Flagrant Misrepresentation in the Guardian

Lets say you’re a journalist. You’ve got a story about how the Chinese government recently executed several Tibetans who were arrested in connection with the riots that happened last year. Your lede reads thusly: “Chinese authorities have carried out their first executions of Tibetans in connection with the deadly riots that swept Lhasa last year, according to exile groups.”

You’ve checked Xinhua for a story on it, but they don’t have one. There’s no need to actually speak to anyone in TIbet or China — after all, what would they know about it — and you’ve already called several Free Tibet groups for comment, so it doesn’t look like you favor one Free Tibet group over another (got to keep that article bias-free!). All that’s left to do? Slap a headline on that sucker and ship it off to the presses.

Now, you could title it something like “China executes Tibetan rioters” or “First Tibetan riot suspects executed”, but that makes it like the people who were executed might have done something wrong, and we all know that Tibetans are incapable of committing crimes because they are peaceful Buddhists. You need something sexy. Something that screams “Evil empire murders innocent people,” but slightly — only slightly — subtler.

If you’re a journalist for the Guardian (not sure we can blame Jonathan Watts for this as he may well not have written the headline), you would apparently go with this: China executes Tibetan protesters. Period.

Honestly, it’s not even necessary to explain why that headline is irresponsible and, frankly, appalling, so we won’t bother. Nor is it productive to speculate on the particular motives of the headline writer. The headline is grossly misleading, and serves no one. Shame on whoever wrote it, and shame on the Guardian for seeing fit to print it.

UPDATE: For some perspective, the New York Times wrote a similar story. The headline is: Group Says China Has Executed 4 for Roles in Tibet Riots.

Advertisements

0 thoughts on “Flagrant Misrepresentation in the Guardian”

  1. Is this the same pugster who posts on chinaSmack? That one has a completely different set of attitudes towards China and particularly the Chinese people. Maybe I got that one’s name wrong and if so I apologize.

    Like

  2. I have a picture,
    pinned to my wall.
    An image of you and of me and we’re laughing and loving it all.
    Look at our life now, tattered and torn.
    We fuss and we fight and delight in the tears that we cry until dawn

    Hold me now, warm my heart
    stay with me, let loving start (let loving start)

    You say I’m a dreamer, we’re two of a kind
    Both of us searching for some perfect world we know we’ll never find
    So perhaps I should leave here, yeah yeah go far away
    But you know that theres no where that I’d rather be than with you here
    today

    Hold me now, warm my heart
    stay with me, let loving start (let loving start)

    You ask if I love you, well what can I say?
    You know that I do and if this is just one of those games that we play
    So I’ll sing you a new song, please don’t cry anymore
    and then I’ll ask your forgiveness, though I don’t know just what I’m
    asking it for

    Hold me now, warm my heart
    stay with me, let loving start (let loving start)

    Like

  3. You sound more like the sad folks at Anti-CNN everyday. “Big, bad Western press beating up on the poor, old, misrepresented CCP” and all that. Truly, I don’t appreciate what the fuss is about. The essay that has offended you so deeply is hardly as biased as you suggest. Indeed, I read and hear much worse from CCTV, 凤凰卫视, and 环球时报 everyday. And as far as the essay’s title goes, The Guardian is light years better than most of the mainstream Chinese press. (There’s a reason that some Chinese refer to 环球时报 as 反美时报.) Why not spend your precious blogging time writing about what the West gets right about China instead of endlessly parsing and taking offense. Better yet, get a job as a journalist. I, for one, am dying to read your work.

    Like

  4. Nothing surprising here. Wall Street Journal does the same thing frequently when it comes to China news. e.g.:

    When China’s court sentenced seeral Xinjian rioters this month, WSJ ran a pciture next to the article showing headscarfed muslim women confronting policemen with the caption saying “China sentences 5 to death over Xinjiang protest”.

    Like

  5. @ Stinky Tofu: You may not have noticed, but jobs as a journalist are a little hard to find these days, what with the industry dying and all that.

