Talking points for 25th March

My post yesterday about allegations of Western media bias stirred up quite a few comments. The Chinese official media have been accusing Western journalists of focusing unduly on their crackdown on the Tibet protests – without, they say, drawing attention to brutal attacks on ethnic Chinese people and their businesses by Tibetans. Of course others have pointed out that this is a bit rich coming from a country that so tightly controls its own media – Chinese television reports have replayed footage of rioting Tibetans without, of course, explaining any of their political and social grievances.

And they were notably silent about the protests by Tibetans and advocates of media freedom that briefly disrupted the lighting of the Olympic torch yesterday.

Do you think the Chinese have got a point? While Western governments are falling over themselves to be nice to China, the emerging economic superpower, are Western journalists determined to show the country’s ugly side? And do you think that Westerners who criticise China for its record in Tibet are hypocritical, given the history of Western colonialism, and the US-led war in Iraq?

Or is it time that the Chinese grew up and accepted that being a member of the international community involves accepting public criticism? Interestingly, while the Chinese authorities have expelled foreign journalists from Tibet since the unrest, and have reverted to hardline language in their reporting of the Tibet story, they appear to have unblocked content on the BBC’s news website for the first time in several years. Are the Chinese themselves struggling on how to deal with issues of reporting and press freedom?

On a completely different note (excuse the pun), the British singer Bill Bragg wrote an op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune yesterday asking how on earth musicians were supposed to make money in the age of the internet. How do you think we should pay for music, if at all?

One curious story caught our attention at the WHYS morning meeting yesterday – controversy over a photograph of the first black man on the cover of American Vogue. Some observers have noted a striking similarity between the pose of sportsman LeBron James with the supermodel Gisele Bundchen and that famous poster image of King Kong and Fay Wray. Pure coincidence, as the photographer and magazine claim, or a subliminal reference to old racist stereotypes? Hmm. Have a look and tell us what you think.

9 Responses to “Talking points for 25th March”

  1. 1 VictorK
    March 25, 2008 at 11:12

    Not a lot of substance to the Chinese rage, really.

    The Chinese regime objects to being criticised. As a totaitarian regime it’s used to having its way in all things. Since it can’t deal with criticism outside its borders in the way that it deals with internal critics it’s reduced to baseless accusations of ‘bias’ (for which it has yet to offer a scrap of evidence) in the hope that bullying will do what the state police are unable to.

    The Western media has reported attacks on Chinese settlers in Tibet. We have seen footage of such attacks and heard from the victims. There are no grounds for indulging the Chinese regime’s empty claims.

    If China has an ugly face when it comes to issues like Tibet and Darfur then there’s no point in Beijing complaining when all that Western journalists are doing is holding a mirror before the monster.

    Can’t see what Western colonialism or Iraq have to do with how Tibet is reported. This is an argument – if that’s the word – common to those who don’t know the difference between the state and civil society (such as the Chinese government and people). Western journalists are not, as in China, tools of the state. They are therefore not responsible, as journalists, for the conduct of the state, past or present. In any case very few Western governments have had any serious criticism to make of China.

    Gordon Brown, who is indeed a hypocrite, has already made clear that he will lash Zimbabwe, a country from whose ruined economy British business interests can expect nothing, while fawning on China with its wonderful economic prospects. The British government stopped talking about ‘an ethical foreign policy’ when it realised that it wasn’t compatible with greed. The continuing and unjustified US occupation of of Iraq and Afghanistan mean that that country’s government is morally unfit to lecture China about Tibet (overfond as it is of prating about ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’). The European Union, with its partner in crime NATO, has just seized part of the territory of a sovereign state and handed it to another people (Serbia, Kossovo and the Albanians). The Chinese need only laugh if the EU should presume to advise them about Tibet. The UN is a morally compromised institution whose unofficial Charter forbids it from openly criticising any third world country for anything at all, while blaming the West for just about everything.

