 1:45 am | Comment

To Mr. Creative,
you are absolutely correct, i have no doubt that Bale did this at least in part for publicity, much like how every actor spends some couch time with Letterman (and if they’re really lucky and worthy, with Stewart and Colbert) before their movie opens.

However, it doesn’t detract from the injustice of the CGC situation. And at the very least, Bale is aware of the CGC situation, which is apparently something that Shaun Rein can’t say.

And speaking of capitalism and shameless publicity grabs, do you think Rein’s little piece is more about CNN and Bale, or more about plugging his little book? At least Bale did something laudable, even if there were ulterior motives. That is also something Rein can’t say about his stunt.

December 23, 2011 @ 2:53 am | Comment

Definitely 70% is plugging his book, just like mr Bale he also made a public stunt, and see, it worked. Caching $$$, now give me some donuts.

December 23, 2011 @ 3:44 am | Comment

“it worked”, in the sense that their publicity stunts did in fact attract publicity for both Bale and Rein, respectively. Whether it sells any more tickets to his movie, or moves any more books, is harder to say. Whether Bale’s actions taught Rein anything about CGC in particular, or about Rein’s own blinkered vision in general, is even more debatable.

December 23, 2011 @ 4:18 am | Comment

Bale is a millionaire many times over, and we have no idea at all — not at all — if he did this to plug his movie. He never said a word about his movie in his CNN interview, and if he really wanted to plug it all he needs to do is go on the Jay Leno show, where he won’t get beaten up. He’s already famous, so why the need for a stunt? Shaun, on the other hand, is blatantly plugging his book, referring to it multiple times by name and including a link to Amazon so people can buy it. Talk about a true publicity stunt.

Until proven otherwise, I have no reason to believe this was a publicity stunt for a movie.

December 23, 2011 @ 5:19 am | Comment

Richard, you and I are in violent agreement. I detected a disdain for journalistic ethics in the comments of others, and was responding accordingly.

Greg, you’re right that a lot of soporific sludge is produced under the guise of journalism. Nonetheless, I would not paint every journalist as a fraud, nor dismiss journalism among the forces of reaction. In China alone we have a small legion of superb reporters who do NOT get up every day in service of DA MAN.

You can toss spitballs at news anchors if you like, but not at reporters like Tania Branigan, Malcolm Moore, Paul Mooney, Jonathan Watts, Barbara Demick, Melissa Chan, and others like them who leave their urban enclaves, do the footwork, get in trouble, and when their stories become too hot even for their supportive editors, they take more time away from their families and put it all in books.

These are the kind of people that no free society can be without. Disagree? Try it.

December 23, 2011 @ 9:24 am | Comment

I’ve just read through the discussion here, and the one thing that I find very telling about it is that there doesn’t appear to be a journalist in the group. Of course, with all of the anonymity – mine included – we can never know. But, generally, journalists who put their name on the line every day aren’t coming out one way or the other on this thing.

Why is this? Are they silent because they agree with CNN’s approach? Or the opposite, that they disagree with it but perhaps don’t want to insult a colleague? My inclination is to believe the second. Let’s put it a different way, following on David Wolf’s take. Can anyone here imagine a Tania Branigan, a Paul Mooney, a Barbara Demick, a Tom Lasseter pulling a print version of the story that Steve Jiang of CNN pulled? Me neither. In fact, the very notion is downright laughable. Why is that? Because it’s not serious news gathering. It’s a publicity stunt, and though it seems most of the people on here are all for the publicity being generated, nobody is arguing that Christian Bale’s stage-managed “assault” was news. Everybody knew it was going to happen, the reporter who went there had already been denied access, and so had a small platoon of other reporters. CNN set up a confrontation, mic’d one of the participants, provided translation for both parties, and let the cameras roll. Can anyone imagine Paul Mooney, no slouch on human rights issues, doing that?

So why wouldn’t he? Because, like it or not, his reputation and credibility as a journalist is based in large part on his image as somebody who reports events, not someone who arranges them. The latter is a propaganda role, whether or not you agree with the propaganda, and that damages his ability to do other journalism.

I’m sympathetic to those who are sympathetic to CGC, don’t get me wrong. But goodness gracious, it would be nice if the armchair critics taking pot shots at journalists would take a moment to understand the wider context and difficulties involved in doing that job well in China.

As for Shaun Rein – the personal animosity here is really something remarkable. I’ve always gone by the mantra that you don’t write something about someone that you wouldn’t say to his face. I suspect that line has been crossed here, no matter how ridiculous are his words regarding CGC. Richard, you should tone it down.

December 23, 2011 @ 10:09 am | Comment

David, thanks for the comment. I so agree about the foreign correspondents in China, all of whom I’ve worked with over the years. It hurts when the angry bloggers at sites like Hidden Harmonies insist these hardworking professionals are anti-China shills. They are anything but.

December 23, 2011 @ 10:20 am | Comment

I looked on the Harvard alumni web site to confirm if Mr. Rein had in fact attended Harvard University. He did receive a Masters of Arts (MA) degree from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in “Regional Studies East Asia” in 2002. The web site gives his address in Shanghai and a link to his company web site, www dot crmconsulting dot com dot cn. He is listed on his company web site as the “Founder/MD,” as in Managing Director. His web site further says he earned a BA Honours from McGill University. There are 5 other people one can find on the site, interestingly none listed with last names.

The company is described as “the world’s leading strategic market intelligence firm. He is one of the world’s recognized thought leaders on strategy consulting.” The site does not say when the company was formed. It also lists various other positions Mr. Rein has held, making one wonder how much time he spent at each of them, and now at his new venture. Given the first-name system used for his colleagues, this would make one think that perhaps they are really part-time employees, only working on a project as needed.

Regarding being “the world’s leading strategic market intelligence firm,” this seems hard to believe could have been accomplished in such a short time with so few employees, and all done out of Shanghai. It seems more likely that “guanxi” (relationships) in China provides marketing insights that are not available to firms employing more traditional research and study.

December 23, 2011 @ 11:28 am | Comment

Dig a little deeper and you will find that nearly every single employee is an intern. Shaun likes his interns. It’s a shell operation. He is always talking about his latest surveys, even though by law surveys in China can only be taken in cooperation with the government. These “surveys” consist of an intern calling five of Shaun’s friends.

December 23, 2011 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

Wei, can you document that? I know Shaun hires interns, but I don’t know how you know how he does his surveys. Share?

Walter, I never doubted he went to Harvard grad school. I DO doubt that he can honestly call himself “one of the world’s recognized thought leaders on strategy consulting.” He’s recognized for lots of other things, but not that. Take a look at the syntax, by the way: “one of the world’s recognized thought leaders on strategy consulting.” A thought leader “on strategy consulting”? He might be a thought leader on marketing in China, or a thought leader in economics, or a thought leader in doing business in China — but a thought leader on consulting? That is questionable branding, kind of like saying you’re a thought leader on thought leadership. (Sorry, I am an editor by trade.)