    Re: the rest of what you said, I think spending a lot of time on what the West gets right is unproductive. I’d rather focus on what’s wrong (in both countries), the idea being by talking about it we increase awareness and move towards a solution.

    Now, are there plenty of Chinese media sources that are more misleading than this? Sure. But everyone (Chinese and Westerners) already knows that. Many Westerners, however (and Westerners are my biggest demographic here) don’t know that the Western media can be equally misleading and manipulative because they don’t read Anti-CNN.

    Also, it really does amuse me when people accuse me of always taking the Anti-CNN side. Didn’t I just write posts about social injustice, Mao worship, ethnic prejudices, illegal kidnapping and torture, and even a post called Fuck your motherland?

    This ain’t exactly qiushi.

    Like

  6. So Watts is not at fault? That’s total nonsense. Guardian is also at fault for allowing this story to publish because their policy seems to be for their views to fit the story. I’m sure that UK citizens and governments know that this kind of half baked BS why aren’t they outraged? Maybe they don’t care because it is not their problem.

    Like

  7. I was writing that for emphasis (specifically because of comment #10 and similar ones), not to say that I believe you misrepresented Watts, but unless the Telegraph does things vastly different, it’s more than likely we can say that Watts is not at fault. Not “not sure.” I did read it.

    I admit to not reading the article yet. Maybe Watts was so egregious in his writing that the editor logically put that as the headline.

    My apologies for not making that clear earlier.

    Like

  8. “There’s no need to actually speak to anyone in TIbet or China”

    How can you be so sure they didn’t try, and how far do you think their inquiries would have got them?

    “…but that makes it like the people who were executed might have done something wrong”

    No. it would make it sound like the accused were afforded the rights of due process. And that – to be charitable – is open to question.

    Like

  9. I’m reminded of a post Chris Hearne made a while back (wherever he is) to defend western media in tibet. Not that everything he wrote in that post applies here because truth be told, the main problem here is the headline which was clearly chosen for the purpose of garnering anti-Chinese sentiment. However, I think this probably could have been avoided, or at least made to look much more publicly embarrassing for Guardian if there wasn’t an “Us vs. Them” attitude pervasive throughout the media. Also, I think Stuart raises a point in that the kind of restrictions placed on foreign journalists make it difficult to get things right. One question that should probably be asked is: what is the policy these days for journalists traveling to Tibet? Asking Xinhua about the issue seems like a moot point, though, all things considered.

    Like

  10. It is clear that Western media has a persistent and pathological bias when it comes to reporting on China. And it is comic that they have the audacity of accusing Chinese people of being brainwashed.

    Like

  11. yin bin, shut up. You’re not doing the Chinese side any good. The moment the debate turns into an “us versus them” pissing contest as opposed to self-criticism on the part of Westerners the debate is over and will come to no result. On the other hand, if you frame it in the terms of “the Western media is getting it wrong and it will result in strategic errors and unnecessary geopolitical tensions” you’ll get more results.

    Like

  12. “if you frame it in the terms of “the Western media is getting it wrong and it will result in strategic errors and unnecessary geopolitical tensions” you’ll get more results.”

    Doubtful. Not unless you remove the polarity of judgment from that statement.

    It’s as absurd to place all non-Chinese media outlets in one basket as it is to remove the Chinese media from the debate altogether, particularly in view of the latter’s successful ‘western bias’ spin campaign.

    Like

  13. No. it would make it sound like the accused were afforded the rights of due process. And that – to be charitable – is open to question.

    My Lord is here lecturing people what to do again? The desperation for attention in your posts and the empty judgements you pass – also to draw attention – is spectacular. Rejoice! You’re getting it!

    Like

  14. Stuart made a good point above concerning your (lack of) consideration about whether anyone attempted to get to the scene to report. That is, if I have understood Stuart’s first post correctly. I would like to add that if anyone besides “exile groups” contributed to the article, I would hope that Mr. Watts wouldn’t include their names or much reference to them. Maybe that doesn’t meet your smell test, and myself would prefer to know that there were more than just “exile groups” used as sources, but on the other hand would you have The Guardian reveal (even in a veiled way) who they sourced on such a sensitive subject? That spells disaster.

