A story in the New Republic about western reporters self-censoring themselves in China:
The visa question has insidious ways of sowing the seeds of self-censorship,” Dorinda Elliott, the global affairs editor at Condé Nast Traveler, wrote on ChinaFile last month. “I am ashamed to admit that I personally have worried about the risk of reporting on sensitive topics, such as human rights lawyers: what if they don’t let me back in?” Elliott is a longtime China hand who worked as Newsweek’s Beijing bureau chief in the late 1980s. “My decision to not write that story—at least not yet—proves that I am complicit in China’s control games,” she continued. “After all, there are plenty of other interesting subjects to pursue, right?”
The most shocking thing about Elliott’s statement is its honesty. Western journalists are not supposed to make any concessions to China, and even when they do, they rarely admit it. Many people were thus horrified by recent reports that Matt Winkler, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, spiked an investigative piece about one of China’s richest men out of fear of offending the government. (Winkler denied killing the piece and said it is still under consideration.)
People are understandably angry about the Bloomberg reports, but they shouldn’t be surprised. This is all part of a larger story. China may force some two dozen correspondents from The New York Times and Bloomberg News to leave the country by the end of the year, apparently in response to their investigative reports on the familial wealth of the Chinese leadership. “Chinese officials have all but said that American reporters know what they need to do to get their visas renewed: tailor their coverage,” The New York Times wrote. On Thursday, Vice President Joseph Biden, who was visiting Beijing, said he had “profound disagreements” with China’s “treatment of U.S. journalists.” As China more harshly intimidates foreign reporters, incidents of Western self-censorship will only increase. Bloomberg is not the first case, and it will not be the last…
Not the first case, indeed. In fact, self-censoring is something that journalists are actually rather prone to do. There are two reasons a reporter/editor will self-censor:
1. They back a particular policy/party/politician and don’t wish to cause any trouble.
2. They fear that reporting the truth will result in a denial of access to a particular party or politician.
For China, it is the latter that is operational – reporters and editors are worried that if they report the unvarnished truth about China (which is pretty bad, all the way down) then the Chinese government will deny them access to China and so they won’t be able to further report on China from first-hand knowledge. It amazes me that this is even an issue – if I were a reporter or editor, I would report the truth as best as I could and if I got kicked out, I’d file one, last first-hand report about China indicating I was kicked out for telling the truth and then, whenever I reported about China from second-hand sources, I’d point out that the only way anyone can be reporting from China is if they are willing accomplices of the Chinese government in suppressing the truth. This doesn’t mean no useful information will come out of China, but it would show that everything from China should be taken with a grain of salt and that my competitors who remain in China are just hacks shilling for a corrupt and inhuman oligarchy. I’d take that as a badge of honor. I guess having badges of honor, though, doesn’t commend itself to reporters and editors these days.
I bring this up because it shows that in the slew of “news” we get each and every day, this has to be taken in to consideration: are the reporters and editors playing a double game? We see it all the time, after all, with American MSM reporting on Obama – they both support Obama and are fearful of losing access to Obama, and so they tailor their reporting (with a very, very few shining exceptions) to please Obama. Generally, to get to the truth about Obama, we have to take Obama statements and news reports and then dig around to see how they square with the truth (and almost invariably, they don’t).
The fundamental weakness of the MSM lies in the fact that they are not devoted to the truth – the objective truth. They don’t, in fact, believe that such a thing exists. Given this, it is natural that they will craft their reporting in the manner which best advances the MSM, itself. The MSM wants a Chinese bureau and if the price of getting and keeping it is to downplay negative reports and some times put out a puff piece on China, then they’ll do it. The MSM wants Obama to be a success and if the price of Obama’s success is to conspire with Obama to suppress the truth and slander the opposition, then that is hardly anything which can be thought of as a “price” to be paid for Obama’s success.
The bottom line is to presume that anything which comes over the transom is not 100% correct. Don’t assume its all a lie – somewhere deep down inside the truth does exist; but don’t take it at face value. Question everything which is stated as fact – find a second or third source, if at all possible (but, be wary!, there are kook sites out there which will use an MSM lie merely to advance the credibility of a kook site lie…”see, the MSM is lying about “Aspect A” of the situation, therefore my absurd claim about situation is correct!”). Understand that the MSM is not on your side – they are first and foremost on their own side (so they’ll lie to please China so they can keep their bureau open in China), secondly on the side of liberalism in general (so they’ll lie to protect Obama and the Democrat party).
It is my hope that eventually a group of wealthy genuine conservatives will found a new, media empire – with standard-fare television, television news, internet and print news; all with an absolute commitment to truth above all, regardless of whom is offended. That will be the day when we really slay the beast of falsehood which has stalked and disturbed our land for a century.