December 23, 2011 @ 12:14 pm | Comment

I’ve met Ben, Sherrie et al, and they take the term meaningless verbiage to a new height. Sherrie mentions menu effectiveness, so I figure she has experience working in a cafetaria.

Anyone who signs up with this ship of fools deserves what they get, which would be sfa in the intelligence dept.

December 23, 2011 @ 12:41 pm | Comment

Ben and Sherrie?

Actually, I’d prefer we not take pot shots at Shaun and his company. His article gives us plenty to work with without getting personal.

December 23, 2011 @ 12:57 pm | Comment

@Richard. I can accept your first objection, but NOT this one. That is a website spruiking for business and promoted via his book and other scribbles. Like his ‘journalism’, the site is a slight of hand and therefore deserves a bit of forensic attention, particularly so give his self-representation as a Sino Thought Leader.

I don’t have your professional editorial skills, but I know drivel when I read it.

His company does not belong to the personal sphere: it is out there in the public domain. And while on the personal/public distinction, he does mention his $advantageous marriage and connections, so this guy is fair game whatever one focusses on.

December 23, 2011 @ 2:36 pm | Comment

Ah, I guess Shaun got tired of defending the piece and decided to go after me instead:

https://twitter.com/#!/shaunrein/status/149978592858734592
https://twitter.com/#!/shaunrein/status/149982072738557952
https://twitter.com/#!/shaunrein/status/149989993530658816
https://twitter.com/#!/shaunrein/status/149990899437420544

and the inevitable regret and attempt to flatter me as penance: https://twitter.com/#!/shaunrein/status/150065240506249216

Stay classy, guy.

December 23, 2011 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

Apologies to conclude. There is no reason to suppose that Ben, Sherrie et al actually exist. If they were so darned pleased to pass over other career-enhancing avenues to take up internships with Rein’s company, you would think they would insist on having their full names noted on the website.
Nil contact details also.
Bet the farm that they don’t exist in the flesh, since this is a common ploy in Sino-land.

December 23, 2011 @ 3:38 pm | Comment

@Richard

I actually did not bother much about Shaun Rein’s imbecility until i read his crap article Nouriel Roubini Is All Wrong About China. He literally based his rebuttal to Roubini’s argument by attacking Roubini’s less than accurate statements. This is just hitting below the belt.

He wrote:
” However, most of Roubini’s conclusions are based on phantom facts, as is his evidence for why China will have economic problems. There is no direct flight between Shanghai and Hangzhou, nor is there a maglev train system connecting the two cities. Shanghai has two, not three, airports, and the last new one opened a dozen years ago, in 1999. Both the Hongqiao and Pudong airports have been adding runways and terminals because the airports are too crowded, contrary to Roubini’s suggestions of emptiness. Pudong’s passenger and cargo traffic grew 27% in 2010, to 40.6 million passengers. It is now the third busiest airport in the world in terms of freight traffic, with 3,227,914 metric tons handled every year”

- The “third airport” Roubini was referring to was actually Jiaxing Airport which is dubbed as Shanghai’s third airport because of its close proximity. There were questions about Jiaxing’s viability given that it is so close to the air hubs at Hongqiao and Pudong.

-Moreover, Rein’s attempt to embarrass Roubini did not change the fact that 3/4 of 181 airports in China are making losses, airports such as those like the ones in Libo are only handing 151 passengers in the year 2009. Zhuhai is still running way below capacity after so many years in operation.

-Rein also omit the fact that tickets on the CRH are hardly affordable for ordinary folks and some of the stations such as Dezhou East and Jinan West are more than 20km from the city centre in the middle of farmlands.

December 23, 2011 @ 3:43 pm | Comment

It hurts when the angry bloggers at sites like Hidden Harmonies insist these hardworking professionals are anti-China shills.

I think you are taking HH way too seriously, Richard. If anyone believes them, it is only a prejudice confirmed. There won’t be too many people who changed their views after reading read HH blogposts. There are only believers.

December 23, 2011 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

I think you are being way too critical of people who think CNN did the wrong thing. Rein did go too far and it doesn’t help his case that he claims not to know a thing about CGC. But he is not the only person who has been critical or thinks what CNN did should be pointed out and discussed. David Bandurski of China Media Project is probably the most respected person on media matters in Hong Kong and he thought CNN was out of line too. MSNBC quoted him on it …

——
“While Bale’s visit focuses new attention on Chen’s case, CNN’s role raises questions about activism and advocacy among reporters, said David Bandurski, editor of the China Media Project website at the University of Hong Kong.
“It made me instantly uncomfortable, wondering how it all came together. It raises questions about where the lines are drawn,” Bandurski said.
——-

Richard writes that “Aside from some indignant Chinese bloggers and microbloggers, CNN hasn’t taken a lot of flak for breaching journalistic ethics.” I don’t think that’s correct. Maybe somebody should ask Bandurski if he has another opinion.

Journalistic ethics and how foreign media operate in China IS important, IS an issue in this Bale story.

December 23, 2011 @ 4:00 pm | Comment

Exactly. HH represents the views on China of a bunch of Americans of CHinese descent, many of whom are rather dismayed at their current circumstance of being in the US. I wouldn’t put too much stock in those views, since they are of extremely limited value in terms of generalizability, not to mention relevance.

December 23, 2011 @ 5:02 pm | Comment

A tweet from Shaun Rein -

“@isaac disagree. Best way to shed light on problem areas is 1) media covers objectively 2) activists shed light. Not media.”

Right, because for some reason journalists are not allowed to shed light on things. Apparently investigating a story is not objective behaviour in Rein’s view.

December 23, 2011 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

What happens when the activists are arrested and put under “house arrest”? How does Rein think journalists should act then?

December 23, 2011 @ 8:48 pm | Comment

I agree with your post. I didn’t know anything about Shaun Rein before but I did know about Chen. I’m no thought leader on journalistic ethics but I ask myself if CNN would have done something similar in the US – and the answer is yes, they would, and do. They aren’t treating China any differently.

December 23, 2011 @ 10:54 pm | Comment

Custer, your comment got stuck in my spam filter because of all the links. Thanks for sharing that. All that stuff about GT is a means of distracting readers from his own malfeasance.

Karen, I am not hard on people who say that CNN was wrong. Not at all. I am very careful to say that they indeed may have been wrong. That’s a small part of what this post is about. It’s about Shaun’s willful ignorance, toeing the party line and insisting this is the work of “a lone official.” Adam Minter wrote a post also knocking CNN and it was fine because he stayed within the limits of fair criticism.

Mankato, all I did was throw Shaun’s own words, with quote marks, back at him. This isn’t personal, just as China Geek’s post isn’t personal. This is what he says. He wants to write a column for Forbes, he’d better expect scrutiny.

December 24, 2011 @ 1:05 am | Comment

Makato: I’ve just read through the discussion here, and the one thing that I find very telling about it is that there doesn’t appear to be a journalist in the group.