    Immediately, let me say that you seem to want them to exhibit a bias but one that you can agree with. There is never going to be purely dry and dispassionate reportage. I suppose there would have been many people dissatisfied if the article had termed them all “rioters”. Would you have taken issue with an article written in that way? Perhaps the people involved in getting the article into print felt this term appropriate; and why do you assume that all the work that went into that article came from westerners? As I recall, Mr. Watts has stated openly that he uses translators/interpreters, whom I would assume to be Chinese.

    Jonathan Watts has been doing reporting on China for awhile, and a few years ago he took one of the Guardian’s young stringers to task for sensational reporting on China on one very “hot” incident, and the Guardian (with some prodding from at least two very prominent Chinese bloggers) covered their initial blunder – it was a big one. There was a public retraction and an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the shoddy reporting; as far as I know the young reporter never covered China for the Guardian again. Watts has written about his own shortcomings in China (including linguistic) and one of his colleagues recently did an interview with another China-themed blog. For me, this doesn’t strike me as the workings of some arrogant, shameless news entity. For you to accuse him of “sensationalism” to me suggests that you are unfamiliar with both his writing and his newspaper, or in waging a crusade against “wrong” reporting you have swing and missed wildly. Further, the Guardian has never shied away from taking sides and usually their prominent or featured writers – Monbiot, Younge, Watts, etc – make their opinions known in their reportage.

    Your statement below:
    Honestly, it’s not even necessary to explain why that headline is irresponsible and, frankly, appalling, so we won’t bother.

    Is smug, righteous and self-satisfied. Why assume that all your readers are as well-versed in matters relating to not just China, but also Tibet? Do you want us to assume you are? Do you assume that we all hold exile groups in the same disdain you do? If you have a case to make, you have room to lay it out for the uninformed, or the unconvinced. Otherwise, it’s not really good blogging (nevermind good news analysis) it’s just a public email. I feel you are in a good position with your cleanly designed, very readable and respectable blog. Journalists don’t have the luxury that you have to unspool their ideas over as many words and topics as they like, with updates and addendum ad infinitum. Employees of brick and mortar news agencies would love this!

    Finally, I am curious as to whether YOU attempted to contact Mr. Watts himself concerning this matter. Perhaps (pure speculation here) he might be inclined to respond given the Guardian’s (fair amount of) sensitivity on matters Chinese. If so, did you give him time to respond to your query, and did you lay out your complaints in your inquiry, or did you expect him to implicitly know why the title (that you yourself acknowledge he may not have devised) was “appalling”?

    On that last point above, i will wait to see if you attempted to contact him. I sincerely hope that you did, given the stridency of your post.

    Like

  15. Since when did the fourth estate become untouchable? The frothing wrath displayed above is why people increasingly distrust the dying newspapers. Expecting a blogger who runs a free blog in their spare time to have as much journalistic obligation as a full-time paid reporter from a mainstream newspaper is clumsily defensive. Of course the blogger should have high standards for him/herself (Everybody knows the media is biased, be it Chinese, British or Swiss, so why bother?), but the anger is misguided and feels manufactured in heiheianan’s post.

    Like

  16. Well heiheianan, that’s an interesting point about the fault of media to allow people like Watts to continually to work for them even if they produce these kind of handed stories. It reminds of Fixed, err Fox news, which continually produce these kind of controversial propaganda against Barack Obama and the Democrats. They produced the sleaziest news but they got the most viewers compared to other TV networks. So it goes back to the reason why Guardian would allow Watts to produce these stories so that they would get people to buy their newspaper? I would say yes because these Western newspapers care less about journalism nowadays and see who can report the ‘best written’ stories like this to produce sales.

    Like

  17. @ several people who mentioned it: I wouldn’t expect the Guardian to reveal their sources in China for the story if they had them, but I would expect them to put something like “according to an anonymous source” or, if they tried to interview people in China but were blocked or got the old “no comment”, I would expect them to put that, too. The fact that there’s no reference to any of that in there indicates — to me — that they didn’t even try.