    What Tibet discloses about China is also true of many African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries: insofar as they have a political culture its main traits are a determination to be unaccountable for their actions, a childish resentment of external (and often internal) criticism, and the most unscrupulous opportunism (from the DR of Congo being made a prey by her neighbours to Hamas firing rockets at Israel and then being shocked and outraged at the consequences).

    This is a political culture that’s completely alien to what obtains in the West and Westerners too often make the mistake of failing to take this into account in their dealings with such countries, which by a polite fiction are treated as if they were ‘just like us’ and equally capable, with a little ‘intervention’, of becoming free, democratic and well-ordered societies (hence the disastrous blunders in Iraq and Afghanistan).

    That’s why the internal matters of other countries, and especially countries whose traditions and values are alien to those of the West, ought not to be a matter of concern for outsiders. The events of Tianamen Square shouldn’t have concerned us at the time just as the question whether ‘the Chinese themselves struggling on how to deal with issues of reporting and press freedom’ is a matter for China to answer and nobody else. The difference with Tibet is that it’s a foreign country under occupation and not an internal matter as the Chinese falsely claim.

    Re LeBron James: yeah, I remember King Kong with his outsized basketball too. Some people will find racism anywhere except in the right places.

  2. 2 Brett
    March 25, 2008 at 11:28

    “…how on earth musicians were supposed to make money in the age of the internet. How do you think we should pay for music, if at all? “

    Thats why the Musicians get up, go out, and play shows. Bill Bragg and Lars Ulrich can go hang out and complain that they don’t make enough money to survive. Keep in mind, the Internet has largely kept CD prices in check. Before mass file sharing does anyone recall music stores such as Sam Goody and others selling CDs for $18 to $19? Now people would rarely pay that much for an album. The recording industry was being greedy and they paid dearly for it. Time to adapt RIAA. I-Tunes store was a good idea, as is pay-by-song instead of having to purchase an entire album. Such E-commerce ways of selling music online also cuts down in materials cost of having to physically produce and stock albums in stores.

    “The claim that sites such as MySpace and Bebo are doing us a favor by promoting our work is disingenuous”

    I almost fell out of my chair laughing at this one!
    Almost every new band that anyone I know has heard of has been through Myspace or PureVolume. It is the easiest and fastest way for new bands to hit the scene and promote their music to a wide audience.

    If you don’t like social networking sites, THEN DON’T CREATE MYSPACE AND BEBO PAGES TO PROMOTE YOUR WORK! Furthermore if you do, don’t allow users to link songs to their pages if you don’t want them using your work…. Oh…. Wait…. you DO want it because it is free publicity, and in this day of age, word of mouth spreads new music incredibly fast! But you want the free publicity to pay you also… Get a life and go play some shows. If you don’t like what social networking sites are doing for music, don’t play a part in it.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  3. 3 Brett
    March 25, 2008 at 11:52

    “A blogger on the African-American..”

    wait for it…. wait for it…..

    “LeBron is straight up perpetuating a stereotype that helped enslave, lynch and murder hundreds of thousands of our black men for centuries … “

    I knew that was comming, I just thought I would have to look harder to find it.

    The comparrison between Clooney and Gere ignores a major factor in how the pictures were taken and what they were dressed in. Lebron is a basketball star, he is dressed in the clothing that has made him famous. Clooney and Gere were dressed as they have often appeared in movies (which, guess what…. made them famous). Were they supposed to wear a tank top and shorts? For what?
    Furthermore LeBron is far more aggressive than Clooney or Gere, and by the nature of the sport one has to be. The picture depicts this aggression. He is holding a basketball, what, did they want him holding a cigar or some other classy symbol? HE IS A BASKETBALL STAR, this is what made him famous. What other stance is going to depict his sport, aggression / dominance, and have a female in it at the same time?
    Sure he could stand there holding the basketball in one hand and the lady in another, but if an ‘in your face’ cover is what they were going for, the pose hardly strikes that chord.

