Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The following people are not dead: Rick Astley,...

Rick Astley is dead. Or so said CNN's iReport earlier today.
They were followed by a herd of news websites who fell for yet another fake-celebrity-death story. Twitter was briefly offline, such was the strain of traffic and message boards filled up with sympathetic messages.
The rumour went that Astley - who has been the subject of more internet hoaxes than any other human being (1)(2)- was found dead in a Berlin hotel. CNN and its vloggers should have known better.
The episode raises questions over the current fad for news-by-tweet. Now that major news organisations are so desperate to be on top of the rumour mill, it paves the way for media anarchy.
Even the Iranian election has been covered on CNN et al. via unverifiable messages posted on Twitter and Facebook, leaving the gullable networks wide open to manipulation.
Why should we trust CNN and the rest if they are looking to us for their cues? We're totally unreliable!
The media need to pull back from this style of reporting before all credibility is lost.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Western media are abusing Tiananmen legacy

First off, I should say that China's state of denial about the events that took place in June 1989 in Tiananmen Square is equally frightening and hilarious. Check out this ever-so-polite BBC reporter attempting to report from the Square today.

CNN had the same experience, with plain-clothed police using umbrellas to block the camera.

But it has also to be accepted that elements of the media and political aparatus in the West have consistently distorted the Tiananmen incident for their own purposes.

I read a shockingly biased feature in the Sunday Times magazine a few weeks ago in which Tiananmen was weaved into a narrative about how communist nations fell in 1989 and how China would have been next if it hadn't been for the crack down.

It was a neat story but not really true. The story of Tiananmen is much more complex than simply being an uprising against communism.

First of all, the protesters were an assortment of groups - students, unions, farmers - with range of grievences. Some complained of corruption, lack of transparency, inflation, inequality.

There was no single alternative political vision. And if there had been, it probably wouldn't have been "We'd like China to look like the U.S. or Europe."

Indeed, some protesters were concerned that China's policy of 'Opening up' its economy to the global market was not communist enough.

That Sunday Times piece appeared to be wistfully reminiscing about the glorious 1980s when Thatcher and Reagan sowed the seeds for the unregulated financial markets which have brought us to where we stand today. Having read plenty of China newspapers, I've come to recognise blatant propaganda when I see it - and this was blatant propaganda.

It's simplistic and untrue to say China would now be a Western-style democratic state if the students had been given what they wanted.

It's also a bit rich to hear the U.S. saying today that China has to face up to its own history. That's true, China does need to do that. But seriously, the U.S. doesn't exactly have a great record in...South America, Africa, the Middle East, S.E. Asia, slavery...and so on.

China is on a slow road to improved transparency and ending corruption by local officials. Indeed, it seems to take a step backwards ever June 4th when it overreacts by censoring the media and arresting trouble makers.

But, having spoken recently to somebody who was in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and is now part of the Party aparatus, it's clear there is a growing willingness to discuss this subject amongst the political elite.

The bottom line is that China is less likely to face up to what happened in 1989 if we in the West are dishonest about the meaning of those events.