    @ heiheianan: One of the other “luxuries” bloggers have that journalists don’t is actual, full-time jobs in addition to writing/reporting. If I had more time yesterday, I might have tried to sketch out a fuller argument, but I don’t really think one is needed anyway. Anyone with a brain, whether they know a lot about China or not, can see that that headline doesn’t match up with the reporter’s summary of the story (i.e., the lede, which is quoted in my first paragraph), so even if you don’t know a ton about the riots, you can figure out that “executed in connection with deadly riots” and “China executes Tibetan protesters” aren’t exactly telling the same story.

    I didn’t contact Jonathan Watts, because my beef is mostly with the headline, and he likely didn’t write it. However, I have contacted reporters for similar posts in the past and never once received a response. This makes sense, as many papers, wire services, etc., have strict guidelines for what their reporters can write publicly outside of the paper (I have a good friend, for example, who works for the AP and despite my occasional requests to the contrary, will never contribute anything or allow his name to be associated with this blog because he’s not allowed to). Jonathan Watts doesn’t care what I think about a headline he didn’t write for his story, and given that responding publicly could probably get him in trouble at work, I find it extremely unlikely that he would.

    And, like I said above, my beef isn’t with Watts anyway. I’ve said that twice, including in the article. Should I put it in bold or something?

    @ cjjk: Yes, whereas your passing judgement on me (using an anonymous name connected to a free email account) is righteous and noble…

    @ everyone: there is, I think, a difference between exile groups and Free Tibet groups, even if many exile groups to advocate for a free Tibet. TCHRD is sort of both, but the article’s quotes are from Free Tibet London, not an exile group. So I’m not sure where this talk of my supposed “disdain” for exile groups is coming from…

    Like

  18. An incredibly well written post. You have hit the nail: the worst problem for the Tibetans now is the way Guardian writes its headlines.

    Like

  19. I wish Western media would smarten up a bit, things aren’t the same in many Western countries as they are in China, while China’s excuse for the poor quality of their journalism is an invalid one still, the West does not even have an excuse for this crap to begin with. I’ve really become more and more disappointed with the media over the past few years. This needs to stop.

    Like

  20. @ hemulen: Right, so let’s just ignore everything except the biggest problem, because the western media’s reporting on issues like this doesn’t affect the larger issue at all.

    I’ve said it a hundred times before: blantant mistakes like this destroy the west’s credibility so that when we make legitimate criticisms (like, for example, questioning the judicial process that led to these executions) it’s easier for propagandists to dismiss them as 反华 bullshit.

    But you’re right, let’s not worry about trying to increase our credibility in China or about reporting on it accurately, because our current approach to Tibet has sure done a lot for Tibetans so far…

    Sure this isn’t the biggest problem, but the Chinese government doesn’t read this blog. The western media (a few people anyway) do.

    Like

  21. Never said that we should ignore everything but the biggest problem. But I don’t understand why you spend so much time criticizing Western media for not getting everything exactly right and being 100 per cent accurate.

    Now, as regards the Guardian piece, this is the issue: a couple of people have been executed in Tibet in connection with the Tibetan uprising last year. The government is doing the killing, so the burden of proof is on them to show that they are executing the right people. You may know something I don’t know, but as far as I know that burden of proof has not been met and it is completely reasonable to say that the government has killed a couple of “protesters”.

    Like

  22. The burden of proof is on whoever makes the statement. The government is obligated to prove they’ve executed the right guys, yes, but the media is also obligated to prove their claim that those executed were only protesters is true if they’re going to publish it as fact. Otherwise, they should just say they don’t know for sure and blame the govts lack of transparency. Lack of gov’t transparency doesn give the media liscense to make stuff up.

    Re why I’m so focused on correcting western media mistakes: 1) I’m not, most of my posts are about other things and 2) see above

    Like

  23. The burden of proof on someone who executes people and on someone who publishes news are completely different. I hope you see that. A government that executes the wrong people cannot do the harm undone, a newspapers that’s caught telling lies can come forward with a correction. We know that the Chinese government has killed innocent people before, so it is completely reasonable to assume that they have done so in this case as well, especially given the lack of transparency.