Wrong. I have my Master’s in journalism from NYU, worked as a copy editor for a major newspaper in NYC, then worked as an investigative reporter in Maryland, then as a reporter for a Washington, DC news syndicate. This was right before the Internet, so don’t bother searching. :) I also did a short stint at the Global Times, for better or for worse. So your opening premise is false.

December 24, 2011 @ 1:40 am | Comment

I don’t really see how what CNN did is unethical, or even ‘questionable’, to be honest. They certainly created the news is a sense, but the fact that they did so is quite obvious to anyone watching the video. Bale and his crew make no attempt to pretend that they are doing anything other than deliberately putting the party and the Chinese police on the spot. You could argue that this isn’t a rounded, thorough analysis of the issue, but I don’t think it claims to be; a piece has to be intentionally misleading to count as unethical, and this is not.

December 24, 2011 @ 3:22 am | Comment

Here’s the thing. If Bale has a press conferences in LA to denounce CGC’s treatment, and CNN reports on it, there is no issue. Even if Bale holds a news conference in Linyi and CNN reports on it, there is no issue whatsoever. So really, it seems the brouhaha is entirely over the fact that CNN gave him a ride, and provided a translator. It’s not like CNN paid Bale to do it, or CNN approached Bale to do this on their behalf in exchange for a photo-op to plug his movie. The people who are complaining are needlessly making a mountain of a molehill, not to mention completely missing the point that this is about CGC’s ridiculous treatment…except for Rein, who is apparently unaware of the point altogether.

December 24, 2011 @ 3:22 am | Comment

I too am trying hard to see what exactly CNN is supposed to have done wrong. When, for example, Al-Jazeera’s Melissa Chan went with a camera crew to see Liu Xia (Liu Xiaobo’s wife), she very clearly already knew that she wouldn’t be allowed in to see her. Was she manufacturing news simply by doing so? Clearly not – her story was about Liu Xia’s house arrest, and her piece very clearly showed the nature of Liu Xia’s arrest.

Many of the print journalists referred to above do the same when they print the “no comment” comments or denials of officials to questions which they know in advance will not be answered. Asking that journalists do not ask reasonable questions when they know they won’t be answered, or make reasonable and lawful efforts to gain access to people when they know in advance that access will be denied,is insisting that they adopt an unwarrantedly deferential position.

Talk of how CNN paid for Bale’s ride and translated for him is very, very weak in my view. Bale is a millionaire and could arrange these things himself – it would have made no difference if he had made separate arrangements.

December 24, 2011 @ 4:48 am | Comment

The bigger question here is who’s idea was it? Bale wanting to visit CGC, and CNN asking to tag along, or CNN asking Bale to lend star power to a planned visit? If it’s the latter, it’s not bad journalism, but it’s lazy in the sense that it reduces the whole CGC saga to one that focuses more on Christian Bale rather than the lawyer himself, much as the Dalai Lama was in the end reduced to a shadow filled by Hollywood celebrities.

I would have been much more impressed with CNN had they actually talked about the institutional factors that keep the idiotic one child policy around, and done a long investigation onto WHY the policies CGC was protesting were put into place and WHY they haven’t disappeared yet, rather than simply reducing it to a story about autocracy and human rights. One-dimensional views of a country like the ones this story creates, put into the heads of Western citizens, are exactly the reason why Sino-US policy ends up becoming such a schizophrenic fuckfest–perhaps only 1% of the average citizenry in the West or China really understands the nature of Sino-US relations or the nature of the other power’s political systems, and it seems the media organs in place are doing everything in their power to make it stay that way.

December 24, 2011 @ 5:35 am | Comment

“I would have been much more impressed with CNN had they actually talked about the institutional factors that keep the idiotic one child policy around, and done a long investigation onto WHY the policies CGC was protesting were put into place and WHY they haven’t disappeared yet, rather than simply reducing it to a story about autocracy and human rights.”

I’m no fan of CNN and much prefer the BBC or ITN for getting my news – like most other US news media they are far too defferent to politicians, but they have done reports on the one-Child policy – it’s just that few people are all that interested.

Still, since what CGC was protesting against was forced abortion and not the one-child policy per se, I wonder if such reportage would have really been all that relevant.

December 24, 2011 @ 6:21 am | Comment

All the hollywood stars need some “big international issue” to link themselves to, so as to make themselves more than just an actor, they want fame in the political and “charity” dimension too. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, etc. All of them have a media consultant team that picks an issue for them to “champion”, like AIDS, poverty in Africa, Tibet, blah blah blah. Do they really care? Of course not, it’s part of their personal media packaging like everything else.

This plays into the “we are the world’s savior” mentality of modern day Caucasian liberals:

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/12/03/117-political-prisoners/

” if you want to befriend a large number of white people at the same time, the easiest way to do it is to go to jail for political reasons.

White people love political prisoners because they are individuals who have been locked up because their beliefs or their presence stands in defiance of an unjust system. In fact, most white people would love to be locked up for their beliefs provided that they could go to a jail with private toilets, plenty of books and no rape.

Instead, white people are forced to turn those dreams of oppression into something more productive. Specifically the belief that one day their law degree, graphic design skill, or ability to attend a concert can be used to free a political prisoner.”

December 24, 2011 @ 6:24 am | Comment

Thanks for your contribution, Red Star. Great site you linked to. Did you notice it’s a site designed to make people laugh?

Just because a celebrity endorses a cause does not make that cause invalid.

I would have been much more impressed with CNN had they actually talked about the institutional factors that keep the idiotic one child policy around

The one-child policy has been covered in the media countless times. This was a story about an activist under house arrest. The history behind his cause, while important, is hardly the story. This was a story about thuggery.

One-dimensional views of a country like the ones this story creates, put into the heads of Western citizens, are exactly the reason why Sino-US policy ends up becoming such a schizophrenic fuckfest

China sets itself up for this kind of coverage. No blind activist under house arrest, no story.

CNN, especially Fareed Zakaria, for example, has done many favorable stories about China, but they don’t stand out and are overshadowed by the horror stories. People everywhere fasten onto the bad news and soon forget the good. The frustrating thing is that China could so easily nip embarrassing situations like this in the bud if it had a whiff of common sense. Instead, they create the climate for a perfect storm of well-deserved international outrage.

December 24, 2011 @ 7:19 am | Comment

I fail to see what the problem is with CNN’s actions here. They did not create this story nor did they instigate any official reactions themselves. Bale was going there wether or not CNN went with him. It ain’t like he couldn’t afford to pay his own way there. CNN most likely made a deal to provide a car and translator in retunrn for the story. I have no training, and have never studied journalism so there may be some standard here I am unaware of, but CNN seems to have done nothing wrong here. Lets face it, What gets better ratings – some unknown reporter getting his butt kicked and thrown out of China, or Bale? How many more people who were previously unaware of CGC will now learn of him because of Bale? Hard to fault CNN on this.

That said, Red Star has raised a point that may deserve further exploration although I don’t think it is relevant to this topic. That is; Entertainment figures being regarded as people to be listened to on topics of politics, economics, etc.

