Over the weekend, the London Times gave us a foolish headline for a foolish story. The trumpeting headline read, "A seismic shift in China's relations with West?" This would be momentous news if true of course. But this supposed "seismic shift" was made up of whole cloth, not of any proof of actions by China otherwise. Instead of a story citing a series of decisions given a suitable amount of time to prove that China really has made some sort of shift in relations, it's all built on an ego stroke the Chinese gave western reporters. This "seismic shift" only exists in the uncritical minds of the western press because they had an easier time of covering this story with less of the usual Chinese restrictiveness. So, they now assume, because the Chinese gave the western press a few minutes of unexpected face time, this must suddenly mean there is a "seismic shift" in relations between the oppressive, murderous Chinese government and the west? The assumption is as simple-minded as it is stupid.
I don't often get as downright blatant as this, but sometimes one has to just come right out and say it -- the western media is filled with stupid people. If this story doesn't make you a believer that too many in the media don't have the good sense God gave a common rock, nothing will ever convince you. This story has it all; self-congratulatory arrogance, ignorance of history, foolishness, blindness and the willful appeasement of one of the worst, most oppressive governments in human history.
The story started off as if being told by a rock star's groupie telling her drugged out pals that she was allowed backstage to see her idol for a little face time.
Our correspondent was allowed personal access to China's Prime Minister as he pledged openness and invited foreign journalists to a town at the epicentre
Apparently the reader is supposed to gulp in amazement that the Times' correspondent "was allowed personal access to China's Prime Minister." "Gosh," you are supposed to say to yourself, "how wonderous!" Feel blessed... the Times seems to.
Then we get the novelist's treatment of the supposed deep, heartrending feelings publicly displayed by a man who has ordered the execution of thousands of his citizens, the military oppression of millions of those under his protection, the forced sterilization of millions of his countrymen, and the imprisonment and torture of those who hold different religious beliefs than those approved by the state.
The public face of the world's emerging superpower gazed at the hill above him, its forests reduced to gashes of earth and rock by landslides dislodged in the massive earthquake.
Ashen-faced, he appeared genuinely awestruck by the power of nature and the extent of the tragedy surrounding him as he stood in the town nearest to the epicentre.
"Once, this was a very beautiful valley. This is a place where pandas live," said Wen Jiabao, China's Prime Minister. The Yingxiu Middle School was a tumbled heap in the background, its classrooms tilted at crazy angles, crumpled one on top of the other. Hidden from sight on the hill to which Mr Wen pointed are the common graves where some of the 8,600 who died in this county of 13,000 have been buried.
Yes, the Times wants us to know Jiabao cares about Pandas and everything. Gee, now we can forgive all that murder and stuff that Wen Jiabao and his government are responsible for. I feel better already. Don't you?
But, the Times' sycophancy just gets worse.
In an unprecedented departure for this tightly screened leadership, he invited a small group of foreign journalists – including just a single newspaper correspondent, from The Times – to join him. The group was flown in by military helicopter, an openness unheard of in China. The air force navigator on the flight was so surprised that he asked all 13 foreigners on board for their autographs.
Yes, how special.
The Times is all a gush about how neato the kindly Jiabao was to them. He made them feel so special. I wonder if they had a thrill run down their legs?
Within minutes of touching down in this narrow valley, the Prime Minister wanted to hold an impromptu press conference. He usually meets the foreign media only once a year, after the annual session of the rubber-stamp parliament, a stage-managed event with no surprises in the script. Since China's most destructive earthquake of modern times struck this mountainous region on May 12, Mr Wen has been full of surprises.
He was eager to speak to overseas reporters, whom the party usually treats with deep suspicion. "Let a foreign journalist ask the question," he said to the Chinese who have daily access. He even kept Mr Ban waiting for several minutes so that he could finish his answers.
And, golly, the Times even thinks Jiabao is suddenly just like leaders in democratic countries!
Mr Wen's embrace of a style of leadership more commonly associated with politicians in democratic countries, worried about their election prospects, is unlikely to be the action of an individual. Chinese leaders do not make such radical shifts from usual practice without a great deal of thought and a meeting of at least some members of the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee that rules China.