    And I don’t see how calling the executed people “protesters” exclude the idea that they had committed a crime.

    Like

  24. That logic is extremely flawed. Someone has done something before, therefore, it’s fair for us to assume (with no evidence) that they’ve done the same thing again? Every government on earth has killed innocent people before…

    As a general rule, it’s best to ascribe to the “when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me” school of thought, I think…

    Anyway, I’ll be addressing your comments and a few similar ones in a full-length post tonight or tomorrow probably.

    Like

  25. “And I don’t see how calling the executed people “protesters” exclude the idea that they had committed a crime.”

    For sure they don’t, but there is a strikingly different connotation between the word protester and rioter which no one should have to explain, I hope.

    Like

  26. “but the Chinese government doesn’t read this blog.”

    I doubt Hu and the boys drop by personally, but you can be sure some of their proxies are looking in – that much is quite evident.

    Like

  27. the worst problem for the Tibetans now is the way Guardian writes its headlines.

    It is, actually. If you weren’t filling the heads of unemployed extremists with nonsense, maybe China would relax their grip on them.

    Ever since the 9-11 Muslim uprising against America, your media has been extremely paranoid and dishonest.

    I doubt Hu and the boys drop by personally, but you can be sure some of their proxies are looking in – that much is quite evident.

    Mental illness speaking on your part.

    Like

  28. Mental illness speaking on your part.

    Or maybe willful blindness on yours. This blog was blocked up until about 2 weeks ago, if you’ve forgotten. And the blocking was clearly very selective considering the timing.

    And the Muslim uprising? Maybe I’ve got my timelines mixed up, but I could’ve sworn that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq happened after 9-11. Most actually say that the final straw that provoked the attack was the stationing of troops in the Kingdom, which hardly constitutes “uprising,” all things considered. Get your shit straight before you go on making diversionary attacks.

    Like

  29. Sorry, but I think you blown this out of proportion. “The Chinese state media have yet to confirm the executions,” clearly says that the reports relies on dissident group information. All quotes are clearly attributed to their origin. The reader is up to decide if what he thinks of them.
    Why does he use the term “protesters,” which is a neutral one? Well, he could have used “executes Tibetans accused of arson.” Yet there have been much more serious instances of misrepresentation than this. How do YOU actually determine that the accused are guilty of their charges. Because of a Chinese court rule?
    But like it or not, the Western media is going to be inclined to use this term for all people that engage in contentious behavior in China just as the Chinese media will never, never, never use the Chinese terms for protest (kangzheng) or demonstration (youxing shiwei) in its own reports from China. In China this is called naoshi or quntixing shijian. What is the bigger misnomer here? Well, it depends on where you stand.

    Like

  30. @Yellow Mud

    Well put.

    @Custer

    I completely reject any idea that that a government and a newspaper are subject to a similar burden of proof. When it comes to the press, we have “freedom of expression”, which means that you are free to print almost anything. Sometimes incorrect stuff gets published, but we arrive at the “truth” through successive approximations and through trial and error.

    But there is no “freedom to execute”. A government has to make absolutely sure that it is executing the “right” person (if you believe in death penalty). There is no trial and error here.

    Furthermore, anyone is innocent until proven guilty, and no newspaper is obligated to accept the government’s version of the execution, especially since no such version is forthcoming. So, the Guardian is justified in printing the article and the headline as they are.

    Like

  31. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean you’re just free to print anything (see slander, libel, etc.). Furthermore, the fact that we have freedom expression doesn’t mean that newspapers should just give up and print whatever the hell they feel like. The Guardian, like most papers, aspires to be truthful. From their editorial code:

    “A newspaper’s primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted.”
    The most important currency of the Guardian is trust. This is as true today as when CP Scott marked the centenary of the founding of the paper with his famous essay on journalism in 1921.

    The purpose of this code is, above all, to protect and foster the bond of trust between the paper and its readers, and therefore to protect the integrity of the paper and of the editorial content it carries.