December 24, 2011 @ 12:21 pm | Comment

Red Star raises a valid point. CNN is pure garbage, always raising the tom toms of war. Recall their Lebanon coverage in 2001 when in ROK, and it was truly disgusting.
Richard, if you are depending on CNN to make your point, you are ….

Lets get serious people. If your are depending on Bale and CNN to make your point, you have serious personal issues.

You don’t need this prat and CNN to make a valid point.

CNN and Hollywood = vermin.

December 24, 2011 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

I won’t say CNN is “sheer garbage.” They can be good and they can be bad. I think they’re still the best of the American cable channels for news, though that isn’t necessarily setting the bar very high.

I don’t know what you mean by “If your are depending on Bale and CNN to make your point, you have serious personal issues.” Serious personal issues? Don’t you think that’s a bit strong? With all due respect, maybe you should tone it down. Comparing Shaun to Goebbels and talking like this is a little upsetting. Thanks.

December 24, 2011 @ 1:38 pm | Comment

@ Richard. I have already graciously accepted your point about JG and Mr Rein. My views about CNN were already formed even before I acquired my first pc.

I will also scrap the personal issues line…my bad expression and apologies.

I happen to loathe CNN. They got off to a great start in the early 80s, and I particularly enjoyed their coverage of the South Americam stuff…ie El Salvador and the Death Squads.

CNN has been an extension of the Pentagon/Ollie North in the last two decades, no more and no less.

Al Jazeera leaves them in the dust for objectivity.

December 24, 2011 @ 1:52 pm | Comment

Prat = Bale, so there is no misunderstanding.

And if you find my views unacceptable, moderate me off the site.

Shirley McLaine, Richard Gere, Bale. Really, if these types are going to stand in for general HR objections to the way the CCP runs their domestic affairs, I’m migrating to Albania.

December 24, 2011 @ 2:14 pm | Comment

It’s not your views, it’s how you are expressing them. Just try to avoid the personal stuff. Thanks.

December 24, 2011 @ 2:16 pm | Comment

I agree with Goju 74. Particularly this line: “How many more people who were previously unaware of CGC will now learn of him because of Bale?”. Shaun Rein for one, it would appear.

Being a celebrity, in and of itself, obviously doesn’t make people an expert in politics, or economics, or anything else. But if a story that would otherwise not make news ends up there because Angelina Jolie, or whoever, is involved with it, that is not a bad use of celebrity.

December 24, 2011 @ 3:56 pm | Comment

@SKC – It would be nice if people did actually learn about CGC as a result of this incident, rather than simply claim knowledge of everything about this incident except the background to CGC and his family being held under arrest without charge.

December 24, 2011 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

I’m not thinking of CNN as a good source of information in general, but I have no problem with their recent coverage on the piece in question. Amazing how Mr. Rein manages to trigger a discussion about its “rights” or “wrongs”. The only noteworthy bit in this context was that Rein talked about journalistic integrity. That made me laugh, and that was it.

December 24, 2011 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

@Foarp = Even if most people will never get beyond reading the headline, some people will. That is a problem endemic in news media readership. It applies to every subject. All any writer can hope for when the article includes a popular figure is that a reader will be drawn to the article because of the name – and continue to read the article itself. It is a sad fact that so many people are more interested in who is sleeping with what Kardashian than what is happening to CGC. And it is sad that including some star’s name in an article is needed to get more attention drawn to it – but thats the way it seems to work.

For what its worth, I have learned quite a lot more about CGC than I was aware of just because of CNN and Bale. I am generally in full agreement to the above ill regard of CNN to the point that just seeing that a news report is coming from CNN is sufficient for me to just skip over it entirely. It is very difficult to say they have produced a real serious piece of work – but I believe thay have done so in admirable fashion. (…..waiting for thunderclap and lightening strike…..)

December 26, 2011 @ 3:43 am | Comment

Thank you for continually exposing the sellout, in-bed-with-criminals Rein. He is an insult and would be better off just burning his American passport and getting a villa in Zhongnanhai with the rest of the thugs.

December 26, 2011 @ 5:01 am | Comment

“UPDATE: Please be sure to check out China Geek’s post on the same article. And note the comment below. The commenter dared to ask Shaun if he really had “no idea” about this story — Shaun immediately blocked him on Twitter. The maturity of a five-year-old.”

Looks like Mr Rein is mastering the techniques of his masters and the people he needs to maintain his cushy lifestyle…

December 26, 2011 @ 5:06 am | Comment

What is interesting is how quickly CGC (and the wider issue of activist detentions) was lost in all this.

CNN got their story.
Bale got some publicity for being “roughed” up by the “Chinese”
The movie is now “Controversial” and the topic of conversations for Oscars

… and CGC got what exactly?

He got freed? Got a (new) trial? Got renewed interest by international human rights groups/ embassies?

Seriously, How did he benefit in anyway from this performance? He didn’t. In fact, I would say that short term this has hurt him, and others. Others who may have had a court date 2 days later, or perhaps others who could have really benefited from true journalism vs. a sensationalized made for a 30 second sound bite “news story”

Which is the core point of Rein’s piece and what should be the core focus of those who wish to criticize anything related to Bale getting “beaten up” by Chinese guards.

R

December 26, 2011 @ 5:22 pm | Comment

Just as with Ai Weiwei, I believe the international outcry will help Chen get released. With Ai that took several weeks or even months. The government never wants to appear to be bending to outside pressure. So yes, I think this stunt might well help him get freed. He is now an embarrassment, and the central powers won’t let it continue for long. Maybe they’ll charge him with tax evasion to save face and let him go. It’s been done before. If he does get freed within the next three months will Rein put up a paean to Bale? We’ll just have to wait and see.

This post is about Rein’s disingenuousness, his lack of curiosity and his blaming everything on “one local official.” None of us can say what CGC will ultimately get from it because we just don’t know. My guess is that this helped him far more than it hurt and I am delighted CNN cast light on it for the world, even if Bale should have hired his own van.

Let me also add, if you think this should be a discussion of what would be most beneficial for CGC (and that’s important), that in his entire column Rein showed no sympathy or compassion for CGC; the most he would say is that he has “no idea” about him. Not a word expressing even a suggestion that he might care about him and wishes to see him and his family let go. Just a big “I dunno.”

I’ve watched very carefully how China bends to pressure when it is put in the embarrassing international spotlight. The karaoke bar attendant who stabbed a molesting party member to death was released after the webs went crazy with the story. An official who raped a little girl in Shenzhen got punished when a video of him boasting about the assault went public. Ai Weiwei was released,as I mentioned, after the groundswell of international outrage. So I’m not going to say this hurt at all. They may dig in their heels for a while, but they really don’t want this to be what they stand for.

December 27, 2011 @ 2:49 am | Comment

Rein apparently didn’t know anything about CGC, and even if you believe him at face value, his piece is strictly about how CNN wasn’t true to journalistic principles by allowing itself to supposedly become part of the story, rather than simply reporting on it.