The fools at the Times imagine that China is suddenly going to be a new and improved, more democratic, kinder and gentler nation. Why it must be the plan, they foolishly think. After all, Jiabao talked to them like he was their pal!
He took the opportunity of Mr Ban's visit to voice China's gratitude to the international community for its sympathy and help. "This is not only a tragedy for China but for all mankind." And he said China would not waver from its policy of transparency. "We will hold permanently to our policy of opening up." This may be a sign that, with the Beijing Olympics only 73 days away, China wants to cool the nationalist, antiWestern sentiment that has erupted since international criticism of Beijing's handling of the riots in Tibet in March.
All this undue praise for something that has not happened is because Wen Jaibao gave them a few minutes in one instance for the first time to openly ask questions. There is no record here, just this one instance in an extraordinary time where the normal strict standards were lossened. The arrogance of the press has made a Chinese thaw seem immanent where no history could lead anyone to such an assumption. Because Jaibao talked to them, slapped them on the back, told them he thought they were just the best ever, seemingly in a less guarded and structured situation... well hallelujah there is a new era afoot. The iron curtain has fallen, there is peace in our times.
But what is the real reason this supposed loosening of rules for foreign journalists occurred? Propaganda. Plain and simple. And Jiabao has proven to be a master at the art.
There is no "new era," no "shift" seismic or otherwise. This monumental natural disaster has handed the Chinese the perfect opportunity for propaganda. Let's look at some of the things that Jiabao told the dupes in the western press.
"Let a foreign journalist ask the question"-- Flattery will apparently get you everywhere with the starstruck dupes in the western media
"This is not only a tragedy for China but for all mankind."-- Ah, the good old we-are-the-world speech! Good "uncle Wen" is telling us that he is just like us. Just a common citizen of the world saddened by this tragedy. Why we should let our guard down and accept him as just a regular guy.
"We will hold permanently to our policy of opening up."-- A unsupported claim not proven by time or history, yet swallowed whole by a willing media.
And finally this bit of plaintive doggerel:
"Where we stand now is the epicentre of the great Wenchuan earthquake and in this county 13,000 have lost their lives. But you can see our fellow countrymen are already getting back on their feet. Let the world's people remember the devastating earthquake, remember the lost lives and remember the brave fight of the people in the quake-hit regions and nationwide against the disaster."
And gosh darn it, the Times assures us he was really, really heartbroken here.
But Mr Wen certainly looks as if he is speaking from the heart. He wore the crumpled navy blue zip-up jacket that he donned when he first flew down to the earthquake-devastated area just two hours after the tremor. His expression was solemn, his lips pursed and a frown creased his face. It is a display of concern that has won him nationwide support and inspired and comforted survivors.
This is all such saccharine-like junk. Seems like sugar, but it ain't. But the western media has bent over backwards to give the oppressive Chinese government this bright shining moment of perfect propaganda. They have allowed themselves to be pimped out by some of the worst killers in history.
There are times when labeling westerners with the epithet of "fellow traveller," or "appeasers," and "sympathizers" seems hackneyed and stale. It can also be a fact that using such epithets meant to imply that a westerner -- whether it be a politician, an activist or a media outlet or reporter -- is a willing participant in communist propaganda misses the mark or is sheer hyperbole. Additionally, sometimes using such throw away names causes a boy-who-cried-wolf effect making listeners who've heard this kind of name calling too often roll their eyes and wonder if you see commies under your bed at night? Sometimes calling them a commie just defeats your argument.
Then there are times when the castigation is a dead on assessment.
This is one of those times.
Yes, the western media is filled to overflowing with really foolish, easily led, dupes with assumptions of grandeur. And good ol' "uncle Wen" knows just how to twist them around his little finger.
Now, if ten or twenty years from now, a long series of incidents and policies prove that Jiabao was not just blowing smoke makes it obvious that he was, indeed, telling the truth, well, then you can write an article that pegs this devastating earthquake as a turning point in Chinese history. You can even paint Wen Jiabao as a visionary Chinese leader. But for now there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that this is a "seismic shift" in anything but the childish, gullibility of the western press. And it isn't a shift to anything good, either.
Peace in our times and "seismic shifts." Ain't it grand?
(Photo credit= www.theage.com.au)