    Trial and error happens, yes, but let’s try to hold our press to a higher standard than we hold our toddlers. It’s not like that headline was written by accident. This isn’t a ‘whoops, pressed the wrong button’ type situation.

    Furthermore, just because the government’s actions were (potentially) immoral (of course, there’s no evidence whatsoever to prove that one way or the other), that doesn’t justify the Guardian’s misdeed.

    Again, as I’ve said many more, my time is limited, so I have to address issues one at a time here. The Guardian’s headline is something that’s easily accessible. What kind of blog post can I write about the execution? It’s not clear whether or not they even happened, let alone whether those killed were innocent or not, and I have no journalist credentials to get me interviews with potential sources anywhere. The Guardian thing may be a smaller issue, but it is an issue. Full post coming on this subject sometime when it’s not four in the goddamn morning.

    (As a sidenote, I’m not sure how well the Guardian article itself does in living up to this part of their code:

    Fairness “The voice of opponents no less than of friends has a right to be heard . . . It is well be to be frank; it is even better to be fair” (CP Scott, 1921). The more serious the criticism or allegations we are reporting the greater the obligation to allow the subject the opportunity to respond.

    Their article essentially accuses the government of murdering innocent people, but doesn’t cite a single in-country source, or even claim to have attempted to contact one. Granted, I didn’t attempt to contact the Guardian before writing this post, either, but again, the difference between bloggers and journalists is that bloggers generally have other jobs and thus, less time to make pointless phone calls.)

    Like

  32. Am I being dense because I have no idea why the word ‘protesters’ here is wrong. You can have ‘protesters’ taking part in violent protests, and I don’t think that the word carries with it any connotations that what they are protesting against is objectively bad. I could violently protest about gay marriage, commit arson or somesuch, and be sentenced, and I wouldn’t see how calling me a ‘protester’ is misrepresentation.

    I would be grateful if someone could please explain how the use of this word is ‘untruthful’. I also don’t see where the article states that these Tibetans were innocent.

    In addition, from a journalistic standpoint, the NYT headline isn’t great…’group says’ is not something that adds to the headline and is much better off simply included in the main story.

    Thanks!

    Like

  33. Maybe you are grandstanding a bit. Given that journalists often lament the lack of openness in covering even basic news on China, the lack of access of any kind to the area or people involved, what more is a newspaper to do? Yes, I know, the headline didn’t match the content. Could be that the some people feel that “protestors” and “rioters” are not mutually exclusive.

    You wrote:
    “Granted, I didn’t attempt to contact the Guardian before writing this post, either, but again, the difference between bloggers and journalists is that bloggers generally have other jobs and thus, less time to make pointless phone calls.”

    Sorry, but that’s lazy and a bunch of b.s. Sending an email asking for clarification doesn’t involve epic amounts of time. At least, I can’t see how it would, not if you want to be taken seriously, and especially given the strength of your attack. I totally agree that the credibility of the press – anywhere – gets damaged due to shoddy reporting. I don’t think anyone suggests anything different. However, bloggers suffer from a lack of credibility too, and it’s things like not being bothered to try because “no one called me back before” that contribute to it. That sounds kinda whiney, honestly.

    All sorts of people have full time jobs and still manage to complete the other tasks they devote themselves too, bloggers included. Because really, how many in the U.S. can claim to be that busy both weekends and weekdays (today being Monday) that they cannot complete such simple task as a letter to the editor or author or an article? Given the fact that you were critical NOT ONLY because of the headline but also because the article seemed poorly researched, I think it’s a fair criticism to make.

    So again, I call into question such statements as “Anyone with a brain, can see…” on your part. I have witnessed protests that turned to riots with injuries and death, and watched as small groups unconnected to a main, peaceful protest began violence, and the police respond wildy, and the whole things becomes a big mess. Isn’t it possible to see not only how calling someone a “protester” isn’t a measure of their innocence, but also how based on perspective, one man’s protester is another man’s rioter.