Will Bale’s actions make any difference? Who knows. It would also be difficult to discern the impact of Bale’s actions on its own, since an international outcry against CGC’s treatment already existed before hand. I agree with Richard. The CCP’s usual formula is to stoically sit through the withering criticism, then quietly give the subject a reprieve and put the matter behind them. Only the ones who are deemed to have truly crossed the red lines are left to rot, like Liu Xiaobo. Whether CGC gets some trumped up tax evasion charge remains to be seen, though that does seem to be a CCP favourite of late. But this is mostly a local embarrassment where the CCP really has no skin in the game, and this is continued bad press that the CCP doesn’t need. To avoid the appearance of bowing to pressure, the CCP will probably let CGC stew a little longer. I suppose in that sense, putting and keeping CGC in the spotlight may have the paradoxical effect of keeping him under house arrest longer, but not having CGC in the spotlight would give the CCP no impetus to act or intervene whatsoever, so that becomes a chicken/egg conundrum for which the “ideal” amount of spotlight for minimizing illegal incarceration is impossible to know.

December 27, 2011 @ 6:01 am | Comment

“How did he benefit in anyway from this performance? He didn’t. In fact, I would say that short term this has hurt him, and others. Others who may have had a court date 2 days later, or perhaps others who could have really benefited from true journalism vs. a sensationalized made for a 30 second sound bite “news story”

Which is the core point of Rein’s piece and what should be the core focus of those who wish to criticize anything related to Bale getting “beaten up” by Chinese guards.”

It’s true that if CGC was harmed by CNN’s acts, then people might be justified in criticising CNN – although there is no evidence to believe that this is the case, expecially as this is not the first time that CNN has tried to see him. However, Rein did not show any sign of concern for CGC whatsoever in his piece, and I respectfully submit that Rein’s point had nothing to do with whether the acts were beneficial to CGC per se. Instead his criticism of CNN was that they broke journalistic standards.

December 27, 2011 @ 7:42 am | Comment

Instead his criticism of CNN was that they broke journalistic standards.

It is my belief that breach will only have a negative impact on the other parties involved, which is why it is important enough to be made. A lot of journalists who are in China fail to understand, or care, about the impacts of their stories. That is not to say that the stories should not be told, but when an important cause is put to the side so that an actor (and news anchor) can grab some news, that is a problem.

@Richard – I will not dispute that having international pressure (public and otherwise) has a positive affect, however as I said in my previous comment, this piece moved the story FROM CGC TO Bale being beat up by Chinese security guards. This is not a piece that will catalyze public (or private) pressure for CGC’s cause. It is a piece that will be about China beating up an actor who took his first step towards activism.

With regard to China bending to international pressure, I think you give it too much credit, and discount the efforts of those within the borders of China. There are a number of people here who are working, far more effectively, than any news report can in bringing to light the problems that China faces and resolving them.

Using your examples of the rape in Shenzhen and karaoke bar attendant, weibo (and its users) should get the credit, not the international press. They did the hard work, found the pictures, and built up the local pressure that eventually brought about corrective action.

R

December 27, 2011 @ 11:36 am | Comment

I will say that for the great majority of Americans, the CNN story was probably their first exposure to CGC, and Bale’s involvement is the reason for that.

December 27, 2011 @ 11:46 am | Comment

Thank you Lisa. That should be clear to everyone.

Using your examples of the rape in Shenzhen and karaoke bar attendant, weibo (and its users) should get the credit, not the international press.

I never gave the international press credit for these things; I cited public pressure. But I do believe the coverage in the international press helped, and it certainly didn’t hurt.

December 27, 2011 @ 11:57 am | Comment

I’ve watched very carefully how China bends to pressure when it is put in the embarrassing international spotlight. The karaoke bar attendant who stabbed a molesting party member to death was released after the webs went crazy with the story. An official who raped a little girl in Shenzhen got punished when a video of him boasting about the assault went public. Ai Weiwei was released,as I mentioned, after the groundswell of international outrage.

You bookended the entire paragraph with international spotlight and international outrage, and attributed Ai Wei Wei’s release to a groundswell of international outrage.

Again, I am not going to disagree that international coverage (or pressure) can help, but you have to give more credit to domestic forces. That is why changes, decisions, conditional releases are being made.

An example that I think helps show that point is the money that Ai raised to pay his tax bill. Money that was raised domestically, even in a time where China’s citizens have shown a complete lack of faith when it comes to donations. This wasn’t driven by international media, or heads of state. It was driven by local catalysts.

But I do believe the coverage in the international press helped, and it certainly didn’t hurt.

Without having any first hand knowledge of his conditions, or how those conditions have changed in the last 7 days, saying that is a bit premature. you may certainly believe (and/or hope) that to be true, but you cannot know that with any level of certainty without having access (or a superpower stronger than Batman’s)

R

December 27, 2011 @ 12:32 pm | Comment

You bookended the entire paragraph with international spotlight and international outrage, and attributed Ai Wei Wei’s release to a groundswell of international outrage.

You’re right, fair point. But I didn’t attribute Ai Weiwei’s release to international outrage; I said it helped, which I believe it did. Don’t mean to split hairts, but there’s a difference. I also do believe coverage of CGC in the international media will help, but we’ll have to wait and see. And finally, I also believe the international coverage helps fuel the conversations on Weibo regarding topics like Ai Weiwei and CGC, where the domestic media have been less than forthcoming.

But Rein’s article isn’t about any of this. There is not the slightest shred of concern there for what happens to CGC, not even any curiosity about his plight. That is what my post is about, and about the fact that what CNN did is hardly unprecedented and is no serious breach of journalistic ethics, even if I feel they could have handled it better by having Bale take a taxi while they went in their van. Whether the CNN piece will help CGC is a valid question, but it’s not what my post was about. And looking at Rein’s article, does it really look like he cares about CGC?

December 27, 2011 @ 12:40 pm | Comment

I have read the above with interest. Mr Rein, as always, never fails to surprise us all. I suppose they say “all publicity is good publicity” so well done again Mr Rein. Whether or not CNN overstepped the mark, who really cares. Media organisations do this as a matter of course (Rupert Murdoch). What is staggering is that a so-called well educated US expat, who claims to be professional, is consistently willing to tow the CCP line – as if he were himself a leading member. Let’s not get into the “west vs china” debate here. Pointless and boring. The fact remains that China continues to systematically repress its own people at every level. Yes, people are richer, more mobile, better connected than ever before (one would hope so as these are signs of progress). However, dissent is not tolerated. Forget the high level media-grabbing cases. Let’s look at the day to day grass roots of government operation in China. As a Chinese lawyer, i have worked within the criminal justice system in China….. there is virtually no system. A corrupt, opaque world of brutality, cheating, lying and privilege for some. 250,000 people reportedly held under administrative detention – with no access to family, due process and basic dignity. I guess Mr Rein these are simply “isolated cases”.

December 27, 2011 @ 4:09 pm | Comment

@Other Lisa – Were awareness the key to action,then boycotts of Apple by Americans concerned with the conditions of Apple’s supply chain would have destroyed the brand (and 400USD stock price.

