AP Writer Cites ‘Groundswell of Public Criticism’ — In Communist China

Associated Press writer Tini Tran, in covering the fallout inside Mainland/Communist China from Steven Spielberg's decision to resign from his position as artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics over that country's involvement in Darfur, introduced the critical reaction to his decision as a "groundswell" rising up from the public. But the detail presented indicates that the reaction came from Chinese officialdom far more than from the public in general (bolds are mine):

China Media, Public Angered by Spielberg

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's decision to quit the Beijing Olympics over the Darfur crisis is drawing condemnation by China's state-controlled media and a groundswell of criticism from the Chinese public.

..... Officially, the Chinese government has not directly criticized Spielberg by name, expressing only "regret" over his decision. But the state-run media and the public have been far less restrained.

In newspaper commentaries and lively Internet forums, they have expressed outrage, scorn and bewilderment that China's Olympics have come under international criticism from Spielberg and others.

A biting front-page editorial Wednesday in the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official newspaper, blasted Spielberg for his decision.

..... Over the weekend, the Guangming Daily, also published by the Communist Party, ran an editorial saying Spielberg "broke his promise to make his contribution to the Beijing Olympics and betrayed the Olympic spirit."

..... An editorial in the China Youth Daily was equally scathing.

..... China often uses its newspapers to make statements it does not want to officially comment on. But the issue also has exploded on the Internet, where scores of Chinese have been quick to add their criticism of Spielberg.

So let's see. The first three examples Tran cited call came from official party publications. Finally, Tran got to "the Internet." She only cited a couple of comments, one on the Sina.com portal, and another at an unnamed site.

So where's the "public groundswell"? Even if there were a documented "groundswell," what, if anything would it mean in a country that so tightly controls what people can and cannot say and do on the Internet (with the unfortunate help of US-developed high tech and US-based high-tech companies)? Finally, if the government wanted to created the impression of a "groundswell," it would not be all that difficult. After all, it has an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 net minders (i.e., censors) monitoring what its citizens are doing. It would not be difficult to get a state-induced comment swarm going just among them.

Tran's take on the criticism of Spielberg only works if you believe that the official publications she cited represent public sentiment. Give me a break.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.