    Now is there a similarity between a King Kong stance and Lebron’s picture, a vauge one. I think the main point is to find out if that was the intent of the photographer to depict LeBron as King Kong. I highly doubt the photographer sat at home and thought up ways to demean african americans in his work.
    Although I could be wrong.

    If anything, feminist groups should be foaming at the mouth with fury. More than anything, the pose asserts a direct assumption that LeBron is asserting dominance over her and she is under his control and not an independant woman.

    If the woman had not been white, would there be such controversy?

    Also, could the intent be to depict him in a King Kong stance irrespective of the Jim Crow – era racial stereotypes? Those two things, King Kong, and a racial stereotype of blacks and monkeys are two different things. Wait, its a ‘white’ magazine… so of course it has to be in the wrong when it comes to racism. Ignore that thought.

    I guess you can find an arguing point any way you look at it.

    Also keep in mind, no one held a gun to his head and told him to pose for that picture either. Why not ask LeBron what he thinks about it and what he thought about it? That may be a wonderful starting point. Afterall, he was kind of involved…

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  4. 4 Will Rhodes
    March 25, 2008 at 15:38

    Ah but Brett – what you have to think about is racial stereotypes, it worked well for so long in the old westerns. Let me explain.

    White hat – good guy. Black hat – bad guy! Some, yet not all – look for far too much in a photograph or image. This is because you have to be affirmative in everything you do – I mean, he should have been wearing a Guggi Suit smoking a fake cigar and have the air of deportment much like James Bond. That way you can get rid of the view that this guy, whoever he is, is a black man who is successful in his own right and conforms to a stereotype of success.

    Oh wait…that would mean he was conforming to a class stereotype! No, no, it wouldn’t – it would mean – ye gads! Maybe I should concentrate on the female stereotype, blond, happy to be with a black man who has money – no, no we can’t do that……..

    Goes off to sit in a corner, rock and dribble into a handkerchief.

  5. 5 eric aka eks321
    March 25, 2008 at 16:25

    if there is a bias against the communist chinese government’s handling of the situation in tibet, they have only themselves to blame because of their blackout of independent reporting and the expulsion of independent journalists. when the original uprising took place last week, the western media’s reporting actually did expose that some tibetans were engaged in violent mindless mob activity. this included looting, arson and murder, which have nothing in common with the dalai lama’s positions and did nothing to advance the legitimate aims of freeing tibet from the chinese communist’s tyranny. the chinese communist government’s initial statements citing the mob activity as being directed by the “dalai clique” was a total fabrication that undermined their credibility and showed their desire to use the situation for propaganda purposes. if the chinese communist government (ccg)wanted to allow the truth of the situation to be broadcast, they should have allowed all independent media outlets full and unfettered access to tibet. however, the ccg had no desire to allow the truth of the situation to be disclosed because it would have uncovered their own lies about the true situation in tibet. the western media’s reporting of the history surrounding the situation in tibet is unbiased. the chinese communists invaded and imposed their tyrannical atheist doctrines, without any regard for the tibetans historical, religious or cultural freedoms. the chinese communist government has exploited the natural wealth of tibet while committing cultural genocide on the tibetan population. this has been accomplished through the standard communist tactic of deportation of the ethnic tibetan population, while the cc moved huge numbers of ethnic chinese into tibet. the chinese communist government’s protests ring hollow when the historical facts are inspected objectively.

  6. 6 Scott Millar
    March 25, 2008 at 17:08

    Why should musicians be so heavily compensated for their work? It seems excessively egotistical to believe they have an inalienable right to be millionaires.

    – Portland, Oregon

  7. March 25, 2008 at 17:21

    ARE YOU KIDDING??? We INVENTED prejudiced, bigotted, media. AND we are still the very damned best at it, I can tell ya.
    Am I PROUD of that? NO. Why would I be? I don’t get to know what’s happening out there.
    Most U.S. media is biggotted, ‘bought and paid for,’ under threat of… god knows what by our own government, and only serving their own interest. Journalism isn’t ‘journalling’ anymore; it’s paid advertising for whatever crankpot what puts up the most money.