R

December 27, 2011 @ 4:23 pm | Comment

“It is my belief that breach will only have a negative impact on the other parties involved, which is why it is important enough to be made.”
—but what is the actual “breach”? Is there anything more substantial than literally giving Bale a ride and providing a translator? If CGC’s plight needed to be told, and CNN told it, it seems arbitrary to suggest that CGC accrued no benefit whatsoever, and only those who broke the news had anything to gain.

Or let’s ask it another way. Short of Bale not going at all, what would have to be different with the way CNN broke the story in order for you to perceive some benefit to CGC?

December 27, 2011 @ 5:49 pm | Comment

SK – good questions:

1) But CNN did not tell the plight of CGC. It was a piece on Bale, that made mention of CGC only as background to Bale being “pushed around”.

2) The work CNN did with CNN Heroes and Slavery, those are great pieces that I feel push the dialogue forward that I believe can have a positive return to the people/ cause.

R

December 27, 2011 @ 6:56 pm | Comment

CNN enabling Bale’s activism is no different than its campaign against slavery in connection with Demi Moore. You can argue whether or not CNN is crossing journalistic lines, but as a general principle the greater exposure an injustice receives, the more likely it will be resolved. “Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.”

This is not the CNN”s first foray into the CGC homestead; in fact other than batman’s appearance this second visit played out the same as the first earlier this year. Chinese histrionics plays into most of the confrontations that the foreign press have with the government, often amplifying the correspondent’s presence within the story.

I certainly am no more privy to CGC’s motivation than anyone else on this blog; however, I would assume that CGC’s cause has not changed. That is advocating reproductive rights for women. If Bale is able to elevate awareness abroad regarding this issue than it was probably worth the PR stunt.

December 27, 2011 @ 7:00 pm | Comment

@Allroads – It’s fair to question whether CNN and Bale’s actions helped CGC. At the moment, we have no reason to believe it will – in fact, I cannot think of a single example of someone imprisoned by the Chinese authorities who greater exposition in the foreign media and foreign activism can be said to have harmed. Instead, we have every reason to believe, for example, that the high profile given to Ai Weiwei’s case prevented the authorities from punishing him more harshly and that Ai Weiwei was encouraged by the support received. If they only briefly mentioned CGC’s cause in the piece, Bale did state that his actions were out of respect for CGC, and the piece does clearly highlight CGC’s current plight.

However, your original point was in defence of Rein’s article. Rein’s article pleads a totally unconvincing ignorance of CGC’s case – as far as he is concerned, CGC’s imprisonment without charge along with his family may be totally justified. Rein’s article also shows a total indifference towards CGC’s fate. Rein refers to the people seen in the video as ‘police’, even though they never identify themselves as such and are not in uniform. Rein also implies that Bale and CNN are breaking the law. In this article, when he is not plugging his book, Rein engages in speculation about the ‘rogue’ nature of local government as opposed to ‘good’ central government, even though there is no evidence whatsoever that this situation is merely the work of local government.

Given the above, don’t you think that much of the criticism directed at Rein is entirely valid?

December 27, 2011 @ 9:01 pm | Comment

@FOARP

My comment (original and following) were not in defense of Rein, or his post, but of the core assertion in it. That CNN and Bale crossed a line, and that considerations and story were CGC was lost as a result.

Sure, it popped media interest, and perhaps that (if you assume this pop will result in a sustained wave of international interest/ support) may have some positive impact. But it is my belief, one grounded in my experiences/ work in China, that this stunt will ultimately be seen as nothing more and will have no impact (short term or sustained) in the favor of CGC.

With regard to Richard’s original post, and the comments that followed, I would say that there were certainly some valid concerns raised about Shaun’s post. However much of that was lost on me once it turned to little more than personal attacks on Rein.

The reason why I interjected was to (for a moment) bring the comments back to a discussion of CNN, Bale, and the impact to Bale, and for the last 10-15 comments I think that has been accomplished.

R

December 27, 2011 @ 11:00 pm | Comment

@Allroads – I think much, but not all of the things said about Rein here are entirely justified. The article is dishonest and misleading. It is a calculated attack on CNN and Bale, one which totally fails to recognise any government wrong-doing in this affair whatsoever whilst blaming CNN for what cannot in truth be called anything more than a very, very minor faux pas(if that). Even this description gives Rein too much credit, as much of what he accuses CNN and Bale of doing (disobeying policemen, breaking the law) is not actually true (they weren’t police, CNN and Bale did not break the law). He even fails to acknowledge that they were attacked by the ‘police’.

Like I said, it’s fair enough to question whether CNN and Bale trying to see CGC benefited CGC. I don’t think Rein made this point in his article though. Instead, this is what he said:

“I have no idea about Chen’s detention, and if he is being wronged or not, but if there are issues with his case, I am not convinced that calling the entire political class “disgusting,” as Bale does, can help.”

Asking whether CNN and Bale helped CGC presumes that CGC needed helping in the first place. Rein, however, did not even acknowledge that CGC is being held under illegal house arrest. He does, however, try to defend the CCP leadership who are ultimately responsible for CGC’s arrest from criticism from people who have just been roughed up by the CCP’s hired goons.

I’m sorry, but I do not think that Rein’s core point, core criticism or what have you was connected to whether CNN or Bale’s actions benefited CGC. Had such concern been clearly reflected in the original piece, the criticism of Rein seen here would likely be much more muted.

December 27, 2011 @ 11:37 pm | Comment

Thank you, Tim.

Allroads, the maddening thing is that if Rein had simply applied some common sense there’d have been no post. If he’d stuck to his conviction that the CNN stunt was unethical and made his case this would have been a very dull post; in fact, there wouldn’t be a post. it’s when he decides to be callow and outrageous with his utter lack of interest in and empathy for CGC and says so with pride that he paints a giant bull’s eye on his back. His “lone official” remark also struck a nerve, as he always seems to want to portray the central party in a glowing light, absolving them of all responsibility for anything that happens outside of Beijing, as if they are powerless, even in a high-profile, internationally known case like this. His frivolous comparison with the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns are simply ridiculous. He is covering, as he’s done before, and all the while pitching his book. The guy needs a little tact. As I’ve said many times,when he writes about marketing he is insightful. When he goes into politics it’s a train wreck, and you’d think he’d know better by now.

December 27, 2011 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

FOARP/ Richard – No disagreement that Shaun could have written his post better, and from a better position. Many of the original issues that Richard brought up were valid, as a critique of Shaun’s post.

I engaged for a different reason, to remove the personal attacks on Shaun and focus on one point. Whether CNN/ Bale went to far, and the fact that I think CGC got lost in the melee.

R

December 28, 2011 @ 12:35 am | Comment

I agree that some of the attacks on SR were too personal, and several of the more vicious ones never got published. It’s difficult to moderate comments in any thread, and this one especially, figuring out where to draw the line. It was obvious when someone compared him to Goebbels. Is calling him a liar, as I did in a moment of passion, a personal attack if you can show exactly what he’s lying about? Tough call. On the other hand, Shaun sets himself up and makes himself an easy target.