    I’d like to add that originally I was thinking of a comparison with the Civil Rights Movement here in the U.S. For some, like southerners and those opposed to the civil rights movement, everyone involved at all phases was a rioter, or abetted them. For others, they were all protesters. Sometimes, in truth, they were both. I didn’t add that originally because I thought the comparison weak, but it may be a good one for consideration. One major difference is that the Guardian may not be willing to cut much slack to a government that demands that reporters not discuss certain things at all, absolutely forbids them to cover them, and severely and violently punishes journalists – JOURNALISTS – who attempt to cover the news for state owned or controlled newspapers.

    Duncan said:
    Am I being dense because I have no idea why the word ‘protesters’ here is wrong. You can have ‘protesters’ taking part in violent protests, and I don’t think that the word carries with it any connotations that what they are protesting against is objectively bad. I could violently protest about gay marriage, commit arson or somesuch, and be sentenced, and I wouldn’t see how calling me a ‘protester’ is misrepresentation.

    I don’t feel you are being dense. I once saw a protest of teachers and school children turn into a riot because one malcontent threw a bottle at a policeman, hitting his riot shield, and the police responded with gunfire and tanks in the street, the end result being one dead. I would be hard pressed to say the teachers and kids were either strictly “rioters” or “protesters”, but then again I was there to witness and discuss it, and if I had wanted to, write about it with no repercussions.

    Sorry for the long posts, just try to illustrate my point.

    Like

  34. @C. Custer.
    Well, concerning your attempts to reach anyone, I must add to add that it is your blog, you needn’t make attempts to contact others, just my opinion given the content of your post. I don’t hope to sound impolite with my word choice, though I stand by my ideas.

    Like

  35. s wrote:
    It is, actually. If you weren’t filling the heads of unemployed extremists with nonsense, maybe China would relax their grip on them.

    Are you suggesting that rioters/protesters/whatever in Tibet take their cues from the Guaridan? Or from bloggers? That is indeed rich. Care to back that up with any sort of reasoning or link? Pretty left-field.

    Like

  36. @ heiheianan: more will be addressed in another full post but two quick things:

    (1) My job does require more work time than most when we’re not on vacation. I work at a prep school, so in addition to teaching I must coach a team and supervise students in a dorm. I wrote this post on Friday, the busiest day of our parents’ weekend, a day where I worked literally from 8am until around 11pm with very few breaks (the post was composed primarily during said short breaks). We also work Saturdays and Sundays when on duty. THat, coupled with the knowledge that most journalists would be forbidden to respond on the record to questions like the ones I’d be asking anyway, is what led me not to contact Watts. Well, that and the fact that I can’t find a way to contact him directly anywhere on their site.

    (2) Yes, there can be “violent protests”. However, without the “violent” part, most people are going to imagine something in keeping with this definition of protest: “an organized public demonstration expressing strong objection to a policy or course of action adopted by those in authority.” There’s a reason why you often see the phrasing “the protest turned violent” — most people understand protests naturally to be a nonviolent affair. As what happened in Lhasa last year was certainly neither particularly organized or nonviolent, “protesters” seems to me like a fairly loaded term for them to choose for the headline even if it isn’t technically long. After all, if you go outside and see people destroying storefronts and stabbing people of other ethnicities with swords, when you’re back inside your home bolting up the deadbolt and your wife asks what’s up, are you going to say you’re trying to protect yourself against “protesters”? Technically, that word choice isn’t semantically incorrect, but it’s imprecise and doesn’t accurately capture the meaning of what’s happening.

    @ Duncan: Nonsense, the “group says” part is of paramount importance because it establishes that the Times cannot verify the executions occurred yet. Thus, even from reading the headline, it’s clear the story they’re reporting is that someone else is reporting executions happened, not that those executions necessarily did happen. Without it, people would read the headline and assume that the executions had been factually verified by NYT fact checkers when they obviously haven’t been. It may not sound very good in a headline, but the information it contains is extremely important to the story, which is not “people were executed” but rather “free tibet groups are reporting people were executed”

    Like

  37. what more is a newspaper to do?

    Shut their mouths if they don’t know what they’re talking about. This would be like me reporting on the culture of Ancient Mars.