  8. March 26, 2008 at 14:51

    As long as a persons opinions shore up the propaganda of Great Britain, it’s allies and agendas you post their opinions. But to post WHY things happen and expose the abuse of citizens to fight wars and harbor hate you don’t print it.

    You not about bettering humanity Great Britain’s BBC you have no love for life in you. All you want is dominion. Satan has dominion and that is what you are to me. He rules in hell and survives through the suffering of others.

    I live 24/7 since my birth with a radio implanted in me broadcast to by the cruelest people that ever breathed breath. I see WHY they are as they are and the world as it is.

    BBC your only a propaganda machine. Eric Blair knew it and distanced himself from you.

    “Is the Western media biased?”

    BBC’s: World Have Your Say.

    Citizens of every country are programmed to be
    biased to some percent toward the country they grow up
    in. People do things without much thought into it of
    their own. Repeat and memorize that is the general

    Centralized responses propagated by a citizens
    governments censorship of the mass media form their
    society. Synchronizing to the environment physical and
    mental changes come about. We all like that in our own
    image, we are familiar with that like ourself.

    Take in account generations of manipulation of our
    concepts about the world forced upon a submissive
    society below the thumb of many times very violent
    individuals. Our geology, climate and those who take
    our power and authority determine for too many our
    opinions and actions toward that unfamiliar.

    Our government we know if only and at the least
    unconsciously mistreats us. Some other culture and
    different people the mistreatment of their government
    and society we are safely allowed to think and talk
    about. This is almost the only way the citizen’s
    smothered emotions and wills can be released and it is
    to serve the worlds division of a patriotic insanity.

    The sad thing about it is that a government can
    commit any crime. The social programming of a
    government hides their crimes. Citizens are demanded
    to think certain things don’t happen. They are
    cultivated to not even begin to accept certain
    knowledges. Else wise, they will suffer reprisals, if
    not even that detrimental to their existance.

  9. 9 真相
    March 26, 2008 at 16:11

    In dealing with mainland Chinese, I have come to accept extreme differences in cultural views, and common humanity in our personal lives. I have to set aside my own cultural assumptions to get anywhere in understanding. The Chinese government suppressing information is unfortunate, though it seems to be part of a large-scale strategy to manage the world’s biggest population without sufficient resources. Even the smallest U.S. demonstration is well-attended by police it seems, but the Chinese don’t have the ability to do that so they limit the reasons to protest instead. Logical to them, I suppose.

    What I find unbearable at my heart, though, is the subversion of the truth towards those ends – the difference between censorship and lies may be a fine one for some, but in our western culture many of us saw the difference and felt the horror when the main character in 1984 finally “admitted” that 2+2=5. What, coming from China, is true? Talking with Chinese friends I have to bear that in mind, what I “know” is not true for them in many cases, whether it’s Taiwan’s status or Tibet’s, or the role of religion in society.

    For example, the focus on “unreported” attacks (untrue, as noted above) on Han Chinese in Tibet attempts, through the suggested victimhood of the ethnic Chinese and their government, to keep the focus there rather than on the Tibetans. How did the Chinese wind up there? Through a consistent dilution of Tibetan culture and ethnic population (pick your excuse, economics is one) which may, eventually, render the question moot as the patient Chinese strategy slowly dismantles what is left of an independent country’s identity. How is that different from genocide? It is a little, but again the mind must contort while trying to sort it out.

    I hope that journalists will not be moved by primitive logical and emotional manipulations, such as the question of “hypocrisy.” They’re simply roadblocks thrown in the path of discovery. Perhaps the current temptation to report with an agenda is confusing the matter – there are plenty of facts to report, and China is too complicated a country to simplify for today’s “dumbed down” media audience. The time may have come where we have to stop categorizing our neighbors so much, and start to understand them in all their complexity. So far, many people cannot even find them on a map, or know whether it is summer or winter there right now, much less what the political climate is.

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