December 28, 2011 @ 1:16 am | Comment

Allroads, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. I was only saying that most Americans have not heard of CGC and for many their first exposure to him was the CNN piece, which undoubtedly caught more peoples’ attention because of Bale’s involvement. From that you created a response to an entire chain of argument that I was not making.

As for whatever point it was you were trying to make, that, I don’t know, awareness of an issue alone does not solve the problem? Was that it? Of course awareness alone does not solve a problem, particularly a complex one. But it’s the necessary start. Problems in general do not get solved if people don’t even know the problems exist. Or that there are reasons they should care.

I particularly appreciated Carl’s response above. As a Chinese lawyer operating in that environment, he is speaking from a position of insight and knowledge that the majority of us do not have. I’d love to hear more from him.

As for Shaun Rein? Sheesh. The bottom line is, the guy claims to be a China expert and then claims that he’s never heard of CGC and criticizes CNN for its conduct — saying that he’s never heard of CGC is ridiculous enough. Criticizing a news organization for its conduct in a case he claims to know nothing about is absurdity squared. The news organization most deserving of criticism here is the one employing this know-nothing.

December 28, 2011 @ 3:52 am | Comment

Allroads – The dishonesty in Rein’s article, and his apparent self-interest behind writing as he did warrants criticism of the author himself. In contrast, I appreciate your honest and forthright expression of your views, and do not at all wish to group everyone who had trouble with CNN and Bale’s actions with Rein.

However, I myself do not have a problem with CNN’s actions. My understanding is that it was Bale who came to them. Yes, they did pool resources with Bale, but they in no way enabled him except by providing coverage to something that is definitely newsworthy.

As an example of how stations often run this kind of story, here is an Al-Jazeera piece featuring Melissa Chan trying to see Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo:

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

Melissa Chan states at the start that she knows that she will not be allowed in, and at the end that it was no surprise that she was not allowed to see Liu Xia. Yet she still goes through the steps of trying to enter and then filming the response of the ‘police’ outside the complex where Liu Xia, an innocent woman, is being illegally held under house arrest.

With the exception that CNN’s piece featured a Hollywood star rather an ordinary journalist, and that the aggressive behaviour from the ‘police’ in the CNN piece was much more overt, the CNN piece does not differ from the Al Jareera piece. Yet, because the CNN piece drew much more attention, it has come in for much more opprobrium.

December 28, 2011 @ 7:48 am | Comment

Lisa, I wish I could have expressed that as perfectly as you did. Bravo.

FOARP, agreed that it is fair to call Rein out on his dishonesty, and he has yet to answer the question, did he really have “no idea” about CGC? I regret any harsh comments about him, but hey, this is The Peking Duck, where all sorts of people say what’s on their mind. The evil comments never get published, or are quickly deleted.

December 28, 2011 @ 8:35 am | Comment

To Allroads,

CNN does do some “magazine” style pieces that can probably be equated to op-eds in a newspaper. But like op-eds, while hopefully factually-based, they nonetheless represent the summary viewpoint based on a certain perspective, and motivated by certain underlying opinions.

The CNN piece in question here is news. Not spontaneous as if Bale was happening upon Linyi just as the CNN crew was trucking through town. But it was nonetheless capturing events in real time.

It is a fair point that the story became more about Bale being roughed up than about CGC. But that IS the story at this point. If CGC is under house arrest, but allowed to receive visitors, THEN the story would be about CGC and his plight under house arrest. There is no CGC house arrest television news story right now, because there is no access to him. So this lack of access is the news, and Bale and CNN showed it. And ultimately, why is the lack of access the focus of the news instead of CGC himself? Because of the local authorities illegally detaining him AND unleashing the hounds on visitors. To criticize Bale and CNN rather than criticizing the corrupt local officials is to misplace one’s criticism, in my opinion.

December 28, 2011 @ 8:56 am | Comment

I read of your critique on Custer’s site, and after reading his, I came to read yours. Both are good, but yours pins down the sliminess of Shaun Rein’s smarmy self-important reporting more bluntly. I like it.

I should be shocked that Forbes still buys his words.

Is my suspicion that he’s got guanxi with Forbes unwarranted? Maybe, but I suspect we’ll still see similar pieces from him, printed in the same places.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

December 28, 2011 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

James, I just added some link to the conclusion of the post above that you may want to follow. Yes, when it comes to Shaun things always stay the same.

December 28, 2011 @ 12:37 pm | Comment

Makato — I’ve been a journalist for more than a decade. And, although I comment and blog under my own name as an individual (and not on behalf of my employer) I have worked for the International Herald Tribune / New York Times since 2005.
I’m not saying that adds any weight to my opinion.
But I don’t think you can assume that nobody here has a journalist background. I do, Richard does, and maybe some of the other commenters, too.

As for a breech of journalistic ethics — You can look at my previous comment. (I don’t wish to repeat myself). But giving a guy a lift while following a story is not an ethical breech. Particularly not in the context of a government that uses backhanded ways to punish critics and, God, keep young children under virtual house arrest.

December 28, 2011 @ 8:34 pm | Comment

@SK – CNN’s focus of inability to access CGC is one THEY created. They chose to create this scene, and air it, versus take the time to explain the case. This is just another area where I have a problem with the piece, and why I pointed towards the Slavery / Hero pieces of where CNN has done good work. Work that, in both cases, started with awareness to effectively engage stakeholders to bring about positive impact.

You can look at the websites CNN has set up to see for yourself.

With regard to Other Lisa/ Richard comments, let’s just say that I am of a different opinion. There are lines that exist, and as Adam mentioned on the China Geeks, this crossed the line (and he is a respected journalist).

CNN, just like Rien, could have got this piece right HAD THEY WANTED TO. But they didn’t. They wanted a shot of Bale being prevented from seeing CGC as “the” piece, and simply got more than they bargained for… Some of are the opinion that this was ok, but I see it very differently as I see it as destructive in the greater context, and I think that in addition to failing to push the cause forward, stunts like these only make it more difficult for media outlets with better intentions to do their job. CNN’s little stunt essentially guaranteed that CGC, and other activists, will see even fewer opportunities to meet with the media. It was already bad enough, but now with Barman being “beat” up, it will only result in a tightening down again.

R

December 28, 2011 @ 10:36 pm | Comment

We’re going to have to agree to disagree. CNN did not create this story, which I think we’ve argued to death already. CNN did nothing wrong or unusual, even if I think they should have had Bale go in a taxi to avoid even the perception of an ethical breach. But taking him and offering a translator is no big deal at all and is not without precedent. Any attempt to interview CGC would have involved an encounter with the thugs holding him, and I truly do not believe if CNN hadn’t done this that it would allow easier access to him and others being held under house arrest. I think it will ultimately be a net plus for CGC. The government’s no-access policy will stay the same, although the publicity from this incident will probably make it more likely CGC will quietly be released after a cooling-off period. I can’t prove that, but you can’t prove what CNN did will make it harder for journalists to meet with activists. But again, even if I concede your point it doesn’t change the thrust of my post, which is Rein’s intellectual dishonesty and willful ignorance.