    Like

  38. Protester “demonstrator, public opponent of the established order”; what is wrong with this? Nowhere in this word do I find any assumption of ‘peaceful protest’ or indeed ‘violent protest’; it is a neutral term, and fitting for a situation in which we don’t know 100% of the facts.

    Don’t assume the peaceful part when you read the word. If you were right in your definition/assumption, ‘peaceful protest’ would be a tautology. It’s not. See ‘The Historic Right to Peaceful Protest’ – NOT simply a right to protest any old how.

    I don’t believe this is sugar coating the situation and your post seems to be just a little bit over the top. Your example of ‘protests that turned violent’ were presumably peaceful protests to start off with, and people who participate in protests that turn violent, or just violent protests from the get go, are still protesters.

    Like

  39. The article says that two of them were convicted on charges of arson, citing one old Xinhua report as the source of that information. There’s no Xinhua report or any other domestic perspective on the actual story they’re reporting, i.e., the executions.

    The article doesn’t say “innocent”, of course, which is why I used the word “imply”. As previously discussed, whether it‘s semantically correct or not, I feel that most people, when they hear the term “protester”, especially in the context of China, think ‘peaceful protest’. Obviously, I don’t have the resources or the time to conduct a survey with a broad enough sample base to confirm that…

    It just occurred to me, though, that colloquial usage of the term in the UK might be different. If that’s the case, then my criticism of the headline is somewhat unfair, but either way the article still completely lacks a Chinese perspective, which goes against the Guardian’s own ethical code.

    Like

  40. Agreed. “Protest” has a positive connotation in the West when it is referred to in relation to governments that are not elected into office and hence viewed as illegitimate. Yet, without further context it is the most neutral term you can get. The question is what other term he should have used? Maybe “Four persons accused of arson in relation to last year’s Tibetan riots to be executed?”. Well, this is still a newspaper and it needs some short, handy titles.
    But again, I feel you are really blowing this out of proportion. There have been much, much worse examples of tendentious reporting. Calling this a “flagrant misrepresentation” is simply not justified in my eyes.
    In the end we should accept that there is no one truth and one reality that journalists are able to uncover. Philosophy has given up on this project since Wittgenstein. Sometimes we must accept that language is no neutral medium but that it unavoidable carries with it what is often called values or world views – the best example still is the CCP party-speak.

    Like

  41. “but either way the article still completely lacks a Chinese perspective, which goes against the Guardian’s own ethical code.”

    It clearly states which perspective it represents (Tibetan exiles and human rights groups) and which not (the Chinese state as presumably there is non yet). Whats wrong with that?

    What the Chinese propaganda apparatus is increasingly realizing is that when it says nothing, journalists who need to get the news out, does exactly what this journalist was doing: quoting people who do not share the CCPs interpretation. This is the way the press works and as long as all sources are clearly marked, this is completely legitimate.

    Like

  42. s wrote:

    what more is a newspaper to do?
    Shut their mouths if they don’t know what they’re talking about. This would be like me reporting on the culture of Ancient Mars.

    I am confused by this comparison. There is little “reporting” (at least, reporting of the sort we are discussing here) to be done on ancient culture, for obvious reasons. Contemporary culture bears the brunt of reporting.

    Further, the authorities on Mars aren’t preventing journalists from covering the troubles in the more restive regions of the planet. I say that based on my conversations with Martian exile groups. 🙂

    No, seriously man, that is some weak sauce. It would be one thing if the deaths were disputed (they weren’t) or the government issued denials of what was reported (they didn’t).

    Like

  43. Yellow Mud wrote:

    “What the Chinese propaganda apparatus is increasingly realizing is that when it says nothing, journalists who need to get the news out, does exactly what this journalist was doing: quoting people who do not share the CCPs interpretation. This is the way the press works and as long as all sources are clearly marked, this is completely legitimate. ”

    Yes, I think so. Further, it might be a slap in the face of the censorship that gives rise to such reporting anyway. Several posts ago I mentioned Watts reporting history, and I cannot ever recall him sprinkling an article with so many references to exile groups. In fact, I’d say that most of his articles have little to nothing to do with exile groups, which made me wonder about the motive behind it, and I came up with something similar to you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s