December 29, 2011 @ 12:09 am | Comment

1. Rein is not a Forbes columnist. He is just a blogger.

2. Rein is a liar. There is no way he could claim ignorance on CGC. Just no way. Holocaust? What Holocaust?

3. Everything Rein says is designed to sell either his company (which is mostly just him and a few interns) or his upcoming book.

The best thing we can do on here is to get the word out to people regarding Rein and his book and to do so on Amazon. I for one can hardly wait and I know I am not alone in this.

December 29, 2011 @ 12:29 am | Comment

Chris, I do not encourage anyone to write reviews of Shaun’s book on Amazon without reading it first, and then writing as fair a review as possible. This means they would have to buy the book, which I am not sure I want to do.

December 29, 2011 @ 12:54 am | Comment

To allroads:
“CNN’s focus of inability to access CGC is one THEY created.”
—that is patently false. IF the thugs hadn’t turned Bale away, THEN the CNN story would have been about Bale visiting CGC, and in turn about CGC’s illegal detention. CNN didn’t create a story about Bale’s lack of access; the action of the sponsored thugs created that story all on their own. And CNN reported on it. If your complaint is that the story wasn’t primarily about CGC, then your disdain should be directed at the thugs (and whoever hired them) for preventing that story from being told.

CNN didn’t “create” this scene, unless by “create” you’re again referring solely to them giving Bale a ride. But the scene would’ve been created just the same had Bale secured an alternate means of transport.

That’s not to say that CNN can’t/shouldn’t/won’t come out with a magazine piece about CGC. But as I said earlier, that would be an op-ed piece, and not news per se.

To me, the only “line” CNN could have possibly perhaps ever so slightly nudged with the untrimmed nail of their big toe is to have offered Bale a ride. If they wanted their story to be completely in-bounds beyond a shadow of doubt, they could’ve said to Bale ‘thanks for the heads-up, we will be there if you do decide to show up, but you’ll have to get yourself there on your own’. I am disappointed they didn’t do so. But to me, it does not materially detract from the story.

December 29, 2011 @ 4:02 am | Comment

@SK – I should have used the word produced. CNN produced the piece, and at any time in that process they could have altered the Bale to CGC content. They chose to make the story about Bale first.

With regards to the rest, I am just going to let it go for now. Everything that I have learned through my time in China says that CNN had a much more active role in this story than just a ride, and that CGC (and his cause) were abused for the benefit of Bale / CNN. Some awareness was raised, but that doesn’t justify their actions (in my view).

R

December 29, 2011 @ 8:47 am | Comment

To allroads:
I agree, CNN could have made the story more about Chen instead of being more about Bale’s attempt to visit Chen. Too bad they couldn’t get any video footage of Chen, and had to go with canned shots instead. But for the goons and thugs, the story (and video) could’ve been about Chen. Though as Bale says, this is now also (and has been for some time) a story about China’s ass-backwards power structure…which is what entangled Chen in the first place.

Do you have any evidence to substantiate a claim of a more active role on CNN’s part than providing a ride and a translator?

December 29, 2011 @ 9:19 am | Comment

SKC, why don’t we just let it go?

December 29, 2011 @ 10:28 am | Comment

CNN has already done programs on Chen’s activism as well as his detention back in February. This story, was about Bale visiting Chen. There was no other content as Bale could not meet Chen. You may not find that news worthy, and we can argue the value of celebrities taking up a cause, it certainly has caused quite a discussion here; however I am at a loss to understand the controversy here. China’s heavy handed way of obfuscating uncomfortable truths is prêt-à-porter sensationalism for the foreign press. It appears almost staged (it may even appear to be unfair to take advantage of those poor unsuspecting thugs) but that is simply bad management of the press by the government.

What concerns me the most about this article is that there is little critical evaluation outside the China blogosphere of the analysis/opeds that passes as insights into China. Forbes has never appeared to me to be a very sophisticated business magazine but you do not need experience in China to catch the thinly veiled bias that informs this article. Has Forbes’ bar always been kept at mediocrity?

December 29, 2011 @ 10:52 am | Comment

@SK – Like I said, it is an observation based on my experience in China.. and I am not the only one as both Adam M and David Bandurski comments on the piece based on their experience as journalists.

@Tim – Your comments on Forbes, and comments on analysis of China, are valid. I have seen some pieces on the later, but to date I have only seen it taken up by bloggers. Perhaps that could be the subject for a piece here or on China Geeks

@Richard – Consider it dropped.

R

December 29, 2011 @ 12:46 pm | Comment

[...] getting involved in a long discussion on The Peking Duck about journalism and bias, I realize that we too often miss the point about the role of the media in [...]

December 30, 2011 @ 12:32 pm | Pingback

@allroads: With regard to Other Lisa/ Richard comments, let’s just say that I am of a different opinion. There are lines that exist, and as Adam mentioned on the China Geeks, this crossed the line (and he is a respected journalist).

Again, I never commented on the “lines” that may have been crossed, or not, in this case. I was not talking about CNN’s journalistic ethics. You inferred an argument that I didn’t actually make and did not engage with the argument that I did make. Which I’ll just repeat, for expediency:

As for Shaun Rein? Sheesh. The bottom line is, the guy claims to be a China expert and then claims that he’s never heard of CGC and criticizes CNN for its conduct — saying that he’s never heard of CGC is ridiculous enough. Criticizing a news organization for its conduct in a case he claims to know nothing about is absurdity squared. The news organization most deserving of criticism here is the one employing this know-nothing.

December 31, 2011 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

[...] days ago my good friend Lisa left a comment on my last post about Shaun Rein’s lie that “had no idea” about the case of Chen Guangcheng, [...]

January 3, 2012 @ 12:30 pm | Pingback

I heard Shaun Rein on the Money for Nothing show on RTHK the other morning….Did he mention his book? Did he what?

January 11, 2012 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

Sorry Sam, I felt this comment went too far and was to personal. Also, the link you included didn’t work.

Richard

January 23, 2012 @ 3:17 pm | Comment

It is obvious that this guy has some personal self interest to protect the Communists,this case is truly black and white and no grey are is involvedd.

Anyway,the world is full of such people.

January 28, 2012 @ 6:50 pm | Comment

[...] water for the CCP. If you aren’t familiar with my coverage of Rein you can find the posts here, here and here. I am not alone in calling Rein out as a blatant apologist. China Law Blog, Modern [...]

March 29, 2012 @ 10:00 am | Pingback

[...] “a single local official” and the central government couldn’t be blamed for it. I wrote about one such pundit who made the “one local official” argument: “Think about that. The CCP can be off the hook for anything that doesn’t happen within [...]

October 6, 2012 @ 4:38 am | Pingback

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